My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

What can High Tech High tell us about learning communities?

The opening images in this 14 minute video show the interactive , installation art which is striking . Beyond that they are normal, normal in a ubiquitous sense. It's everywhere.

Larry Rosenstock's opening lines about "ignoring certain axioms" is equally stark. Identifying the current segregation's in education that are taken as normal and actively creating a school that serves and is part of community it represents should be a central to education. These two quotes clearly shows this thinking.

"Public education is the only institution designated and funded as the agent of the  larger society in protecting the core value of its citizens:democracy" Glickman

"What we teach and how we teach it- both directly , in terms of our academic curriculum , and indirectly, in terms of the social curriculum we model- should reinforce our social ideals and values" 
 Kathy Greely 

The public display and exhibition with family members and local experts are key tenets of this approach. The choice of ART as another is no accident either.

"Art communicates to everyone " Jeff Robin

"People make art to communicate....." George Lucas

It makes the "tool" approach (enabling students to make things that demonstrate to people what has been learned) vital. Projects do this. 

This video really highlights the quantity of high quality work that you'd want to display, and the painstaking curation of the work, the 40,000sq foot of  area is just the start.

Again Greely sums this up 
" The culture of the whole school- in the classroom, in the hallway, on the playground, in the cafeteria, on the bus- should reflect and reinforce what we strive for: respect, tolerance, hard work, informed literacy and critical thinking."  

At High Tech High they go beyond the schools and into the wider community with work displayed at local art galleries, used at other schools and on global projects such as the Bushmeet project. Although my favourite, is the story of Mathew Moss School in Rochdale where students stepped into the breech to direct traffic. Which exemplifies Rosenstocks quote from Thomas Jefferson

 " The purpose of public education isn’t to serve a public but to make a public".
 In fact he sees in very concrete terms 

"Consider the class as a fulcrum for the community." 

The students concur and see themselves as part of the community.

"[Robots], gives us a role in the community." 

It is very evident at HTH, with the public exhibition, through critique and through the places the student work ends up. It is clear  that this is THE pedagogy for student motivation and learning.

"Beautiful work and curation, benefit of looking the work together and considering where to go next, to get better."

Although HTH systematically sends their students around the world, as " they would only go yo university as far as they had travelled", take for example Jay Vavra's Bushmeat project, which develops global citizens. Although, it's also the projects that connect students to their own community, giving them a sense of place that make a big difference. The long running San Diego Bay project is a great example of this. This is the inspiration behind "Wild about Cramlington" Project (more detail here and here ) Several of the students freely using the word pride in what they have on their doorsteps. We found a similar, positive feeling to their locality in the "Call of the Wild". 

The accretion of this culture leads to the "reverse peer effect", where success and working at a consistent high level becomes normal.

"You can study the WORLD through just about anything"  

This is not learning for learnings sake (although this would be most luxuriant), the learning is purposeful and professional. Allowing the students to sample the adult world in a safe junior version (a la David Perkins).

"What is adolescence but on try on new roles and trying on new identities?"

"Make work that work matters, that has a lasting impact."

The skills of an adult are explicitly taught, especially in the middle schools. The Critical Skills approach is visible and used, As well as structures and protocols, a large amount of trust and responsibility is needed. Students need to learn this, and learn to trust one another. This has to be "on the curriculum". Incidentally and wonderfully the tag line on the Critical Skills blog is 

" Within a community anything is possible, without one nothing is".

The integrated nature of the knowledge that comes from their projects, is how knowledge is actually used.

"It's in an adult mileu they have reason, it gets there attention so you can then pack in the biology etc"

This point is more or less made by this exultation of design thinking. It's what projects allow you to do.


All of the following are easier and more effective using project based learning.

Beautiful work not only deserves to be displayed but needs to displayed. 

Curation is a big part of a teachers job.

The best projects not only present their findings to their community,but, help connect the students to where they are.

Consider how the project can involve the community and how it can impact upon the community.

Peer culture can be manipulated through display, building and maintaining classroom communities and sharing " an ethic of excellence".

Explicitly develop the adult skills that are need, for example use the Critical Skills approach. 

Speak and work with students as you would adults. 

Create safe environment for students to take risk, don't be averse to creating junior versions of the real world.