Revere High School is in an urban high school in Massachusetts with nearly 77% of students at a low income status. In addition, English is not the first language for more than 50% of its students and 14% of students are English Language Learners. I sat down to speak with Dr. Paul Dakin, Revere’s superintendent of 20 years, to find out how technology has played a role in making academic gains.
Dakin, who joined the Revere school system after 20 years in private education, led the charge in running fiber optics through the school and connecting families with affordable internet. His entire high school is now in their pilot year of a 1-to-1 program where each student has a device.
“The way technology is having teachers interact with students is dramatically different,” Dakin says. But the sustained student engagement is thanks to their “driving vision—with or without tech.” That driving vision is what Dakin calls the four Rs: Rigor, Relevance, Relationship, and Resilience.
Read on to learn how technology, infused with the four Rs, has helped Revere High School make gains.
Revere has bought into the practice of flipped classrooms, where students can receive traditional lectures and instruction at home thanks to video and online programs, then come into class for the higher level discussions. The higher-order discussions are much more rigorous than the traditional “student-learns-from-teacher model” because the student is now an active learner, rather than a passive receiver. “There’s so much out there that students are bringing information to the table that may be new to teachers,” says Dakin. “Students are becoming researchers because they have more access.”
Technology has helped keep curriculum material relevant. Students are able to research connections to what they’re learning in class. For example, if a teacher is starting a lesson on amoebas, students can go find more information on the topic that interests them, Dakin explained. In dealing with a topic like amoebas, students may comb the web and find “labs where they’re making pharmaceuticals or cells for growing corn more efficiently. Students pool information and see connections to the stuff they’re learning through research.”
“There’s a two-way learning of students helping teachers, and teachers helping kids,” said Dakin. “Students and teachers have more reason to discuss their content and how they’re learning that content because their connection to the iPad.” These types of interactions are fueling a “true exchange of ideas around learning that are much more generated from a student’s learning outside of the classroom and bringing it to the classroom,” explained Dakin. “Students are really fueling the engine of learning, and the teacher’s job in a way changes.The teacher’s job is no longer pushing information out. The teacher is receiving a lot of information in and filtering through what’s pertinent with the kid.”
Dakin says that students are “coming to school more because they’re seeing a connection. They’re building relationships with teachers now because they’re seeing a different side of the teacher. Students are teaching the teacher technology.” With this increased engagement, attendance has gone up and discipline has gone down, Dakin reports.
“Urban students need to understand that you have to keep working hard.” said Dakin. “This is not easy work. And even urban school teachers need to keep refueling their own resilience because some of the things they deal with, and some of the situations they find their students living in, causes them to have to shore up their own resilience so they can be an asset to the kids”
At the end of the day, Dakin and Revere’s moral imperative is “What’s best for the student?” His game plan is to have “students with 21st-century learning tools, learning how to use those tools as they do in the industry, as they will likely do in a profession and as they will likely use in college.”
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