Thursday, February 24, 2011

A High School Created a Tech Culture and Improved Graduation Rate

There is frequent discussion in the industry of incorporating technology in classroom instruction, including providing laptops to students, as a way to engage students in learning. Converge Magazine recently featured a high school in North Carolina that has not only incorporated technology in the classroom, but has built a technology culture in the entire school. Since they’ve made changes, South Granville High School’s graduation rate has risen dramatically from 58% to 90%.

What changes did the school implement that led to such a dramatic improvement in its graduation rate?

According to Converge, one teacher described the South Granville campus now as “less like a school” and “more like a community.” The school offers students a more relaxed atmosphere than they had known before. Cell phones are no longer banned from hallways, students take their laptops with them to the cafeteria, and the lobby was re-designed with cafĂ©-style furniture. Inside classrooms, desks are frequently arranged in a circle instead of in rows.

But instructional changes have had the biggest impact on student engagement, including the introduction of laptops for each student and teacher. Seven months before students were given laptops, teachers received laptops, along with training and resources for implementing technology in their instruction. Teachers were also given access to online curriculum materials and analytics tools to track students’ progress. So that teachers stay up to date on technology tools, the district provides tech training every week.

Implementing a cultural change in a high school is not an easy task, and administrators say that it required a vision from the beginning and a commitment to the vision every day. Converge reported:
Teachers have to be facilitators in order to effectively manage a classroom of students with computers, said Vanessa Wrenn, director of instructional technology in the district. When the redesign started, she taught teachers a different way to manage their classes.

‘The best classroom management tool is a good pair of shoes,’ she said. ‘It’s proximity. You cannot implement this and be behind the desk.’

Granville County Schools has a goal of reaching a 100% graduation rate and expanding the tech culture to other schools.

Has your school undergone a culture overhaul to fully implement technology in the classroom? We’d love to hear about it.

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