Wednesday, February 6, 2013

High Tech High (HTH) Visit

Mr. Lawrence, Mrs. Hethcox, Mrs. Eckenroth, and myself had the opportunity to visit High Tech High (HTH) in San Diego, California this week.  We began our visit at the Port Loma campus which is the original HTH campus and opened in 2000.  There is a second campus in Chula Vista which was built two years ago.  HTH is a public charter school that combines challenging academic curriculum with project-based learning, performance based assessment, digital portfolios, and internships for all students.

My visit was very eye opening, inspiring, and reassuring.  I say reassuring because I believe that the conversations and professional development that we are participating in here in Richland Two and at NSE support these same principles.  Teachers design work that is meaningful, authentic, and engaging based on the interest and needs of the students.  I could tell that the students knew exactly what they were working on, why they were working on it, and what they were going to do with it when they were finished.  We are doing this at NSE, but just like anything else we need to think about how we can do it better.

There were a number of statements that struck me throughout my time at HTH.  Instead of writing a long paragraph about each one, I will list them below:

"Less adult talk and more student talk and exploration."
"Students own the walls." - meaning that their work is everywhere.
"Where in the project is there a place for kids to show voice and choice (dream and surprise)."
"We need to think about what to keep out of our schools (i.e. what is holding us back?)."
"There are multiple grades throughout the project rather than grading the final product."
"Think - Build - Do"
"We need to blur the lines between school and community, classrooms, content areas, and abilities."
"Let kids make connections to the adult world (real world)."
"With freedom comes responsibility."
"Projects are the curriculum."
"Let go of control to gain more control."
"Allow for multiple entry points into the project."
"It's not about being perfect, but reflective and transparent."
Personalization - Common Intellectual Mission - Presentation of Learning - Adult world connections

The project to the left was a fourth grade project that required the students to design and build a boat that would hold two classmates and float.  They actually took the boats out to a lake and tested them.  With life jackets of course.  The experience was documented thoroughly in the hallways and you could tell that the students and teachers LIVED this project.  They were still talking about the excitement, their failures, and their successes.  This is one example of a long term project that included a number of standards and skills to be learned.

You can learn more about the project at Ms. Stacey Lopaz's digital portfolio HERE.  The video is a "must watch!"  Ms. Lopaz is one of the teachers who facilitated the project.  I would encourage you contacting her if you are interested in such an idea.

You can learn more about High Tech Elementary - Chula Vista HERE.

You can also view our visit on YouTube by clicking on the pictures to the right.  One of our tasks was to create a short presentation about what we learned while we were here.  I have to give Mrs. Hethcox credit for creating the presentation using PowToon.  You can see this presentation by clicking on the picture to the right.

Dr. H.

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