Dr. Jeanine Gendron
Broward County Public Schools in Florida, like most school districts across the U.S., is charged with the task of addressing college and career readiness for its students - an especially daunting mission for the sixth-largest public school system in the U.S.
The school district’s director of innovative learning and arts, Dr. Gendron, says the biggest challenges the school district faces is how to engage students and how to ensure the effectiveness of its learning process.
“Sometimes that’s hard for an instructor teaching to a whole group, with the expectation that everybody moves forward at the same pace,” Gendron says. “We wanted to address that scenario quite differently, recognizing that students are individuals who learn at different paces, with different styles.”
While steering students toward meeting state standards, Gendron says the school district wanted to provide a variety of resources that allowed students to reach standards in a more personalized and individual way.
An ardent champion of integrating technology into learning, Gendron keeps the vision of 21st-century learning at the forefront of the education community, locally and nationally. Gendron is a board member and former president of the Florida Council of Instructional Technology Leaders, serves on Florida’s Digital Learning Advisory Board and is a frequent presenter on the topic.
In the last year, she was deeply involved in introducing a new program called “Digital 5: Pathways to Personalized Learning” (D5) with 3,200 5th graders at 27 schools in the district. The program incorporates digital tools, strategies and resources aimed at transitioning from a traditional learning environment to one more personalized for students that is centered on their needs, interests and abilities, and prepares them to live and work in a 21st-century world.
D5 classrooms are designed for group and collaborative learning. Teachers’ desks are no longer positioned at the front, and instead of listening to lectures and traditional lesson plans, students are engaged in projects and activities, exploring content through technology or digital curriculum. Each student is permitted to take laptops home and have access to a customized learning management system.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. “Students are excited and thinking critically about learning occurring in their classroom,” Gendron says. “They’re learning skills for communication and collaboration, information retrieval and presenting knowledge using multimedia. Students feel they have options for learning in many different ways, and I think technology has brought those options to the forefront.”
Broward is expanding its D5 program to 69 schools and has added a new Digital Infusion program for mathematics and English/Language Arts for secondary schools for the 2014-2015 school year as part of its goal to continue to incorporate learning technologies that support student achievement.
Gendron is an active mentor and coach, advising her peers to adapt as quickly as possible to education’s new digital learning environment, and to include partners - vendors, parents, businesses and local communities - in the conversation.
“In education, we need to rapidly move forward to a system that is more fluid, egalitarian and student centered,” she says. “We must put resources into that kind of vision. Look at students as global citizens who need to be prepared to take on the challenges of a highly complex, hyper-connected world É and do whatever we can on a district, policy and legislative level to support educators.”