The New Tech Model - An Overview

Posted on 08/06/2018
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The New Tech Model - An Overview

 

In 1996 a new type of public school opened in Napa, California with the goal of solving a problem that local schools had been unable to fully address: how to prepare students for the new demands of college, community, and the workplace. Out of a unique partnership between the local school district and entrepreneurs in the region, New Technology High School was created to help students develop the kinds of skills that were becoming increasingly important for ensuring success in any field of study or profession. These skills were eventually organized into 5 categories: discipline-specific knowledge and thinking skills; written communication; oral communication; collaboration; and agency. The ongoing work to implement school-wide practices for developing these important skills became the basis of the New Tech model that is currently in use by almost 200 schools in 28 states and Australia. 

Developing those skills requires overt teaching and assessing of student progress in each  of the 5 categories. Rather than teach them in isolation, the New Tech school design embeds these enduring skills - called Learning Outcomes - into the instruction in every course by employing a Project Based Learning, or PBL, approach. In PBL, students frequently work in collaborative groups to address real-world tasks that create a need to learn both the standards-based content and the enduring skills. In order to complete real-world tasks, students need the right tools, which is why New Tech schools employ a technology-rich environment.  In the same way the professionals use their technology, so do New Tech students, and this requires a significant level of trust, as does having students engage in real-world projects.  Hence, schools spend a great deal of time and energy building a culture of trust, respect, and responsibility where students and adults can collaborate, and learners can take risks.   This progressive model, from outcomes, to PBL, to 1:1, to culture has been carefully refined into 4 design pillars, enumerated below.


Outcomes that Matter











1.) Outcomes that Matter:  

Through collaboration with teachers, university academics, and business people, and informed by current research, New Tech schools have clearly defined outcomes for their students that are aimed at fully preparing them for college and career success: 

  • Knowledge and Thinking: Developed using the college readiness assessment research of Stanford University’s S.C.A.L.E. division, this outcome expresses the key knowledge and thinking skills needed to move all students toward college readiness in each core discipline.
  • Collaboration: Students need to know how to work well with others, whether it’s in partnership, as a small team, or in a large group setting.
  • Written Communication: Substantial evidence suggests that writing is not only a key skill that students need in nearly any career or college pathway, but that the act of writing can also help students develop important and transferable thinking skills such as analysis, inference, logic, and rhetoric.
  • Oral Communication: Students not only need to be able to communicate and defend their ideas orally, but  also develop confidence as public speakers.. 
  • Agency:  To have agency is to have ownership over one’s own learning, using a growth mindset to improve in any area through effort, feedback, and practice. Influenced heavily by the research of Carol Dweck and Camille Farrington, the agency outcome reflects the skills needed to effectively navigate the world as a lifelong learner.  

2.) Teaching that Engages: New Tech schools use project-based (PBL) and problem-based (PrBL) learning methods to help students develop the targeted outcomes through  problem solving experiences that are complex and meaningful to students. Projects typically center around authentic, complex tasks that are provided before instruction, to create a need to learn the standards.  Students often work together to solve problems and accomplish tasks, learning content and practicing the skills embodied in the Learning Outcomes.  Authentic performance assessments are used to evaluate both collaborative and individual achievement.  Some key practices associated with the New Tech model of PBL and PrBL instruction include:

  • Co-Taught, Integrated Curriculum:  When appropriate, New Tech teachers work with their colleagues to develop integrated curriculum that blends two or more subjects together into one course (e.g. ELA 10 and World History combine into World Studies). These integrated subjects are also taught collaboratively, with two or more teachers facilitating together in the same classroom as a team. This practice has a number of positive benefits, including the active modeling of collaboration, greater differentiation options for students, and ongoing observational and thought-partner feedback for staff in real time.
  • Structured Scaffolding:  Much of the supporting instruction within a project is based on the premise that students should receive direct support if and when they need it. Students are provided tools to help them identify their learning needs, after which they request workshops to help them address those needs often through some direct instruction provided by a teacher.
  • Embedded Assessment of All Outcomes: The instructional model for New Tech schools is designed to help students develop the knowledge and skills represented in all of the New Tech outcomes. To fully support that development, intentional scaffolding and assessment of each outcome is embedded throughout the curriculum.
  • Community Connections: New Tech teachers work at building connections to experts and organizations in their community that will bring greater meaning and authenticity to their PBL or PrBL curriculum. Not only does this increase student engagement, but having an external evaluator of student work can also help place the teacher into the role of guide or coach, allowing students to see them as partners who can help them address meaningful tasks.
  • Problem-Based-learning is often preferentially used in courses like math and foreign language. PrBL utilizes similar inquiry practices as PBL, but on a smaller time scale which allows students to see the content in multiple contexts and with frequent opportunities to model and make sense of the content..

While PBL and PrBL allow great opportunities for differentiation, students at New Tech schools truly personalize their high school education through capstones, early college experiences, and professional field work.  As students progress through their New Tech career, key benchmarks or capstones often mark the way, allowing them to celebrate their growth and gather feedback about potential next steps in their academic and professional careers.  Theses capstones or benchmarks often exist in the form of portfolio presentations or defenses, student-led academic conferences, and senior projects.

