Can Computer Programs Help Students, Teachers?

Junior Alvarado was worried when he began his first year at a public charter high school in Washington, DC. He often struggled in his math classes and earned poor grades in middle school.

But the teachers at the Washington Leadership Academy used computer programs to identify the areas he was weak in and design a learning plan just for him.

As Alvarado started geometry in his second year of high school last week, he says he felt much better about his math skills.

“For me personalized learning is having classes set at your level,” the 15-year-old said, in between lessons. “They explain the problem step by step, it wouldn’t be as fast. It will be at your [speed].”

Many schools in the United States struggle to raise the high school graduation rate. They also have difficulty helping many minority and low-income students perform at the same level as others. So many educators see digital technology as a way of solving these problems.

Personalized learning

The use of technology in schools is part of a larger idea of personalized learning. This idea has been gaining popularity in recent years.

Personalized learning is a way of teaching centered around the interests and needs of individual students instead of entire classes as a whole. It includes flexible learning environments, specially-designed education plans, and letting students help decide what and how they learn.

Under the Obama administration, the Education Department put $500 million into personalized learning programs in 68 school districts. These programs served almost 500,000 students in 13 states and Washington, D.C. Organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have also invested heavily in digital tools and other student-centered methods.

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning supports the growth of education technology. It claims that up to 10 percent of all of America’s public schools now use some form of personalized learning.

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