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Peterborough discusses learning communities of the future

  • A panel of four discussed the future of education in the Monadnock region during a series called Community Conversations on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • A panel of four discussed the future of education in the Monadnock region during a series called Community Conversations on Tuesday. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos discusses the future of education in the Monadnock region during a Community Conversations talk on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 14, 2017

A discussion about learning communities of the future at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture on Tuesday night underlined the fact that the education landscape is changing whether we want it to or not.

“The reason that we chose this topic is the feeling that, yes there are political forces that are trying to change our public education system, but there are also other forces that are forcing us to change the education system whether we want to or not,” said Jeanne Dietsch, the moderator of the discussion.

She said the uncontrollable forces changing the landscape of education are smaller family sizes (kids are no longer learning social skills and teamwork at home because they have fewer people to share with), rapidly changing technology that can deliver knowledge to anyone, and the changing needs of society and the workplace.

“We need to think about what would a learning community that goes from the smallest infant to seniors look like? How do we include businesses in the discussions of what is learned? How do we take care of the children who grow up in impoverished families?” Dietsch said. “... We need to figure out how to deal with these problems.”

Four panelists guided the conversation, which included President of Franklin Pierce University Kim Mooney, Peterborough Town Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos, Community Programs Coordinator at the Harris Center for Conservation Education Susie Spikol Faber, and a longtime public school professional Mary Lou O’Neil.

The panelist talked extensively about the changing landscape of education during the discussion. Mooney raised a point during the discussion that the generation born between 1980 and 1999 will comprise the majority of the workforce by 2025. She said this generation is not particularly satisfied with their employment and tend to feel underemployed.

She said this pool of people will also have upwards and possibly more than 20 jobs throughout their lifetime.

“It’s just a very different generation than perhaps what we experienced,” Mooney said.

Mooney said employers are also expressing frustration about the difficulties of employee retention.

One way to address the issue is through collaboration.

Mooney recognized that higher education institutions have long been maligned for their perceived isolation from the wider world and from the towns and cities where they operate. Mooney said she believes Franklin Pierce has made an effort to “go beyond that Ivory Tower” through collaboration with businesses and communities.

She said already the school has embarked on a complete overhaul of its general curriculum in a move away from content-based education to outcome-based learning.

But there is more work to be done.

She said a program like a sustainable cities initiative where town officials and students select a project and work together to advance could prove to be mutually beneficial. She said towns could select a problem and students would conduct relevant research and eventually make formal recommendations to the town.

“We all win,” she said about the hypothetical situation.

Chronopoulos said the library has a real opportunity to partner with education systems, and businesses.

“We have the space, trained staff, and appropriated budget and the willingness to be a mutually beneficial partner,” she said. “And we’re not taken up on that resource a lot.”

She said the library is “ready to be tapped.”

Spikol Faber also underlined the importance of collaboration.

“Partnerships is really key and building relationships,” she said. “We need to look at each other not at as competition but as opportunities.”

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.