Jun 14, 2019 2019-06-14
By Mark D. Benigni, Ed.D, Barbara Haeffner, and Susan Moore
In the Meriden Public Schools, a small urban district in Central Connecticut, two hours from Boston and New York, students have voice, choice, and opportunities to lead their learning. With support from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and Dalio Foundation's RISE Network, Meriden has transformed their school system into student-centered learning environments where learning is personalized, mastery matters, technology is infused, and students design learning experiences. Creative staffing and a vast array of professional learning opportunities for teachers to ensure that students and staff have the skills and support to transform their schools. Student-centered learning coaches, technology integration specialists, and transition support counselors support and work with our district Blended Learning Supervisor to ensure our classrooms provide opportunities for our students to communicate, collaborate, and create.
With so many college graduates searching for competitive and fulfilling employment, the need to rethink schools' role and purpose is more necessary than ever before. We can no longer accept classrooms where teachers lecture and students listen, where teachers assign and students agree, where teachers test and students take. So how will we prepare our students for careers that don't exist? What skills will allow our students to be successful in life? Our student-centered learning practices encourage more verbal and written communication, additional team and computer learning, as well as a greater focus on critical thinking and problem solving. Classroom learning tasks must require students to communicate both in spoken and written language. Encouraging students to speak multiple languages, including Python and others, will ensure our students can communicate in a world where machines will continue to play a larger role.
In addition to communicating with humans and machines, tomorrow's jobs will require employees to collaborate with their fellow co-workers, as well as the machines that will be working side by side with our employees. By offering high tech learning environments, we will ensure our students have the skills and comfort level to collaborate with both humans and robotics in the workplace. Whether we realize it or not, many of our students have already been interacting with hundreds of robots. Ozobots, iBlocks, littleBits, Lego Mindstorms, and so many other robotic kits can be seen in classrooms across the nation. Even our youngest learners are engaging with coding mice and caterpillars. These programmable and coding ready devices are engaging students with high quality learning tasks. These are the tasks that will allow our students to explore, try new things, think critically, and solve problems for themselves.
Lastly, the jobs of the future will require employees to create both hard deliverables, as well as technology driven solutions. We know the jobs of the immediate future will require computational thinkers, caregivers, team builders, online educators, and virtual reality designers. The factory model has changed to incorporate technology to improve productivity and output. Schools need to do the same. Our schools must ensure that our students lead this transformation by communicating, collaborating and creating. This is how we will prepare students for jobs that we can not predict.
Mark Benigni, Ed.D. , Superintendent of the Meriden Public Schools in CT and Co-Chair of the CT Association of Urban Superintendents is committed to providing equity and expanding learning opportunities for all students. His innovative leadership and collaborative union management partnerships led to recognition by Edutopia's--Schools That Work, and designation as both an Education Week Leader to Learn From and CoSN EmpowerED Superintendent.
Barbara Haeffner, Director of Curriculum and Instructional Technology for the Meriden Public Schools, has transformed the district into a 1:1 digital learning environment for students and technology is embedded in all aspects of curricula.
Susan Moore, Supervisor of Blended Learning, supports blended learning models to enhance student-centered practices in the Meriden Public Schools. She has developed innovative programs including I’m Charged, a teacher technology recognition program.