How are we designing schooling that is meeting the needs of children beyond subject content?
Design Tech High is doing it well.
What is your super power? All Design Tech High students are all labeled as gifted in one way or another.
Daniel Birch (Hobsonville Point Primary Principal)and Maurie Abraham (Hobsonville Point Secondary Principal) and I had the pleasure of visiting the Design Tech High School this morning and spending time with Julie Abraham, enrollment co-ordinator. Links to their blogs and perspectives are listed further down this blog.
Design Tech High is located in the famous Silicon Valley and they have partnered with the Oracle Education Foundation. Like many of the other tech industries in San Francisco, Oracle identified there was a growing concern that the recruitment of local College (University) graduates was lower than what they would expect. In response, Oracle have realised the potential of partnering with Design Tech High and are help provide resources including people support and the funding of a new campus.
Design Tech High School, or d.tech as the students prefer to call it, is currently situated in a temporary building and it is simply stunning. Through the doors you are warmly welcomed, the students appear relaxed and staff are open and chatty.
d.tech high is an example of innovation and a school pushing the boundaries to not only promote relevant, authentic learning experiences but is also fighting the very important battle of supporting the emotional well-being of its students in an ever increasingly anxiety provoking environment of very high expectations and education unknowns.
d.tech was founded by 4 teachers who had some compelling statistics at hand that indicated a need for change to address the issues. Some of the statistics quoted to us were, '45% of current jobs will not exist in 2013. ' 'Most of the jobs that will be available, up to 50%, will be in big data and robotics.' d.tech has developed a curriculum based on the design process at Stanford University d.school and one that is responsive to social and emotional needs as well as developing the skill sets required to be a lifelong learner.
It was affirming to hear the focus on those skill-sets and we had similarities between the three schools. Remove the labels to categorise these 'dispositions' or 'habits' and we had a common language that included perseverance, resilience, empathy, tenacity ...
The Colleges in San Fran have been stating that many of their first year students are already burnt out, are anxious and the retention has been falling. In response, Colleges are beginning to shift their recruitment practices to allow students to present portfolios and other examples of academic success instead of solely relying on credits and test scores. Students may not have to focus on taking additional classes to build up these points and the pendulum may swing towards depth, quality, authenticity and the 'soft skill' sets as what we heard about at d.tech high.
With my parent hat on and a 9 year old at home, it makes me wonder what New Zealand Universities are noticing about their first year students and has me questioning are our secondaries providing enough support through rethinking their academic pathways?
Like d.tech, one N.Z that is doing this is Hobsonville Point Secondary who have in place a structure that allows students to learn without additional unnecessary pressures and approaches credit acquisition differently. I think it fantastic both schools clearly put the child at the centre of education. I can only hope other schools will learn, seeing the benefits for youth and beyond this our society.
In America there is a heavy emphasis on testing. d.tech have addressed the challenge of measuring success a bit differently. d.tech high has introduced performance tasks to help measure progress. This is a term you may have seen in the Understanding by Design Framework, Hobsonville Point Primary integrate performance tasks in our assessment processes.
Personally, I love the way performance tasks can be tailored and personalised to the individual needs of the learner. For example, getting the strongly dyslexic child to demonstrate their understanding of a topic through writing a expository essay is unlikely to offer them the best opportunity to show their knowledge, skills and understandings but allowing them to vlog about it, create a visual representation, build something is far more likely to meet the desired purpose. Below are a few of the examples I saw at d.tech high that showcased the varied ways in which learning can be demonstrated.
How was the space enabling learning?
The current physical space allowed for collaboration and like I saw at Brightworks was heavily influenced by the students themselves. Students had a say in resourcing and teachers work alongside children. There is a notion of, 'the content you learn today is highly unlikely to be relevant when you leave but the skills will be.' In my opinion, that was the real celebration of this school visit. The promotion of the 'whole-child' and integrated approach to curriculum through authentic learning.
If you are interested in heading Daniel and Maurie's perspectives make sure you have a look at their blogs.
Here are a few pictures of the space and image of what the new build will look like.