Old Rochester Regional High School is a public high school serving 780 students in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. It is part of a regional school district serving the communities of Rochester, Mattapoisett, and Marion. The junior and senior high schools are currently piloting a 1-1 Chromebook program with the goal of a complete 1-1 rollout in the near future.
MJ Linane uses direct instruction as a part of his instructional mix. However, he knew that when he was standing alone at the front of the classroom, it was really easy for students to disengage. He tried other teaching styles and activities, which worked well some of the times, but for certain types of material, there wasn’t a way around direct instruction.
He identified four problems with direct instruction that he wanted to solve:
MJ realized that most of his 110 students had a smartphone and began looking for ways to make use of this technology. He started this year with a Bring Your Own Device policy that worked well. Students could participate in the direct instruction time during class. They would take notes on their devices and would often come up to the front of the room to take pictures of the presentation, slide by slide. It was an active, but effective way to administer direct instruction.
Then, come December, he became one of the three teachers in the district to pilot a Chromebook 1:1 program. The full access to technology and Google Chrome tools made it possible to engage students in a new way. He began using Pear Deck several times a week to make direct instruction more engaging and interactive. This also made instruction more effective because students did not feel the need to leave their seats every couple of minutes to take pictures of the presentation. It was right there in front of them. When MJ gives a presentation with Pear Deck, students can follow along with the content right on their own device. He can also quickly place formative assessment and temperature checks strategically or spontaneously into the lesson. In this way, students were directly interacting with the content instead of passively listening to his lecture.
"Right off the bat, the sign-in is easy. No sign-up required for students. Single-sign on is vital. For the teacher side, it helps having all my files in one collection in one place on Google Drive. For the student side of it, being able to easily share Pear Deck files with them if they missed class is really helpful."
Some benefits of the tight integration weren’t apparent right off the bat but proved themselves to be tremendously convenient. MJ noted at first he didn’t like that when he uploaded a picture to Pear Deck it was automatically saved in Google Drive too. Later, he realized he could easily find and reuse these images, so he started different Google collection to organize great images for later use.
MJ could tell who was engaged and whether or not his students were comprehending the material in real-time instead of waiting for a quiz later. In addition, MJ encouraged his students to use the Snagit Chrome extension to take screenshots of the presentation content. They could then easily circle key parts or write on the images, but they didn’t have to waste class time hand-writing notes. What’s more, they never lost their notes because they were saved right in Google Drive.
MJ remembers one lesson in particular comparing the European Revolutions of 1848 with the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions. The stories of the 1848 revolutions were so unique and varied that he struggled to find a good way of presenting all the information. When he tried direct instruction in the past, he found students couldn’t keep focused on all the details for what inevitably became a long lesson. But when he tried group activities, like Jigsaw groups, students couldn’t identify the important details to pass on to their group mates.
The first week MJ used his new Chromebooks and Pear Deck, he received a congratulatory email from Pear Deck saying he’d engaged 91 different student a total of 1615 times. That meant that each student had directly responded and engaged in the material 17 times over the course of two 20-minute lessons.
"When I used to stop instruction for a discussion point of 30-60sec, I could never reach that level of engagement. And even if I did, there was no way to track it. Now I have data that shows the positive impact that direct instruction can have and that it is not just a passive learning."