Middle school students leading their own learning

Jan 13, 2020

With a Chromebook for each eighth grader, students at Dartmouth Middle School are able to take the initiative to lead their own learning in the classroom and at home.

At the January 13 School Committee meeting, middle school students and staff highlighted the school’s work in transforming how students learn and interact with their teachers and lesson material through its new Chromebook program and a focus on student voice and choice.

Associate Principal Carl Robidoux explained the shift has been in the works for three years, starting when the school teamed up with the Highlander Institute. The educational consulting company introduced administrators and staff to new, student-focused and student-led education models.

When Dartmouth Middle School was added to the district’s one-to-one computing initiative, which provides all high school students and eighth graders with their own personal Chromebook, things really kicked into high gear.

Teachers are using online platforms like Khan Academy and Sumdog to allow students to self-guide their own lessons and learn at their own pace. The software provides instant feedback, allowing students to figure out where they went wrong without having to wait for a teacher to correct their assignments.

In some classrooms, teachers have created signs directing students where to physically sit in the classroom to either take a test, study more for it, or seek extra help from their teacher in the same classroom. It is freeing up teachers to connect with students one-on-one who need more support, while allowing those who are ahead of the pack to continue on with their studies.

“The best thing is kids can really work at their own pace,” said math coach Anne Brown. “They can revisit so easily and rewatch Khan Academy videos if they’re really struggling.”

Sudent Haley Cabral explained her English classes use Chromebooks and an online platform to weigh in on teacher-led questions about the books students are reading in class. Other students can read the responses, and she’s noticed students who might not feel comfortable speaking up in class can contribute.

“That opened us up to being comfortable using our Chromebooks, especially the kids who wouldn’t normally say things,” Cabral said.

Robbie Sioch shared how students are free to study topics on their own in different ways.

“I think the one-to-one Chromebooks has really helped us and made us feel comfortable with each and every subject,” Sioch said.

There is still work to be done, however. Middle school students and staff noted so far only eighth graders are getting the most benefit out of the program, as they are the only grade level to have Chromebooks issued to each student.