Thursday, October 14, 2010

High Tech High

I have spent the last two days visiting High Tech High in San Diego, talking with teachers, administrators and students, and visiting two different courses for teachers. I still have some more time to visit with a few more people and to debrief with their Director of Research, but I realize that I learned a lot more than how they are implementing DPs (digital portfolios) with their students; I also learned a lot about their philosophy of personalizing learning for a diverse student body. Since the school opened in 2001, every student has maintained a digital portfolio, which is used to support their POL (Presentation of Learning) twice a year and their TPOL (Transitional Presentation of Learning) at the end of the year as the student's rationale as to why they are ready for the next grade (or ready to graduate?). Even more important, every teacher has a digital portfolio, but some of them use these websites more like an instructional management system, as a resource for students. Some of the more impressive teacher portfolios showcase the project-based learning at the core of the school philosophy.

There is technical support in each building as well as a system-wide IT Director. The entire system adopted Google Apps over a year ago with over 4,000 accounts mapped to their Active Directory, and also has a WordPress server; these tools are used for different purposes in the program. Here is a school that matches my three-level model:
  • Level 1. portfolio as storage (collection of artifacts)--Everyone has server space, with a folder called MyDP to store their portfolio, or a file that links to a portfolio developed on another server. The school also has three video servers, controlled by the teachers.
  • Level 2. portfolio as workspace (collection plus reflection/metacognition, organized chronologically)--The school has a WordPress server and many teachers have their students use WordPress blogs for day-to-day assignments and reflections.
  • Level 3. portfolio as showcase (selection, summative reflection and presentation, organized thematically)--Many teachers and students are moving from their original Dreamweaver-based DP over to Google Sites. These portfolios support student-led conferences (SLC)--which I observed--and the public Presentations of Learning
Four design principles underlie the work of High Tech High: personalization, adult world connection, common intellectual mission, teacher as designer. There are actually nine schools in the San Diego area; I only visited two of them. I will be writing up a more in-depth case study for my book, as the high school example. I asked one group of students how the public nature of their DPs and POLs impacted their learning. As one student said:
I want that work to be good. I know I'm up to it... It makes you want to understand what you're learning... My DP helps me self-reflect. I could update it daily. I self-reflect on how well I do. I learn from myself as well. I see my strengths; I see my weaknesses and how I can improve. I work harder to do better.

1 comment:

AKhomeschoolmom said...

I just discovered your blog! Thank you! I've been interested in ePortfolios for a while and have been surprised at the lack of information on the "web" about them. I will look forward to reading this.