High Tech High

Overview

High Tech High uses technology to drive individualized educational pathways and facilitate a project-based curriculum

What does the model look like?
  • High Tech High incorporates technology into learning, but differently than other models – computers are not necessarily present in the classroom, but are an implied part of all work
  • Curriculum is largely project based; students work toward producing something within and at the end of each course (e.g., film, website, book)
How does it work?
  • Students create their own schedules with the help of a staff advisor, pursue learning through projects and compile their work into digital portfolios
How is it used?
  • HTH serves grades K-12, with a greater emphasis on projects and real-world experience in older grades

What is the background?

  • Began as a single charter high school in San Diego in 2000
  • Now serving over 4,500 students K-12 across 11 schools in Southern California
  • HTH certifies its own teachers through a graduate education program

High Tech High’s unique teaching model is enabled by a carefully designed system, particularly in physical layout

Scheduling
  • Subjects are merged and taught together, creating longer time blocks and more flexibility for project development
  • Students have unregimented open studio time to work independently in lab spaces
  • Flexible teacher schedules enable tutoring, and extended lesson and material prep
Staffing Model
  • Interdisciplinary teacher teams with shared project planning and teaching and student management responsibilities; creates flexibility for teachers’ schedules and enables cross-subject teaching and learning
  • HTH credentials many of its own teachers through its graduate school of education
Physical Space
  • Use of space follows several principles:
    • Transparency into work being done (e.g., glass seminar rooms)
    • Common workspaces for teachers and students; balanced with idea of ownership
    • Specialty space for creative design (e.g., studios, labs)
    • Boundary-less learning (e.g., outdoor workspaces)
    • Flexibility (e.g., no room with a permanent structure or purpose)
  • “One of my favorite things is when people say, this doesn’t look like a school” –Larry Rosenstock, Founder 

What's New

Students learn through by doing with support from teacher teams and advisors within a unique, design-focused setting

Students learn in a hands-on manner, driving their own learning

  • Students learn core content through the completion of projects using complex technology and design software
  • All students are required to complete a “substantial” senior project and digital portfolio of their work

Teachers act as designers and facilitators, providing guidance and support rather than direct lectures

  • Interdisciplinary teacher teams manage students and advise their project and course choices
  • Teachers have time dedicated to developing integrated and interdisciplinary projects, building assessment rubrics and working one-on-one with students
  • Teachers engage in a variety of instructional modalities (e.g., team teaching, full class instruction, work-based learning, individual instruction) each day

School culture is built on strong design principles that inform content choices, instructional methodology, student-teacher interactions and assessment

  • Emphasis on four pillars of personalization, adult world connection, common intellectual mission and teacher as designer drives design and instruction decisions 

 

What's Working

High Tech High aspires to improve student engagement and the quality of student-teacher interactions, and use student data more effectively

Students take a more active role in shaping their education and the content of what they are learning

  • “It is a mistake to think of technology in schools merely as something that kids are consuming through, rather than producing with … Innovation comes from production, not consumption. Technology is not only what we look at a video screen for; there’s a lot of other things that are technology” –Founder
  • "When students see the interconnectedness of the subjects they're learning, they feel it's more relevant, more meaningful, and more authentic than if they're working in isolation. ” –Teacher

Students are more prepared for college and career opportunities

  • The University of California system mandates 7 courses students must take in high school; only 34% of all California high school graduates take them, but 100% of High Tech High students graduate having taken them
  • All students are required to complete an internship and give a media-rich presentation to the community

Teachers have more time and increased opportunities to engage in the ways they are most excited

  • Teachers’ daily schedules contain large blocks of unstructured time to encourage project design and direct student engagement

The underlying principles of HTH have created a new and different learning environment

  • “It has scrapped a lot of what's arbitrary and outdated about traditional schooling -- classroom design, divisions between subjects, independence (read: isolation) from the community, and assessments that only one teacher ever sees.”  -George Lucas Educational Foundation

Integration

Content

  • Students use an interdisciplinary curriculum loosely developed by their teachers and further explored through their own projects; learning is supplemented through some interactive, online software. No textbooks are used in school

Assessment

  • Students work with an advisor to determine how and what they should learn; potential modalities include several technology-based platforms and advanced design and video editing software

Personalization

  • Students take traditional formative and summative assessments; undergo peer reviews daily and exhibit end products online and in front of community. All student work is shared, viewed and graded through digital portfolio

Development

  • Teachers receive constant training through HTH’s own graduate school of education; resources are fully available online. Graduate learning is hybrid in-person and online

Delivery

  • 1:1 access to laptop computers and universal wifi on campus encourage mobile learning and space use; broad use of classroom and school building technology creates professional lab atmosphere