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Association moves to save popular website

May 30, 2017 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor to continue under ATA umbrella after loss of government funding

The Alberta Teachers’ Association will take over operation of the website to ensure its resources don’t go dark after a loss of government funding.

Delegates at the Annual Representative Assembly (ARA) approved a request from Provincial Executive Council to add $146,000 to the 2017/18 budget to enable the Association to assume control of the website and hire a staff member to perform ongoing site maintenance and resource curation.

Since 1997, has been providing curated learning resources to teachers, students and parents, attracting more than three million hits by more than 30,000 visitors each month. However, its government funding dried up two years ago, and its operators weren’t able to find alternative sources.

In February, Provincial Executive Council (PEC) approved bridge funding of up to $60,000 to carry the 2Learn Education Society through the current fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31. As a long-term solution, PEC wanted the Association to take over the site, so it brought a resolution to ARA seeking approval to add the necessary funding to the Association’s budget.

The resolution generated some debate, with some teacher delegates suggesting the government should pay for such resources.

“I would much rather see this resolution changed to urging the department to pony up and cover the costs of resources that teachers use,” said one delegate.

A counterargument made by President Mark Ramsankar, among others, was that the teaching profession should take ownership of resource development and dissemination.

“We should be striving to be the authoritative voice on education,” Ramsankar said.

In the end, the budget request passed by a wide majority.

John Hogarth, executive director and board chair of the Education Society, said the organization is delighted that the Association is inheriting, preserving and continuing to build on its work over the past 20 years.

“We know that the ATA will bring ongoing first class attentive care to the enterprise,” Hogarth said.

At the time of its inception in 1997, 2Learn was meant to be a short-term project aimed at helping teachers navigate an emerging resource: the Internet. Over the years, the project grew and continued to assemble a repository of curriculum- and age-appropriate resources and complete many pilot projects, said Catherine Macklam, a former teacher who has been the society’s provincial team leader since its inception.

“I’m a teacher too. I know how difficult it is to spread your time thin. The last thing you want to do is spend hours looking for sites,” she said.

The society has been a partnership between the Association, the provincial government, the University of Alberta’s faculty of education and the College of Alberta School Superintendents. In the early days, the Alberta School Boards Association was also a partner and Telus was a corporate sponsor. In recent years, much of the society’s funding came from the province.

With the decision to take over operation of the website, the Association will review its content and decide what to keep and what to discard, said Dan Grassick, the executive staff officer who sits on the society’s board. The Association will also hire a staff member to perform ongoing maintenance and site cleanup, as is currently done. The takeover is also an opportunity for the ATA to do other things with the site, such as promote its own publications and programs, Grassick said. ❚

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