Friday, May 28, 2010

Using Technology to Support Real Learning in Alberta

Here is a new research publication from the Alberta Teachers' Association. It questions how pedagogical practices and the curriculum may need to change in order to prepare students to participate meaningfully in the knowledge-based and globally interconnected world of the 21st century. This monograph serves to stimulate a debate on the true nature of learning in the 21st century and on the role that technology can play in transforming the teaching and learning process so that it optimizes student learning.

This is not only progressive, but it is potentially game changing!

Here are some important points:

  • Technology typically has been implimented to merely suppliment traditional teaching and learning rather than to transform the pedagogical process. To truly transform schools we need to focus less on teaching and more on learning. Rather than using technology to reinforce and amplify traditional instructional methodologies we need to focus on redesigning our fragmented curricula so that they emphasize problem-based learning.
  • Too often technology has been less about creating more meaningful assessments and more about online report cards that has simply led to more data - therefore amplifying the already less-than-optimal assessment practices
  • Examples of transformative strategies include teaching less and encouraging students to learn by undertaking projects, doing away with textbooks, and replacing the entire curriculum (math, science, social studies and language arts) for a particular grade wtih a set of technology-based activities designed to ensure the same learning outcomes.
  • Too many Alberta jurisdictions rely on externally imposed mandates for "data-informed improvements" rather than on exploring ways of transforming the teaching-learning process. When schools follow policy mandates and pursue the relentless quest for short-term gains, they evolve into addictive organizations
  • Many schools in Alberta exhibit a culture of compliance that inhibits innovation
  • Knowledge is a process, not a product and it is not produced in the minds of individuals but in the interactions between people
  • A paradigm shift in educational thinking is needed. We need less emphasis on content and assessment and more on real learning and the creation of genuinely new knowledge
  • Secondary education, in particular, needs to move away from the industrial age, one-size-fits all, production-line model of education to an approach that takes into account the leanring needs of individuals
  • Take a project-based approach to curriculum delivery - restructure the school day by moving from several short periods to one to three long periods. Currently, the school day divides the curriculum up into different fragmented domains that all too often appear disconnected from one another
  • At the top of the list for Systemic Barriers to Transformative Change is the persistence of bureaucratic accountability regimes
  • Educational jurisdictions that emphasize accountability and employ a state-imposed curriculum tend to diminish the professional role that teachers play in the delivery of education.
  • Large-scale testing programs and other command-and-control mechanisms tend to narrow curriculum and reduce teaching to little more than an effort to boost test scores. Teachers, in such regimes, are not encouraged to develop innovative instructional practices.
  • With changes to school act, does Alberta see technology as a way of transforming the culture of schools from one of compliance (accountability and adherence to a prescribed curriculum) to one of innovation? Second, does Alberta Education regard technology as a way of engaging students by making learning less artificial and fragmented and more authentic and integrated?
I can't tell you how proud I am to see this kind of progressive educational research coming from my teachers' association!

Using Technology to Support Real Learning in Alberta Schools


  1. Wow, I don't live in Alberta, but this excites even me! I look forward to checking it out myself.

  2. "Take a project-based approach to curriculum delivery - restructure the school day by moving from several short periods to one to three long periods. Currently, the school day divides the curriculum up into different fragmented domains that all too often appear disconnected from one another."

    This is my current project for June and my intention is to incorporate this practice in the fall. The fragmentation disrupts learning significantly much of the time.

    Thanks for sharing this document. I will come back to the full summary again. I have seen many such documents published by one branch of the ministry here in Saskatchewan. They do not always have the full support of the ministry departments and conflicting agenda's hamper real change along with practitioner resistance. Even so, it is nice to feel a warm breath of reform on your face.

  3. Joe,

    this is fantastic news. I appreciate you finding this document so that we all can build our cases in our own divisions.

  4. I suspect these findings apply to most schools--certainly true of most of the US systems with which I have been associated. I'm heartened to see that the Alberta schools have at least decided to critically examine how they are using technology for teaching and learning, and I hope this leads to some real reform. Please keep us posted--there is much to learn for all of us in this process.


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