There is a lot of talk out there about ways to raise the graduation rate. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proudly wore #80 in the NBA All-Star celebrity game to tout the highest graduation rate the country has seen since 1974. Educators are collectively working harder to help students make it to the high school finish line and get prepared for college and the workforce. There is a lot of credit to be handed out for the successful graduation rates around the country (of course, there are still plenty of areas for improvement) but I think one shining area deserves a lot of the praise: technology.
The website DropoutPrevention.org singles out technology as a leader in high school graduation upsurge. The site states:
"Educational technology is needed for a variety of reasons. It provides an alternative method of learning for those who struggle to learn using traditional methods. Technology can be used to address multiple intelligences and also to provide authentic learning experiences for students."
In other words, technology has made it possible for students who fall off the traditional path to jump back on and finish what they spent most of their childhood working towards. This may be in the form of taking remote classes from home, remedial classes in on-campus computer labs or even by enrolling in full-time online schools, public or private. The technology available for these options benefits students who face difficulties with a normal school schedule including teenage parents, students with short-term or long-term illnesses, teens with substance abuse struggles, or those who had poor academic performance due to learning disabilities or bullying.
Equality through Technology
Technology is also a great equalizer in K-12 classrooms. Students have the same access as their peers to whatever technology is available in their district and specific classroom. While there is certainly some technology discrepancies between one district and another, often based on the socioeconomic status of the families within that district, within each one students have fair access to technology. In a way, things like computers and mobile devices in classrooms usher in the technology of the outside world and give students who may not otherwise have access a chance to use it for learning purposes.
Having in-classroom technology more directly impacts the graduation rate by providing customized learning experiences. A student who needs extra help on a particular topic need not hold up the entire class, or feel embarrassed asking for that help, when there are computer modules and tablet apps available for individual learning experiences. Teachers who spot a trouble area with a particular student can gear that teen towards more exercises to master the topic. Of course technology is not the magic wand to fix all problems, but it does allow for more flexibility of the learning process which in turn makes it easier for a wider group of students to stay in classrooms until the end of the K-12 journey.
K-12 educators used to have the goal of helping their students reach high school graduation, but now the pressure is on to create students who go on to achieve college goals too. No matter how advanced the technology options in a particular school district, they are dwarfed by the reliance on and widespread use of technology on college campuses. High school students who become acquainted with technology for things like course selection, class management and actual learning modules are better prepared when they arrive on college campuses. There is very little hand-holding when it comes to higher education (perhaps too little based on college dropout rates) and students need to be self-sufficient in life skills and technology ones when they cross the bridge to college life.
How big of a role do you think technology has played in high school graduation rates?