Friday, 30 March 2018

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.

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