The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

August 20, 2013 06:32 ET

The Fraser Institute-Embracing Innovation in Schools: 'Adaptive Learning' Technology Key to Better Education for Canadian Kids

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Aug. 20, 2013) - Education may be on the verge of a technological revolution that in part moves away from traditional instructor-led classrooms in favour of new approaches that adapt to students' unique learning styles, says a new report from the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

"The basic model of educational instruction that existed in Canada a century ago is largely still in place, and this one-size-fits-all approach to teaching leaves many students behind," said Jason Clemens, acting director of the Fraser Institute's Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education.

"Our government-run education system has stubbornly perpetuated an instructional model from a bygone era, but technology could revolutionize the learning process. Future education policy must take this into account."

Technology and Education: A Primer examines the role and nature of classroom technology, its potential to revolutionize education and solve problems observed in Canada's education system, and the barriers to such improvements. It is the first paper published by the Fraser Institute's Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education.

The study focuses on promising advancements in "adaptive learning" technologies: educational software that learns and alters itself based on the student's aptitude and progress, while allowing for interaction with a broad base of learning styles. Adaptive software presents topics as a series of skills and building-block concepts incorporating animation, videos, interactive diagrams, and other web-based features. The study also highlights successful uses of adaptive learning including programs at the Khan Academy in California, LearnSmart e-books, and DreamBox software for elementary school math.

"Using adaptive technology, students can learn the material through an avenue of their choosing and at a pace that best suits them," said Lance Izumi, the report's author and senior director of education studies at a California-based think-tank.

"For students struggling with certain concepts, the software can slow down, provide additional instruction, and alert teachers that students need assistance before progressing."

The report notes that research into the costs and benefits of adaptive technology is still in its infancy and that additional research is required.

"The ability of adaptive technology to bring into a single enhanced classroom students in remote areas, including those in the far North or on aboriginal reserves, or students who currently learn outside of the traditional education system, is an obvious area of interest for future research," Clemens said.

"Education policy and technology should work together so that children, particularly those who struggle in the current system, can better gain an education that prepares them for the challenges of the modern world."

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of 86 think-tanks. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org.

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