Opening a new school can be challenging in even the best of situations. Imagine trying to open one where the odds are stacked against you from the start. You might take one step forward and two steps back, your successes met equally with failure. Do you give up? No, you get creative! That’s just what two California educators did, and the results will amaze you.
When Dent and Waller set out to open a new elementary school in a low-income area, they knew they had their work cut out for them. Since many of the students had English as their second language, expectations for academic success were pretty bleak. Did they admit defeat and just go through the motions of teaching? Nope—that’s where the creativity comes in.
Turning to innovative teaching and a wide range of technology, the school shocked everyone, outdoing all initial expectations after just the first year. What’s even more amazing, they eliminated the state-wide achievement gap of 100 points between different demographics. 72% of their students scored “advanced” in language arts and math, with 88% proficiency in language arts and 90% proficiency in math.
How did they do it?
- Engagement: Students have 100+ chances every week to talk, reason and rationalize with their classmates
- Language: Focusing on oral language development has made students much more articulate; students have to explain all their answers
- Repetition: Students have multiple experiences with the same skill through songs, chants, testing and talking with classmates
- Reasoning: Proving correct answers and disproving incorrect answers using reasoning, logic and rationalization
- Technology: use of computers and adaptive software customize lessons and provide greater challenge for advanced students
Technology has really made an impact with students. Learning math on an iPad is much more fun than staring at equations on a boring chalkboard. The school has two computer labs with 60 touchscreen computers and an iPad lab to keep students engaged. Every student spends at least 100 minutes each day on a classroom computer.
Teachers take advantage of technology too. Classroom management software helps them stay on top of kids’ activities. They can chat with students to answer questions in a non-intimidating way. They also use real-time testing to check topic understanding multiple times during class.
What do you think of these methods to enhance learning in schools? What other ways could schools use technology to engage their students? Please share your thoughts below.