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The ability to read and write creates fuel for our imagination and is an essential skill within modern society. However, almost half of all Australians are missing out. An estimated 47 per cent of the population is functionally illiterate. This means they are excluded from the enjoyment of a good book and may struggle to read a recipe, complete a job application or understand instructions on a medicine bottle.
The Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA) is an independent professional association dedicated to improving literacy from early childhood through to tertiary education age. It supports its members through ongoing learning and sells a range of reading resources through its online store.
ALEA’s Vice President, Jo Padgham, shares the goals of ALEA and the benefits of its e-commerce platform.
We have a commitment to support all educators to bring current research findings to their practices and to support them with a network of like-minded individuals so they can enrich each other’s work and grow as a professional learning community. Advocacy is also a big part of our role. We have a commitment to advancing literacy levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and have also worked in Dili in East Timor to help increase literacy levels.
Our membership is scattered across the country and is made up of between 4,000–5,000 people. The bulk of members come from universities and schools. Membership is not compulsory. Apart from individual members, we also have institutional members, such as education sections of hospitals.
There are lots of different ways that we promote ourselves and we’ve got to keep looking at how we can keep members engaged and how we can stay relevant. Teachers are great networkers. At the National Conference in Canberra this year, 1,390 people attended and social media was going wild. On one day, apparently we were one of the top trending events of Twitter. We also send information through email groups.
The ALEA website, which we call our Knowledge Management System, has a facility that allows members to join and renew online and we can also use this as a database to push out emails to promote things such as our 2016 National Conference.
We started accepting membership payments online about four years ago because most people now expect to be able to pay in this way. We launched our online bookstore at around the same time. Our members are located right across the country and they need to be able to securely buy the resources that they want.
It has reduced our need to chase up declined payments. Payments are also made to our account in real time, which is a great advantage. It’s also removed the necessity for manual processing, which has cut back on human hours at the office. We’ve been using SecurePay for four years and we haven’t had a glitch. We think it’s secure for us and for our members.
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