When test scores showed a significant number of students weren’t hitting English Language Arts and Math targets, Palmer High School began making big changes to instruction, putting a new focus on differentiated instruction that engages students in every concept.
Recently, rigorous new standardized tests designed to prepare students for life after high school revealed that only 35 percent of students meet proficient scores in Language Arts, while just 11 percent scored proficiently in Math.
To help raise English Language Arts and Math proficiency, Palmer High School needed a way to transform its tutoring centers into interactive environments where true student-centered learning takes place.
The Tech Decision
To help keep students on track, Palmer High School offers two robust tutoring centers, each serving more than 100 students daily in both one-on-one and small group sessions. Increasing student engagement has been an area of focus for the faculty in the building.
In an effort to boost the efficiency of its tutoring centers, Palmer High School began rolling out a suite of new technology that fosters greater collaboration among students and tutors.
“The original intention of this new technology was that it would be used for student-driven, self-directed, interactive mathematics activities by struggling students,” says Karen Owens, Library Technology Educator for Palmer High School.
Currently, each tutoring center features a Promethean ActivWall interactive whiteboard. The math center installed an ActivPanel flat-screen board, creating a huge tablet-like surface where students can manipulate shapes, numbers, and text on the spot. A separate ActivWall in the school’s media center is available on a reservation basis for all staff. According to Owens, it is used every day during almost every class period.
“The addition of ActivWalls in our English tutoring center and our media center have expanded the opportunities for all of our students to interact with academic material in a meaningful way,” says Owens.
These days, Owens provides additional training and support to teachers and also co-teaches on the ActivWalls and ActivPanel. During class, she uses ClassFlow, a lesson-building and delivery software platform that both teachers and students can use to collaborate. A mirroring feature allows students to share the screen from a personal laptop or tablet to the whiteboard or flat panel to compare and contrast work.
From the differentiated approach to the peer mentoring to the technology and software used, Palmer High School has been specifically engineered to put students at the center of the learning. Students can now use the centrally located ActivWalls and ActivPanel or mirror their work from their own devices to solicit feedback from their peers and instructional leaders.
“The software gives teachers an efficient and novel platform to differentiate instruction for student ability, learning style, and interest,” says Owens. “Instead of fighting against the distraction of student-owned devices during class, teachers are able to use those devices as an instructional tool. As a result, power struggles over electronics between students and staff have diminished.”
Along with the wow factor that comes along with new interactive panels and walls, school administrators and teachers worked together to transform the way instruction inside the tutoring centers occurred, emphasizing student-directed learning.
“Instruction has been renovated so that students lead lessons and discussion, and the kids have welcomed this new approach,” Owens says. “Students are excited to have instructional material that is interactive and self-directed. Rather than ‘sit and get,’ students have the opportunity to investigate, collaborate, create, and present using Promethean’s technology. Students value having the degree of autonomy and self-direction that good instruction with Promethean technology can provide.”
Students who have already mastered skills now serve as peer tutors, leading instruction and interacting with the technology on a daily basis. The flexibility of the interactive panels and software allows tutors to work with small groups or deliver hands-on tutoring to individuals.
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