BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Bridgeport kicked off it its Personalized Learning Initiative on Friday when principals and teachers from six schools participating in the pilot program gathered at the Catholic Center to prepare for a Fall launch of the program.
During the meeting Dr. Steven Cheeseman, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said the major technology and personalized learning initiative will be funded by a $5 million gift to “transform Catholic education” from a private donor (details will be announced in the next Fairfield County Catholic).
“Today is an historic moment for the Catholic schools of the Diocese as we embark on a new initiative to transform the paradigm of Catholic education. We are reimagining what the Catholic school classroom can look like and we are excited for what the future holds for our schools and our students,” said Dr. Cheeseman.
Almost 100 faculty and staff from the six schools met in Queen of Saints Hall for a full-day professional development and networking session for teachers who will be innovating personalized learning stations in their classrooms in September.
The initiative, which will be rolled out at all elementary schools over the next three years, will start this Fall with pilot programs set for Assumption School in Fairfield, St. Gregory the Great School in Danbury, Holy Trinity Catholic Academy in Shelton, the Upper School at the Catholic Academy of Stamford, Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton, and at the new multi-age school, St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Brookfield.
Throughout the day Dr. Cheeseman introduced representatives from Apple, Fairfield University, Christian Brothers/Catholic School Management, and Catapult Learning who are partnering with the diocese to bring personalized learning to the schools.
Dr. Cheeseman said that while many teachers in diocesan schools already personalize learning and differentiate instruction, the initiative gives them the tools to take what they already strive to do and bring it to the next level.
“The initiative will provide for an updated technology infrastructure, new hardware and student devices, and programs to support the traditional Catholic school educational experience,” he said.
He said that in order to bring the latest technology to students, it must also be available to teachers who will be leading the process in the pilot programs.
“ We realize that, just as our students deserve a personalized approach to learning, so do our teachers and we will be walking teachers through the professional development, certificate programs, coaching, and support that will be available to them as bring this initiative alive in the classroom.”
Dr. Cheeseman said the use of technology to foster personalized learning will not only improve the academic performance of students, but also lead to increased self-confidence and lifetime learning skills.
“Why do we need to focus on personalized learning for students? Because we believe that all children are created in the image and likeness of God and each has been given unique gifts and talents. Instructional practices that promote personalized learning recognize those gifts and addresses student’s specific needs. They are part of an educational model that fulfills our Catholic mission. Academic excellence is not something we do separate and apart from our Catholic Identity. It is something we work towards because of our Catholic Identity.”
In morning keynote talk, Greg Dhuyvetter, a consultant with Catholic School Management, said that children live and learn in a “tech rich” world and that schools need to be prepared to innovate and take risks in their approach to technology and the classroom.
In a talk that motivated and challenged teachers, he told them not to be afraid to try something new even if it fails, and that teachers are still central to learning.
“Teachers wont’ disappear. They’re more important than ever,” he said, predicting that the “next ten years will be messy” in both private and public schools as they work to bridge the generation gap in technology with students brought up on I-phones and other digital devices.
Adopting the new technology is a “disruptive push that forces you to break old patterns,” he told the teachers.
Dr. Cheeseman said has personally met with each of the faculties of the Phase I schools and they are excited at the possibilities that this new initiative will bring.
Pilot schools will dedicate a portion of each day to a “station-rotation” model in which students will utilize an instructional approach that incorporates an online suite of programs “that presents material and practice in a way that is adaptive and responsive to student ability, skill, and performance,” he said.
He emphasized that the technology is not an end it itself but a way to further personalize learning “in order to support student learning in a way that addresses the needs of each individual student and demonstrates a recognition that all children are made in the image and likeness of God and that each brings unique God-given gifts and talents to the classroom.”
To learn more about Catholic schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport and for registration information, visit: http://www.dioceseofbridgeportcatholicschools.com