students who need to enhance their reading and writing skills. In doing the research, it will be important to understand the technology skill sets of both those who need to develop their literacy and the instructors involved in technology-facilitated instruction and to provide the needed supports.
Technology changes quickly in price, availability, and social penetration, making it extremely difficult to know which people are using which technologies at a particular point in time. For example, some may communicate largely through text messaging, and others use social networking sites or business mail systems. To help develop the capacity to use technologies for learning, it will be important to identify both the texts and tools already routinely used by various subgroups of the adult learner population and the types of texts they need to be able to produce and comprehend.
A challenge in the use of technology for adult literacy instruction may be overcoming complex institutional arrangements often involved in changing educational practice. This complexity leads to high institutional inertia in the adoption of technologies that much more rapidly penetrate the general world of consumers. A further challenge is the learning curve for any new technology, during which initial costs are high and utility is not fully developed. Understanding whether a particular technology is worth the investment will require a sophisticated research funding strategy. Such a strategy would involve deciding on the best bets for investment, sustaining the investment long enough for the technologies and their implementation to be refined sufficiently to have substantial impact, and maintaining agility in technology investment and implementation to respond to rapid evolutions in technology.
Research is needed to test new and evolving technologies and resolve inconclusive findings. Many specific uses of technology for adolescent and adult literacy instruction have been shown to be effective in small-scale, controlled studies. For these uses, the next step will be to evaluate them in studies with larger populations and diverse settings. At least as important, though, is programmatic translational research that can show the ways in which an existing instructional system or organization can benefit from the technologies that show the greatest promise.