DALLAS TWP. — In Nicole Miller’s algebra class, there’s no harm in asking another student for help with factoring a trinomial.
In fact, the ninth-grade teacher at Dallas High School encourages students to talk when they meet in small groups.
“It helps me by students helping each other,” she said.
Since last fall, Miller has been using a hybrid learning approach in her classes, combining computers and the Internet with classroom instruction to teach her daily lessons.
The high school joined with Crestwood, Hazleton and the West Side Career and Technical Center to take part in a statewide initiative to introduce a more student-centered approach to teaching.
Her students welcomed the change. One freshman said she liked the instantaneous feedback when working on one of the desktop computers in the classroom. “It just says your score,” she said.
Another student said he gets more help when working in a group.
Chris Gegaris, principal at Crestwood High School in Fairview Township, accompanied a group of administrators and lawmakers on a tour of classrooms to see the work being done and commented that it’s shown students and teachers benefit from the collaboration.
“We wait to go to college to learn that we can learn from other people,” he said.
Some students take a while to adapt to the change, though, he acknowledged. “I see students struggle because they’re so used to working independently,” Gegaris said.
His counterpart at Dallas, Jeff Shaffer, noticed the positive effect on students. “It’s engaged kids who otherwise wouldn’t be engaged,” Shaffer said.
The technology plays a big part and was paid for by federal funds. But the teachers have the biggest and most important role, Shaffer said. “I can’t overemphasize that there’s no substitute for good teachers,” he said.
Shaffer added that he was glad the school chose to participate. “We are always looking for something to gain an edge for our students,” he said.
Other schools in Luzerne County plan to sign on next fall. Northwest Area, Pittston Area, Wyoming Area and the Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 Alternative Learning Center are preparing to introduce hybrid learning programs.