Monday, 26 September 2016

High Tech High - in (predominantly) pictures

On 22 September I was fortunate to visit High Tech High in San Diego - I was further fortunate to have the opportunity to be welcomed and introduced via an 'Extended visit.'

HTH is actually a network of charter schools.

Extended Visits are for groups who would like an opportunity to see High Tech High firsthand and learn from current teachers and school leaders. This extended experience provides participants a chance to experience a student guided tour, a meeting with HTH leadership, a lunch panel with teachers or students and classroom observations.

HTH articulate the 'norms' for their visitors:

  1. Follow the rule of 2 feet: go wherever you think you will learn something interesting, and if it does not pan out, use your two feet to visit another classroom
  2. Ask for help: Ask anyone for help. 
  3. Be discrete and respectful.

This unprecedented level of access enabled an open capturing of the experience through the camera lens...

High Tech High San Diego is located at  2150 Cushing Rd., San Diego, CA 92106 - to locate the school via Google maps click here

San Diego is a major city in California, in San Diego County, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, approximately 120 miles (190 km) south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico. While I was there the climate was very pleasant and the water, the bay and the people were absolutely delightful.

Located in a re-purposed naval training facility the school has a feeling of elegance, energy and passion. The learning environment is incredibly vibrant and stimulating with learning spaces often spilling outside and students moving freely around the campus. 

HTH schools endeavour to accommodate all students who apply for admission. Because applications exceed spaces available, HTH uses a lottery to determine admission. The allocation of places is done is such a way as to reflect the demographics of the region in which the school is located.

The campus is woven into the community where is sits with the school at San Diego spread across 6 blocks with local housing inter dispersed between school buildings.

Student projects adorn virtually every area of space available. The displays are a true celebration of student engagement and achievement. The displays are done so professionally that there is a real sense of the student and their efforts being honoured.

You can see further examples of student projects by clicking here

Break out spaces are very common and small group discussion was very obvious.

One measure used by the CEO of the school Larry Rosenstock to test the degree of learner centredness is done by entering classrooms unannounced and engaging the teacher in dialogue - if the teacher can quickly, easily and seamlessly step into the conversation with him that is an indication of the level of learner engagement and student centredness.

The project design process is rigorous and collaborative; the school has entrenched 4 design principles into project design:
  1. Personalisation
  2. Adult world connection
  3. Common intellectual mission
  4. Teacher as designer
Fundamental to the notion of 'Teacher as designer' is the concept of professional vulnerability.

The school incorporates what they call 'Throughlines' - concepts deliberately woven into the fabric of projects and practices at the school:

  • Voice and choice - projects are designed to include student, parent & community voice in teh co-design of educational experiences
  • Equity and Diversity - projects are designed to value a wide range of perspectives, skills, knowledge, content an products
  • Reflective practice
  • Passion - projects are designed to tap into students' and teachers' personal questions, values and passions.

There is an emphasis on all areas of learning from technology, to the arts,  and a strong emphasis on STEM.

The school campus in San Diego comprises an elementary school, a middle school, a high school (to grade/year 12) and a Graduate School of Education.

The teaching team is inspiring, their diversity is celebrated, their personalities flourish, their commitment is tangible, their joy obvious, their success measurable - their message - motivating.

Amazingly HTH accepted more than 4 500 visitors in the last 12 months. The whole community is welcoming and open to be engaged in conversation.

The whole team at HTH regard the school as leading - they sincerely and deeply believe that leadership extends to and includes providing such open sharing of their environment and their practice so that their success and their approaches can at least be accessed by schools and school systems all around the world.

I would suggest that their success is replicable - and be sure to note that I emphasise success. Their approaches need to be observed and understood and then reflected on for their scaleability, replicability and transference to other contexts. Elements of their practice certainly would have positive impacts elsewhere...

Until next time.


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