Weekly Wrap-up: Takeaways from High Tech High

It’s taken a snowstorm, a changed flight and the honor of writing a weekly wrap-up to get me to write a post under five-hundred words. So I promise I’ll be brief. On the last day of the conference, Rob Riordan, the president of High Tech High, did a Q&A with the audience based on questions we submitted on index cards. What follows is what I think are the most important takeaways from the session and the conference.

Assessment should be a dialogue
Rob made the distinction between Learning 2.0 and Assessment 1.0. Awpid-wp-1422046175165.jpegs we move to a PBL framework, it’s important to make sure our assessment practices change as well. At HTH, assessment is all about the process, a constant conversation where students and teachers engage in a dialogue about the students’ learning. It all culminates in a Presentation of Learning where students get authentic feedback from teachers and members of the community. While students still have tests and quizzes, student reflection and voice is an integral part of how they’re assessed. Sometimes the most important learning comes from the process, not the end result. “Beautiful work doesn’t have to be a product,” teacher Jeremy Farson said. “It can be an experience.” Our assessment strategies should change to fit that sentiment.

Don’t only ask questions you already know the answer to
Schools should create a culture of discovery among students and teachers. Building a foundation of knowledge is necessary, but content should be geared towards solving real-world problems. If we’re educating students for the future, our classrooms should become a launching point for students to explore problems and issues they’re interested in now.

Make projects authentic
wpid-wp-1422046221645.jpegWhen designing a project, Rob said it’s worthwhile to think of the final product as a gift. How will your project impact another person, your community, or the world? For one project, a teacher had students interview veterans about their lives and then write poems using only words used in the interview. Students then had the opportunity to read their poems to the veterans in a culminating showcase. The related academic content? At the time, students were reading Beowulf and examining how the bard in the story becomes a healer by celebrating the returning warriors. The project gave students the opportunity to look at the literature through a different lens and make a direct impact on their community.

wpid-wp-1422046202515.jpegDesign projects that relate to your passions
When coming up with project ideas it’s important to let your own passions and interests guide the process. Just like we expect a certain degree of differentiation for students, teachers should also tap into their own unique talents and interests when creating assignments. If you’re not excited and passionate about the project students are working on, chances are they won’t be either.

As we spend our final hours in San Diego, I know I can speak for both Brian and myself when I say the experience has been inspiring and left us with a lot to think about as we continue designing Innovation Lab.

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