To develop student readiness for college, New Tech schools support students in gaining early college experience before graduation. Students can complete college coursework on university campuses for free or at a reduced cost, or the New Tech school may work to offer college-level classes on their own campus.  When this isn’t possible, a school might create structures that allow students to take online college courses, to coordinate college tours throughout the year, and to bring in guest speakers that can help students understand the college experience.

To further prepare students for identifying an eventual career path, New Tech schools seek out ways to connect students to various forms of professional fieldwork. Often, this takes the form of internships or volunteer efforts. When those options are limited by community context, (such as rural areas) a school may choose to leverage technological tools that allow students to do things like interview professionals from different fields of interest or to engage in deeper research about various aspects of the job.

3.) Culture that Empowers: By creating a culture of trust, respect, and responsibility, New Tech schools empower students and staff to develop positive relationships that help everyone achieve their full potential.  Student voice is valued as important input and included when the staff is making decisions. Student survey data is used to inform school policies and practices. Policies that are traditionally used to control student behavior are often modified or removed to allow students to demonstrate trust, respect, and responsibility.  In the original NT school there were no bells to tell students when class is starting or ending. There were no hall passes to limit students from going where they need to go on campus.  If students are going to develop into trustworthy, respectful, and responsible adults, we must give them the opportunities to grow those qualities.

School culture is often facilitated by maximizing interaction across the campus community. Collaborative student groups, team teaching, fully inclusive classrooms, faculty work-groups, and student-driven clubs are common practices used to build relationships of trust, respect, and responsibility across all groups.

The use of recurring advisory classes to further maximize interaction is a common practice at many NTN schools. In addition to providing a place where students can meet with teachers and peers outside of an academic course, this structure can also provide more direct care for school culture development and individual socio-emotional support. If not already being met through other structures on campus, advisory classes can also help address student needs around college and career awareness, general academic counseling, and preparation for key benchmarks (project exhibitions, senior project, graduation, etc.).

The adults on campus are part of the school culture too, and New Tech schools are intentional in how they foster the culture of their staff. NTN believes that adult culture sets the ceiling for student culture; it is extremely rare to see a student culture that is more robust than the adult culture in the building. This means that staff must also participate in a culture of trust, respect, and responsibility. The regular use of norms, shared decision making practices, and developing ownership over schoolwide policies are key habits that New Tech school staff put into place to help ensure that their culture is strong.

4.) Technology that Enables: Using a technology-rich environment that includes a 1:1 student-to-computer ratio, all members of the school community are able to create, communicate, access information, and engage in flexible self-directed learning. New Tech schools use a common online learning platform, Echo, in which students, staff, and parents interact.  Echo provides a space for teachers to organize their curriculum and provide feedback for students and parents to view.  Students can complete tasks, view their assessments, and access resources within Echo. Since Echo is a web-based platform, students and parents can access it from any internet connection.  With a laptop or tablet for each student, New Tech students and teachers also have the flexibility of creating a learning environment almost anywhere.

A key component of Echo is its multidimensional grade book. In their courses, students receive feedback on their growth across all 5 of the outcomes, each of which is calculated into their overall grade for each course. This transparency is critical in helping students and parents identity areas of student strength, and areas in which students need support.

Echo also provides teachers with a direct connection to other teachers in our network of schools.  Teachers can “follow” other staff in Echo and are able to share curriculum ideas and bookmark resources across the platform. New Tech teachers can also access vetted tools and curriculum plans in an online library managed by NTN.


Lakeland High School Leading EDGE

In the mid-2000s, we found that 75% of our students at Lakeland were going on to attend some form of post-high school education, but less than 25% of them were finishing on time. We diagnosed this problem as one of persistence and set to work finding ways to help build this in our students. In 2009, when we started our PBL journey, we decided on a vision that would give our graduates not just a diploma, but also an edge on their competition locally and globally.  Our path to do that was to Engage, Develop, Grow, and Educate the students of Lakeland High School and thus the EDGE was born. We sought out area business members and college admissions personnel to ask what they thought would make a quality graduate ready for work or school. The feedback always came back the same: more emphasis on 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, work ethic, and critical thinking.  Based on this feedback, we found Project Based Learning as the best method to teach these skills right alongside the content. We researched the best Project Based Learning organization in the nation and partnered with the New Tech Network to support our staff in learning the methods of Project Based Learning.  The biggest changes in how school worked are detailed in the graphic below:

Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning still holds many elements from traditional teaching; however, the delivery of content is based of student inquiry instead of a teacher directive. 

Lakeland High School is a fully implemented PBL school and all classes use some components of Project Based Learning.  The full wall-to-wall project experience is heaviest in 9th and 10th grade and then becomes projects when appropriate in 11th and 12th grades.  The focus of 11th and 12th grades are more career exploration focused and require students to take personalized paths; however, the basic components of Project Based Learning are all still incorporated. 


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