The world has come to the class­room


Walk the halls of al­most any school within Greater Saska­toon Catholic Schools and you may hear some un­fa­mil­iar sounds com­ing from class­rooms. No, it is not the be­gin­ner band classes where notes are some­times un­rec­og­niz­able. The sounds are the lan­guages be­ing spo­ken.

You will hear the fa­mil­iar English. And most will rec­og­nize at least the oc­ca­sional word com­ing from core-French class­rooms or French im­mer­sion schools. There will also be lan­guages you may be less fa­mil­iar with, like Ukrainian from Saskatchewan’s only Ukrainian bilin­gual school, Bishop File­vich, or Cree from the thriv­ing Cree bilin­gual school, St. Frances.

Out­side of for­mal learn­ing you are likely to hear con­ver­sa­tions tak­ing place in a va­ri­ety of other lan­guages. Class­rooms are nat­u­rally a re­flec­tion of the larger com­mu­nity. Saskatchewan has more peo­ple im­mi­grat­ing from a wider range of coun­tries. The world has come to the class­room, and it has brought a diver­sity like we have not seen be­fore.

A decade ago, Greater Saska­toon Catholic Schools (GSCS) served a few hun­dred stu­dents who were new to Canada and learn­ing English. Scott Gay, su­per­in­ten­dent of learn­ing at Greater Saska­toon Catholic Schools, said that has grown to about 2,500 stu­dents who are cur­rently learn­ing English as an ad­di­tional lan­guage. “It presents chal­lenges to us as a school divi­sion, but over the years, we’ve grown quite adept at wel­com­ing new Cana­di­ans and teach­ing English as an ad­di­tional lan­guage.

“You can’t just put a non-English speaking stu­dent in the class­room and ex­pect them to keep pace with the rest of the class,” said Gay. “The same can be said for stu­dents in a va­ri­ety of other sce­nar­ios. Each stu­dent is dif­fer­ent and may re­quire a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to how they are be­ing taught.”

Gay said that the divi­sion has been able to adapt some things learned from teach­ing English lan­guage learn­ers – like flex­i­ble, per­son­al­ized les­son plans or work­ing in smaller groups – and ap­ply them in other set­tings.

Years ago, ed­u­ca­tors tried to achieve equal­ity – teach ev­ery stu­dent the same thing the same way. The con­cept of eq­uity is more prom­i­nent now. We want all stu­dents to achieve at the same high level, and that means dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to learn­ing. It also means be­ing re­spon­sive to change and be­ing able to ad­just quickly.

Tech­nol­ogy in the class­room has helped ed­u­ca­tors be more flex­i­ble and re­spon­sive. Asthma-at­tack-in­duc­ing plumes of chalk dust from black­boards have given way to Smart­boards (in­ter­net­con­nected white­boards) that have lit­er­ally brought the world to the class­room. With few ex­cep­tions, the text­book be­ing the pri­mary source of in­for­ma­tion and method to im­part knowl­edge to stu­dents is go­ing by way of the dodo.

Tech­nol­ogy is a tool of the trade; much more is needed to make per­son­al­iza­tion of learn­ing a re­al­ity. Gay pointed out that it’s the ded­i­cated work of ed­u­ca­tors – teach­ers, coun­sel­lors, ed­u­ca­tional as­sis­tants and oth­ers – who use all the var­i­ous sources and tools at their dis­posal to de­velop, ex­e­cute, and adapt learn­ing plans that lead to stu­dent suc­cess.

On­line learn­ing is play­ing an in­creas­ingly prom­i­nent role how ed­u­ca­tion is be­ing re­ceived and de­liv­ered. Cy­ber School – Greater Saska­toon Catholic Schools’ on­line and dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion tool – is a vi­able op­tion for more and more stu­dents. Rea­sons to take on­line cour­ses vary. Some may need a con­ve­nient way to pick up an ex­tra high school credit. Some may find it eas­ier to learn at their own pace. It may fit a busy sched­ule bet­ter for oth­ers. What­ever the rea­son, the abil­ity to adapt learn­ing through Cy­ber School is an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar op­tion. And with more in­ter­na­tional stu­dents us­ing the lo­cally-de­vel­oped and -op­er­ated tool, it is an­other way the world is com­ing to the class­room.

As our com­mu­ni­ties and class­rooms con­tinue to ad­just, so too will the way we teach and the tools used.

Photo: GSCS

Greater Saska­toon Catholic Schools have be­come adept at wel­com­ing new Cana­di­ans and teach­ing English as an ad­di­tional lan­guage.

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