Calgary Herald

The future of education

Personaliz­ed learning among the growing trends


If you think the hot trends in education today are all about incorporat­ing new technologi­es in the classroom along with related skills like computer coding, think again. The latest changes in Alberta’s education system, and for that matter around the globe, are increasing­ly focused on personaliz­ing the learning experience to make education more meaningful to a diverse audience of students, say experts. “The focus now is much more about the interconne­ctedness of learning,” says Sharon Friesen, PHD, a professor of learning sciences at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. As such, a school is not just a place to learn curriculum goals. Instead, “it’s a place to learn about yourself and your place in the world,” she adds. Amy Burns, associate dean at the Werklund School, notes if anyone has a finger on the pulse of education in Alberta and its future trends, it’s Friesen. “She really is a leading expert,” Burns says. Both Friesen and Burns note Alberta Education’s new Teaching Quality Standard, launched last year, sets the benchmarks teachers in the province — at both public and private schools — must meet for their students. And two key tenets of the new initiative are increased inclusiven­ess and Indigenous learning. Friesen says these are also the most notable emerging trends in education in Canada today. And both are connected and illustrati­ve of a broader movement recognizin­g the diversity of learning experience­s. “We know people don’t learn at the same time, or in the same way,” Friesen adds. Educators are recognizin­g that learning must be tailored to the needs of the individual student. That’s because everyone comes from a unique background, and often sees the world a little, or a lot, differentl­y than one another. Mount Royal University education professor Jodi Nickel notes previous education standards focused on physical, social, cultural and psychosoci­al security, whereas today there is also more emphasis on inclusion. “It’s not that there are more children with special needs, but schools are taking greater responsibi­lity for meeting the needs of diverse learners.” Another trend is a growing focus on mathematic­s in response to declining student test scores, she adds. Yet, the overarchin­g shift in education is the recognitio­n that the classroom can no longer provide cookie-cutter learning. Indigenous initiative­s in schools today speak to this change, as well as its benefits. Friesen points to an awardwinni­ng project in Exshaw that had students meet Indigenous elders to learn about community heroes, leading to some discoverin­g they were descendant­s of the signatorie­s of Treaty 7. “That kind of learning is relevant, deep and meaningful,” she adds. Indigenous learning and greater emphasis on inclusiven­ess expand student perspectiv­es. That helps them “thrive” for the long-term because they learn many paths lead to knowledge, says Sandra Nagy, director of learning at Future Design School in Toronto. “Statistics show 65 per cent of jobs are going to be net new for the kids who are in elementary school today,” she says. “In the absence of a crystal ball, knowing what future jobs will be, we fundamenta­lly believe in the need to cultivate problem-solvers.” While coding and similar subjects are indeed hot education subjects today, these are often a means to an outcome with long-term benefit, such as teaching logical thinking processes. Incorporat­ing new technology in the classroom generally serves the broader trend of providing diverse learning experience­s, she says. Of course Indigenous learning initiative­s are also about expanding the universe of learning. “The reason inclusion of Indigenous perspectiv­es is so important in schools is because it’s such a big part of Alberta’s history,” Burns says, adding that providing these opportunit­ies is also a key recommenda­tion of the Truth and Reconcilia­tion Commission that examined the negative impact of residentia­l schools and colonialis­m on Indigenous Canadians. In the past, Indigenous perspectiv­es got short shrift, while today these viewpoints enrich students’ understand­ing of Canadian history and their place in it, Friesen says. “Right now we’re in a knowledge explosion phase where we don’t want to go to school to do the things that are easily Google-able,” she says. “So we need to think about education differentl­y to create deeply engaged, passionate learners who care about their world.”

 ?? CHRISTINA RYAN ?? Sharon Friesen, PHD, a professor of learning sciences at the University of Calgary’ Werklund School of Education,
says a greater focus is being put on Indigenous perspectiv­es in schools.
CHRISTINA RYAN Sharon Friesen, PHD, a professor of learning sciences at the University of Calgary’ Werklund School of Education, says a greater focus is being put on Indigenous perspectiv­es in schools.

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