Sept. 22, 2016

Education Tower reno reflects transformed approach to teaching and learning

Werklund School of Education celebrates upgraded work and study spaces, installation of latest classroom technology

2016 marks 50 years of the University of Calgary being part of this vibrant, energetic city and we have a great deal to celebrate. Since our humble beginnings we’ve experienced exponential growth over the past five-decades which have transformed our campus, but not all of those transformations are as easy to spot. The Education Tower was one of the first buildings on main campus and now contains some of the newest learning spaces for students.  

Looking at images of the Education Tower at the University of Calgary today and those taken 50 years ago, a passerby wouldn’t see many differences — perhaps there are now some additional trees and there are certainly a few more buildings surrounding the building, but otherwise, from the outside, the tower looks pretty much the same as it did a half century ago.

On the inside, it’s a different story altogether.

Since its birth as the Calgary Normal School in 1905 and up to the naming of the Werklund School of Education in 2013, the school’s main goals have been focused on supporting students as they learn and grow, deepening the connections with community members, and researching into how individuals teach and learn — both in the K-12 system and in post-secondary education.

“In a way, we’re transforming education — in the philosophical sense, of course, but also in the physical manner.” - Dennis Sumara

But in the last six years, everything has been transformed. Programs have been redesigned to meet the evolving requirements of both students and the profession, research is focused on big challenges, and engagement with the broader external community is expanding.

Renovation project echoes changes throughout school

There have also been significant physical and structural changes to the Education Tower, as a massive renovation project has been underway.  Work spaces have been upgraded, the latest and most innovative technology has been installed in classrooms and workspaces, and newly designed and effective learning spaces for undergraduate and graduate students have been developed.

“In a way,” says Werklund Dean Dennis Sumara, “we’re transforming education — in the philosophical sense, of course, but also in the physical manner.”

Both are key, says Sumara, as researchers are continually discovering more about how people learn, and what methods are the most effective for creating successful learning environments for all.

Encouraging bold solutions for complex educational challenges

“One thing we know about education,” says Sumara, “is that it is a life-long process that is never stationary. And it’s just as important to develop a stimulating physical environment that engages and encourages bold solutions for complex educational challenges.”

On Monday, Sept. 26, the Werklund School will officially reopen the Education Tower; President Cannon will be on hand to celebrate. Following the relaunch, Stanford Professor John Willinsky will be featured in a public lecture, entitled No Education Without Renovation or Construction Without End — a fitting theme given the continual changes in teaching and learning taking place across the UCalgary campus.

See more archival photos capturing the transformation on campus on the 50th Anniversary website. Poke around, you’ll also find videos, personal stories and fascinating facts about our university’s journey — contribute your own story there and remember to share it with your friends and family using the hashtag #ucalgary50.