Since 1996, the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance (CSLP) has been working with the Success for All Foundation (SFAF) to design and provide technological supports to the highly effective Success for All Reading Roots curriculum. The pedagogical quality of educational programs is not always the obstacle to the success of their participants. A lack of success may also be attributed to a failure in properly implementing and administering the program. In Success for All's Reading Roots, the lowest performing 30% of the first-grade cohort are identified and given individual, 20-minute, one-on-one tutoring sessions each day.
The Reading CAT (Computer Assisted Tutor) was designed to support a small part of each of these tutoring sessions. It started as a research, design, and evaluation of a product that exemplified effective pedagogy in early reading, together with effective support for tutoring. Through development and testing of the Reading CAT, the CSLP examined how software designers can work together with content experts to use technology to support program implementation and how such teams can better evaluate the effectiveness of their designs. The development and formative evaluation of this tool, designed only to support a child's development of phonological awareness and word skills, is described in Chambers, et al. (2000).
In 2001, the CSLP embarked on a project to increase the scope of the Reading CAT by designing an Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS) called Alphie’s Alley. Designed to support the individual needs of students, tutors, and program facilitators engaged in SFA's Reading Roots tutoring, Alphie’s Alley supports children's development of alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, and writing. It guides the tutor through student assessments, builds customized lessons plans and supports professional development and communication between program stakeholders. In contrast to the Reading CAT, Electronic Performance Support System structures the entire 20-minute tutoring session for each child in Reading Roots tutoring. The conceptual framework and the design process for Alphie’s Alley are described in Children’s Learning in a Digital World T. Willoughby & E. Wood (Eds.) in a chapter entitled: Using technology to assist children learning to read and write Abrami, P.C., Savage, R., Wade, A., & Hipps, G. (in press). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.
What does Alphie’s Alley entail? [Play Demo]
Alphie’s Alley is divided into two sections: Student Alley and Tutor Alley.
Student Alley contains three modules pertaining to the work tutors do with the student throughout the tutoring process:
- The Assessment Module guides tutors through a computer-based assessment, which automatically identifies which objectives the student has mastered and which ones require additional work.
- In the Planning Module, the computer creates a two-week tutoring plan, based on the assessment results. Each plan recommends a list of objectives and instructional activities for the 20-minute tutoring session. Tutors have the option of carrying out the generated plan or adjusting it as they see fit.
- In the Activities Module, the computer provides students and tutors with 18 interactive multimedia activities that help students develop reading skills such as Phonemic Awareness, Letter Identification, Word-level Blending, Fluency, Comprehension and Writing. The activity level is customized for each student based on his or her initial assessment.
Tutor Alley is an online tutorial designed to help tutors implement the tutoring process using Alphie’s Alley. This section also includes video clips that explain and model the role of the tutors in effectively helping their students learn to read.
Professional Development Example 1
Professional Development Example 2
- Dr. Philip Abrami, Principal Investigator
- Dr. Bette Chambers, Principal Investigator, SFAF
- Dr. Robert Slavin, Principal Investigator, SFAF
- Dr. Nancy Maddin, Principal Investigator, SFAF
- Erin Comaskey, Literacy Coordinator
Design & Development
- Catherine LeBel, Media Producer/Creative Director
- Richard Gifford, Success for All Instructional Designer
- Mimi Zhou, programmer/Graphic Designer
- Sébastien Rainville, programmer/Graphic Designer
- Benoit Danis, programmer/Graphic Designer
- Jeong-Jea Hwang, programmer/Graphic Designer
- Miao Song, programmer/Graphic Designer
- Dr. Philip Abrami, Faculty Researcher
- Dr. Roberto de Almeida, Faculty Researcher
- Iolie Nicolaidou, Research Assistant
- Dr. Helena Osana, Faculty Researcher
- Dr. Richard Schmid, Faculty Researcher
- Dr. Norman Segalowitz, Faculty Researcher
- Dr. Michael von Grünau, Faculty Researcher
Special Acknowledgement to: Micha Terrien, Media Producer/Creative Director (2001-2005), Brad Tucker, Literacy Coordinator (2001-2005), Dr. Guy Lacroix, Post-Doctoral Fellow (2002-2006), Geoffrey Hipps (2005-2006) Literacy Coordinator, Mónica López, (2001-2007) Instructional Designer, and Ane Jorgensen, (2003-2006) Instructional Designer
The Animated Alphabet is comprised of a collection of mini-narratives designed to help students remember the sound of each letter and letter combination (long vowel letter combinations and various consonant digraphs) by associating it with a memorable shape and story.
The following slideshow demonstrates the many steps involved in the creation of an animation.
