spiral staircaseWho we are…

Phase 1 (2006)

This website was initiated as a project of:

The site was conceived and written by Jenny Horsman, with the help of ideas and inspiration from Elaine Gaber-Katz, and built by Tracy Hine of the National Adult Literacy Database. Mike Kelly of Interactivist Learning and Elaine Sayoko Yoneoka created Flash animations, and Jo Petite carried out research and writing. Start up funds from The Adult Learning Knowledge Centre of the Canadian Council on Learning and much volunteer labour by everyone involved supported this process.

Phase 2 (2006-2007)

A growing number of organizations joined the original developers and became partners committed to the expansion of the site:

Under Jenny Horsman’s coordination, we created and solicited new materials and searched out existing resources.

The sponsorship of Springtide Resources, funding from the Canadian Council on Learning and in-kind donations of time, scholarship, and creativity from the partners facilitated tremendous growth in the site and continued knowledge exchange. The website also benefited from the extraordinary generosity of those, who gave their permission to post their writing, extracts from published works, academic theses, original stories, poems, and visual artwork. Helen Manley’s administrative support and Tannis Atkinson’s careful editing supported the process.

Phase 3 (2008)

An expanded community of interest is now involved, even though funds remain limited. This phase is benefiting from the wonderful addition to the team of Heather Lash, who researched and wrote most of the new material; Cori Sandler, who found exciting videos and music; Carol Dunphy who searched out and assessed vital mental health resources, Keri O’Meara, who tracked down brilliant digital stories and painstakingly sought permission to include all the resources we discovered. Kate Nonesuch also brought her knowledge of the issues to the task of carefully editing the new material. Susan Tiihonen brought her wonderful creativity along with her solid knowledge of violence against women to create inviting cartoons. Many more artists have created original work for the site, or allowed us to include their work – too many to list here – but each is named on their work – or will be soon! More invisible and so, less easily acknowledged, are Mike Kelly’s large and small Flash creations, and Tracy Hine’s inspired and thoughtful construction woven throughout the site, and all the people who provided input in consultations to give us direction for this phase.

We are fortunate to have the continuing active involvement of all of the original partners and developers, other colleagues within the partner organization, such as Fran Odette from Springtide Resources, and new partners, including:

  • Elaine Sayoko Yoneoka
  • The Redirection Through Education program of George Brown College, Jaswant Kaur-Bajwa and Jo Petite; and
  • Yvon Appleby of the University of Central Lancashire in England.

Funding for furthering knowledge exchange in 2008 came again from the Canadian Council on Learning, along with substantial in-kind donations from the partners, and an increasing number of friends of the site. The focus of this phase is to increase access for diverse groups to find their way to the site, to move in and around the site and to see themselves and the particularity of their struggles represented on it.

Phase 4 (2009-2011)

This phase was made possible by two year funding from the Government of Canada’s Office of Literacy and Essential Skills. The School of Work and College Preparation of George Brown College (GBC) headed up this project along with Spiral Community Resource Group and Parkdale Project Read (PPR), all based in Toronto.

During this phase we created two tools for colleges and community-based programs that assist staff in all places within the organization (administrators, instructors, counsellors, reception, security, maintenance, etc.) to review and reflect on their practices from the perspective of students who might feel worthless and unable to learn. We also created a stunning kit for literacy and essential skills students that includes five new animations which candidly explore some of the unspoken barriers to successful learning and include activities to help students deepen their understanding of each barrier as well as resources to develop their strengths to overcome them. You can find all of these materials in the Changing Education section. We also developed a set of training resources to help practitioners to learn about the issue and the tools. They are included in Learning to Teach.

The wonderful committed team at GBC, PPR and Spiral, was supported by staff of five adult literacy coalitions one from each region of Canada:

  • West: Literacy BC
  • Prairies: Literacy Alberta
  • North: NWT Literacy Coalition
  • Central: The Ontario Native Literacy Coalition
  • East: The New Brunswick Literacy Coalition

We had support from editor/writers, specialists in educational technology, and web development from coast to coast. Along with many partner organizations and individuals across North America all of the tools, scenarios, resources, activities were developed through cross country discussions and have been shared, tested, used, and re-worked by advisors, partners, and allies across the country. For names of all the individual involved please check out the credits in each tool.

Future phases…

Building on this project we have many dreams to develop online and face-to-face training to support educators to address this issue and strengthen the impact of this website. We also hope to create similar materials to help us to review practices and look at how to support learning in different settings, such as workplace, high school and elementary programs, corrections, social and community services, and the home. If you would be interested in a project in this area, have been dreaming of a project yourself, or have any ideas of funding sources for this work do get in touch with us. We are always eager to collaborate on projects that improve learning success for students with experiences of violence.

This website is still growing! Many more phases will follow in years to come. The work is limited only by the challenge to find funding, to enable us to devote time to this endeavour, and partners to collaborate with us in different settings, and countries. Eventually we hope the “we” will include a more and more diverse range of individuals and groups from around the world. Do you want to join us? Check out “Help build this site” to see how!

The site is one step towards a long held dream of a virtual international institute for research and innovative practice to understand and address the impact of violence on learning. The vision was germinated by Jenny Horsman with the help of Elizabeth Morrish and Judy Hofer and incubated in discussions with educators and researchers from many different countries.

The site is dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth Morrish 1952 – 2004.


Advisory Committee

  • Jenny Horsman, Spiral Community Resource Group
  • Berniece Gowan, Literacy Alberta
  • Marilyn McLean, Assaulted Women and Children Counsellor/Advocate Program, George Brown College (AWCCA)
  • Mary Norton, Windsound Learning Society
  • Marsha Sfeir, Springtide Resources
  • Nadine Sookermany, Parkdale Project Read (PPR)
  • Jo Petite, AWCCA, and PPR