Fairfield faculty and graduate students will support professional development focused on classroom management, technical skills, course design and online teaching strategies.
We are transforming the paradigm because we have to change the way we think about how we can educate and how we can instruct.
— Dr. Steven Cheeseman, Superintendant of Schools
Fairfield’s Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP) has entered into a multiyear partnership with the Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Schools and Apple Inc., to integrate technology across the curriculum and address individual student learning needs.
“We are transforming the paradigm because we have to change the way we think about how we can educate and how we can instruct,” said Superintendent of Schools Steven Cheeseman, EdD. “It’s challenging us to change the way we think, to try different approaches and keep the focus not just on the material and content—but on the students and their need to be successful.”
The Personalized Learning Initiative will infuse Catholic schools in the Bridgeport Diocese with technology in order to create more time for teachers to spend with students in small groups or individually. “The first thing we want to do is make sure our students have the opportunity to learn at their own pace, to meet their needs and acknowledge their gifts.” Dr. Cheeseman continued, “The second thing we want to do is to give students the opportunity to have a choice in how they learn and how they demonstrate mastery of the learning.”
The education program has been described as a student learning management system that is adaptive and responsive to students’ needs. Students will have the opportunity to rotate through stations which will include working online, in small groups with the teacher, and working independently. Innovations labs will be added to each school and will feature Lego robotics kits, 3D printers, green screens and a coding program.
Fairfield University’s educational technology faculty Josh Elliot, EdD, and Jay Rozgonyi, along with the program’s MA students, will be supporting the diocese’s initiative. Beginning this summer, an ed tech certificate program will be available for diocesan teachers. A second component of the partnership includes the creation of a high school “academy,” with an emphasis on computer science, and nursing and health studies. The Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies will partner with the School of Engineering to offer two 4-course sequences leading to a certificate, to high school juniors and seniors in the diocese. GSEAP will also train and certify 12 new teachers who will work in the district and receive spiritual direction from Fairfield’s Center for Ignatian Spirituality. Fairfield undergraduates enrolled in service learning courses will also have the opportunity to work in diocesan classrooms.
“We are very excited to partner with the diocese on these innovative initiatives," said GSEAP Dean Bob Hannafin, PhD. "It may sound counterintuitive, but these tools, in the hands of skilled and caring teachers, can create learning environments that are actually more personal, not less.”
In addition to Fairfield University and Apple Inc., a generous grant of $5 million from a private donor is making the launch of the program possible. Consultants Christian Brothers and Catapult will help with the strategic rollout and instructional plan.
Beginning in the fall of 2018, the rollout will start with six schools in year one: Assumption Catholic School in Fairfield; St. Gregory the Great in Danbury; Holy Trinity Catholic Academy in Shelton; Catholic Academy of Stamford, Upper School; Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton; and St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Brookfield. Eight schools will be added the following year in phase two. The remaining Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic schools will be introduced to the model in phase three.
“Academic excellence is part of our mission,” Dr. Cheeseman said. “We have no choice, if we’re going to educate children, except to do it in a way that respects their gifts and talents and leads them to excellence and growth.”