The following are screenshots and demo videos of a few activities and navigational screens of Alphie's Alley. They represent the various environments that the tutor and students would encounter while working on the 20-minute tutoring session. Click on the images to view larger versions or click on Demo to view a video demo of the activity.
Summary of Research
Chambers, B., Abrami, P. C., Tucker, B. J., Slavin, R. E., Madden, N. A., Cheung, A. & Gifford, R. (2008). Computer-assisted tutoring in Success for All: Reading outcomes for first graders. Journal for Research on Educational Effectiveness. 1(2), 120-137.
Chambers, B., Slavin, R. E., Madden, N. A., Abrami, P. C., Tucker, B. J., Cheung, A., & Gifford, R. (2008). Technology infusion in Success For All: Reading outcomes for first-graders. Elementary School Journal, 109(1), 1-15.
Chambers, B., Abrami, P., McWhaw, K., & Therrien, M. C. (2001). Developing a computer-assisted tutoring program to help children at risk learn to read. In P. Abrami (Ed.) Understanding and promoting complex learning using technology [Special issue on Instructional Technology]. Educational Research and Evaluation, 7(2-3), 223-239.
Chambers, B., Slavin, R. E., Madden, N. A., Abrami, P. C., Tucker, B. J., Cheung, A. & Gifford, R. (2008). Computer-assisted tutoring in Success for All: Two studies of reading outcomes for first graders. In A. Bus (Ed.), Multimedia and literacy development: Improving achievement for young learners (pp. 224-237). London: Taylor & Francis.
Chambers, B., Abrami, P. C., & Morrison, S. (2000). Can Success for All succeed in Canada? In R.E. Slavin (Ed.), Success for All: Research and reform in elementary education (pp. 93-110). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Chambers, B., Slavin, R.E., Madden, N.A., & Abrami, P.C. (2009, March). The effects of a small-group computer-assisted tutoring program on reading outcomes for first graders. Paper presented at the second annual conference of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE), Crystal City, VA.
Chambers, B., Madden, N., Slavin, R. E., & Abrami, P. C. (2006, June). Technology infusion in beginning reading instruction: Three randomized experiments. Poster presented at the Institute of Education Sciences 2006 Research Conference, Washington, DC.
Cheung, A., Abrami, P. C., Tucker, B., Therrien, M., Chambers, B., Madden, N., Gifford, R. & Slavin, R. (2006, April). Computer-assisted tutoring in Success For All: Reading outcomes. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting, San Francisco, CA.
Schmid, R. F., Tucker, B., Jorgensen, A., Abrami, P. C., Lacroix, G., & Nicolaidou, N. (2006, April). Symposium entitled: Tutor-based data on implementation fidelity of SFA Program using technology versus no technology. Symposium paper presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting, San Francisco, CA.
Slavin, R., Chambers, B., Madden, N., Cheung, A., Abrami, P. C., Gifford, R., Schmid, R., Tucker, B., Jorgensen, A., Lacroix, G., Mayer, R., & Nicolaidou, I. (2006, April). Technology infusion in Success for All: Reading outcomes for tutored and non-tutored first graders. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting, San Francisco, CA.
Slavin, R. E., Chambers, B., Abrami, P. C., Hipps, G. (2005, August). Technology infusion in Success for All. Poster presented at the Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI); Annual Principal Investigators’ Meeting, Washington, DC.
Danis, B., Rainville, S., Therrien, M., Tucker, B., & Abrami, P. C. (2005, July). Alphie’s Alley early literacy tutoring software. Paper presented at the EDMedia Conference, Montreal, QC.
Danis, B., Rainville, S., Therrien, M., Tucker, B., & Abrami, P. C. (2005, May). Alphie’s Alley Early literacy tutoring software. Paper presented at the 4e Colloque annuel Développement, intégration et évaluation des technologies de formation et d'apprentissage (DIVA), Montreal, QC.
Chambers, B., Abrami, P. C., Therrien, M. C., & Watson, V. (2001, May). Piloting the Reading CAT. A computer-assisted tutoring program to help children at risk learn to read. Paper presented at the Sixth Annual EvNet Conference, Mont-Tremblant, QC.
Chambers, B., Abrami, P. C., McWhaw, K., & Therrien, M. C. (2000, May). Developing a computer-assisted tutoring program to help children at risk learn to read. Paper presented at the Fifth Annual EvNet Conference, Cornwall, Ontario.
Chambers, B., Abrami, P. C., & Morrison, S. (1999, April). Diet SFA: Implementing school reform in Canada. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, QC.
Morrison, S., Aslin, L., Chambers, B., & Abrami, P. C. (1998, February). Reading CAT please: A case study in progress. Paper presented at the annual conference of EvNet: Network for the evaluation of education and training technologies, Montreal, QC.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0115659 and the US Dept. of Education under Grant no. S332B050004. . Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.