Posts tagged High Tech High
Answers from High Tech High
We were sent to High Tech High and the Deeper Learning Conference with questions, and we brought back a heap of answers.

You can read our on the ground impression here after Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of the conference.

Before we headed to the conference we also asked others who had seen the documentary “Most Likely to Succeed” to provide us with their own questions.  We tried as best we could to answer them, splitting the work up between our Principal Nicholas Varricchio and ourselves.  You can read our answers here. If you haven’t seen the film, and would like to, you can still see the film here.

And of course, if what you’ve read about our visit sparks new questions, feel free to leave us something in the comments
Feeling Impressed at High Tech High
HTH Daily Schedule, complete with some flex time
On our last day at the Deeper Learning conference, we took the time to soak in and appreciate High Tech High itself: the school, the students and teachers.  We gained insight into school life from both teachers and students, walked the hallways and marvelled at the beautiful work that students create that breathes life and energy into all spaces (even the bathrooms!).

Reflecting and comparing their school to Halton schools, we noted that there were many similarities.  Despite what we say in the film Most Likely to Succeed, students still learn about specific subjects in specific periods.  High Tech High and High Tech Middle still have students with special education needs. Their are Individual Education Plans and mental health concerns.  Teachers still worry about if what they are doing for their students is good enough.

The big differences come from two areas, the projects that students are asked to complete and the displays of student learning that have given the campuses the feel of a really hip art exhibit.

Impressive example of student learning

Students at HTH and HTM still write tests, they still read novels, but by and large they demonstrate their learning via Projects and Exhibitions of Learning.  The projects are well thought out and tie together the learning from several curriculum areas. Some projects are hard to see once they are finished, like an exhibition of spoken word poetry.  Other projects can live on in the school campuses. Many past projects are still on display, inspiring people who enter the campus with a sense of wonder.

Teachers at these schools are very intentional in building safe communities with their students so that deeper learning can happen.  Failure is not only ok, it is expected. Students are asked to iterate often, pushing their products from good to great (or mild to spicy as one teacher put it).

Student created kinetic bicycle sculpture

We are leaving the Deeper Learning Conference with a big feeling of awe, but also with a strong sense that any school can be retooled to allow for more Project Based Learning.  It can start with small changes, like asking students in your class how they would like to demonstrate their learning, and it can lead to huge results.

Just one of the many great spaces at HTH

Jamie in the Great Room, a common space for learning.

Deeper Learning Is...
That’s the prompt we were asked to think about during day one of the 2018 Deeper Learning Conference.  We were expecting to learn about Project Based Learning and High Tech High when we signed up for this conference.  We were caught off guard by the tone of the day. High Tech High played second fiddle to a much bigger idea, Deeper Learning.

The day started with 1200 educators in the High Tech High forum, with a salsa band playing energetic Latin-influenced grooves.  When they started to cover “Descpacito” and educators cut loose and started dancing, Jamie asked “is this Woodstock for teachers?”.  There was definitely an energy and buzz right from the beginning of the day.

So what is Deeper Learning?

Deeper Learning is...modelling the growth we want to see in our students.  Carlos R. Moreno, in his Keynote, stated that “Vulnerability is a part of good pedagogy”.  If we believe in teaching students the soft skills that they need to be successful in life, we have to model our own risk taking and willingness to be open and honest.  “We, as educators, need to be brave enough to share our own stories.”

Deeper Learning is…teaching our students to be competent.  There is a model to Deeper Learning and at its core lies six competencies.  65% of the jobs that today’s students will have haven’t been invented yet.  Armed with these competencies, students will be better equipped to work and learn in the world that is changing exponentially.

Deeper Learning is…a path to equity. Lindsay Hill said in her keynote that the system of school has been created using historical structures, put in place throughout our history to keep certain groups oppressed.” “We need to think about critical consciousness, racial equity, gender equity, classism, we need to talk about all of the ‘isms’ in our systems if we are TRULY about deeper learning.” The more we can talk about our biases, the more we can be the educators our young people need and deserve.

Deeper Learning is...trying something new, taking faith that the outcome may be unclear, but that growth and deeper learning as educators is guaranteed.  Michelle Clark, Co-Director of the Share Your Learning Campaign encouraged everyone to push out beyond their comfort zone.  As educators we were encouraged to leave our comfort zone, and to try something new.

Democratic Education

Deeper Learning students agency over their own education.  As Michelle said in her introduction, “We don’t give students voice, they already have one.  We just decentralize our leadership roles so that they can try them on to see the leaders they will become.  Many educators are attending this conference because they want to make school different. Gia Truong spoke about equity and how we can help our students feel like they belong.  If we can agree that we don’t like the story of school, perhaps it is time to change the storyteller.  Giving students more voice in their education is one way to do this.

Deeper Learning is...Beautiful work. Ron Berger, of Austin’s Butterfly fame, talked about the power of beautiful work: work that is not necessarily visually beautiful, but work that is made of actions in service of, actions of passion, actions of equity, of social justice.  Social Justice is needs to be at the core of the curriculum.

Deeper Learning is...evolving.  We are floored by how full our brains feel.  Both of us are looking forward to learning more tomorrow and refining our own personal definition of what Deeper Learning is.