Beyond Bandwidth & Barriers
Dr. Mark Benigni has been the superintendent at Meriden Public Schools in Meriden, Connecticut for over nine years. In that time, he has led the district to remarkable growth, not in student quantity, but in education quality and an effective strategy to leverage the benefits of technology. The district has 8,600 students, 71 percent of whom are minority and 74 percent of whom are on free or reduced lunch programs. Impressively, 76 percent of graduates are college-bound.
Benigni has a philosophy. He looks beyond the bandwidth and the barriers to ensure success for his students. During his nine-year tenure, the district has received no new or additional funding. For Benigni, this is not a barrier. His long-term partnerships with foundations have added the bandwidth that the district needed to become a national pacesetter in the effective use of curriculum and technology.
Benigni believes we need a new model for public education to ensure success for all our students. “The factory model does not work for today’s learners,” said Benigni. “The days of teachers directing all the learning are over. Today’s best teachers guide and facilitate. We need our learning environments to support student-centered approaches.”
Benigni is a proponent of technology but warns that all our learning cannot be game-based. After referencing some vintage games like Pac Man and Oregon Trail, he said “Gaming certainly plays a role in education, but to truly leverage technology, gaming must be purposeful. The concept of engagement, personalization, individualized goals and immediate feedback are why these products still play a key role in student learning today. As much as I enjoyed the Oregon Trail, all our students are not going to be engaged in the same way. It is this engagement that will spur the highest levels of learning.”
Through technology, Meriden schoolchildren are experiencing travel and adventure, engaging with content in a very impactful way. “Our students are excited to visit and experience places they have never been before,” said Benigni. “Technology has brought the world into the hands of our students. Without leaving Meriden, and for some of our students they will never get the opportunity to leave, students can choose to hike Mt. Everest, explore the solar system, ride with Paul Revere or even dive in the great Barrier Reef. Today, back in Meriden, our students are touring the International Space Station, and we are just beginning to realize the benefits of virtual and Augmented Reality. Regardless of socioeconomic status or prior learning experiences, all students must be able to access digital resources to expand their world.”
Meriden Public Schools is a place where students, staff and parents want to be. Learning is fun and students are succeeding in record numbers. You’ll want to watch the video and learn ways that your district can move beyond bandwidth and barriers, ensuring your students success in a technological world.
Watch the video below of Dr. Benigni speaking at the Learning Counsel National Gathering 2018