In the afternoon, the Innovation Study team shared their lunch with High Tech High teachers who offered their perspective on this unique learning experience. These educators noted that their salaries were in line with those in nearby public schools, that there were multiple models for assessing student progress that they could select from, and that they needed to insure students had a base knowledge of the content. What they found was different about their teaching experience was the level of autonomy they had in selecting projects that encapsulated the Common Core Standards. Earlier another educator shared how they were encouraged to find their passion and to later determine how the standards were folded into student learning. She offered how an interest in Sherlock Holmes novels led to a yearly third grade project on mystery writing and investigation.
Our day at High Tech High ended in a study of Design Thinking, where we took a deeper look at developing understanding and compassion for an individual that challenged us. Each of our team identified a student, colleague or other who may not have responded to our instruction in a desirable way. We then looked at their assets as well as specific challenges. Small groups selected one of these students to further develop a hypothesis of their needs and a “hack” of how those concerns could be addressed. Pushing our team to look beyond the obvious when students do not succeed in our learning environment was a primary goal of this activity. Many saw the connection of this structured conversation to the students we discuss at our Educational Support Teams.
We walked away from the multiple campuses of High Tech High with a greater understanding of what is possible. We saw a myriad of projects that braided content areas into singular themes. We heard the voices of students that held convictions on current topics and predictions of what could be. And we began to imagine how these instructional practices could work in our unique classrooms.