What is the TECH in High Tech High

IT model

Each year, High Tech High hosts thousands of visitors across our three village campuses. A frequent type of visitor is a school district, university teaching program, or research team  that wants to learn about how HTH utilizes technology in the classroom. For many visitors, new teachers, students, and families, the name High Tech High infers that there are racks of iPads in every room to which students  are hardwired in order to access computer programs to learn math and English. When you enter a HTH classroom for the first time, however, there will be computers in bookshelf stations or mobile carts, but you probably won’t see what you expected to see when you think about “High TECH High.” So what is the TECH in High Tech High.

There are three main distinctions in the way that High Tech High schools utilize technology that differs from traditional schools. These are:

  1.  Cooperative IT infrastructure that supports learning processes.
  2. Embedded IT specialist at every HTH school site.
  3. Technology is used as a “real-world” tool.

Cooperative IT Infrastructure

HTH is a self-organizing cooperative system of teachers and students. This cooperative structure is one of the main ways in which learning is supported and extends through the application and utilization of technology. This technology infrastructure includes:

  • Dynamic decentralized network with wireless access points placed strategically throughout each campus for secured Internet access for in-house and student-owned devices.
  • Site specific IT process for inventory, group decision-making in software utilization, and equal distribution of technology equipment throughout the campus.
  • Easy access to the Internet by teachers and students with access tied to individual login.
  • Collaboration between school site administrators/teachers and IT in order to ensure adequate technology support.
  • Utilization of Gmail and Google services including Google Drive to share work online and optimize collaboration.

Embedded IT specialist at every HTH school site

HTH employs IT professionals with degrees and certifications in computer science, electrical engineering, networking, and security. Each school site has a dedicated IT Director that coordinates technology. Each IT Director receives training, support, and organizational direction from HTH’s Director of Information Technology. Students and teachers also have direct access to their local IT Director for individualized daily support.

Technology is used as a “real-world” tool

Just as we use our cell phones and computers to assist us with tasks in our daily lives, students and teachers use technology as tools to assist in learning. Multipurpose tech is chosen over devices that have a singular purpose. For example, laptops are the tech of choice when it comes to computing devices in terms of cost, ability to configure, flexibility, upgradability, and maintenance. Industry-standard software packages, such as Adobe Master Collection and Microsoft Office suites, complement an array of alternative free and open-source programming. In addition, utilizing the Google suite, allows students and teachers to work on projects outside of school that increase collaboration.

To summarize, what is the TECH in High Tech High?…TECH is synonymous with collaboration. To quote Vint Cerf, one of the creators of the communications protocol TCP/IP that helped give rise to the modern Internet, “When Bob [Kahn] and I did this design, we thought we were building a system to connect computers together, but what we very quickly discovered is that this is a system for connecting people together.”* Like its pedagogy and learning delivery systems, TECH at High Tech High is a process and system for connecting our community of learners.

*Learn more about Vint Cerf in his Ted Talk on the Interspecies Internet @ http://www.ted.com/talks/the_interspecies_internet_an_idea_in_progress.html


Academic Internship – Why We Need to Push High School Students Out into the Real World

For the last 12 years, High Tech High schools, located in San Diego, California, have propelled students out into the real world through an academic internship immersion that takes place in the 11th grade. During this three or four week period, depending on the HTH school, students utilize the 21st century learning skills that they have developed and nurtured throughout grades ninth and tenth (skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking) in a variety of work environments, including non profit, government, education, and small business. Their learning goes far beyond what would be expected. Read more »


Flip Flop: How Diane Ravitch Changed Course

“As yesterday’s positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.”

-George Walker Bush, Washington D.C., 2007

 The signature domestic policy of the GW Bush Administration is often cited to be the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. In 2004, just three years after it was signed into law, then U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige proclaimed, “The No Child Left Behind Act is working now and some point in time we’re going to look back at this point in time and see that we turned the corner educationally.” By 2008, however, Republicans had voiced their opinion with a deafening silence; making no mention of NCLB in their 2008 policy statement, Defending Our Nation, and, in fact, rejecting NCLB’s “one-size-fits-all approach.”

It is this “one-size-fits-all approach” that becomes the subject of Diane Ravitch’s painstaking process to skeptically analyze her own belief systems regarding education as she plunged head-on into what she thought was a structural innovation through reinvention and reformation of America’s educational system. What she found, as explained in her new book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education is that NCLB masked a concerted effort by conservatives to continue the rallying cry for accountability and parental choice, and by big business drawn to what they saw as just another “market reform;” what Ravitch feels is, in fact, a misguided attempt by new corporate reformers to define solutions for problems in public education utilizing accepted business strategies. According to Ravitch, “The more uneasy I grew with the agenda of choice and accountability, the more I realized that I am too ‘conservative’ to embrace an agenda whose end result is entirely speculative and uncertain. The effort to upend American public education and replace it with something market-based began to feel too radical for me.” It is this uneasiness that, ultimately, propels Ravitch to honor her gut and her intellectual wanderings by taking out well-worn weapons of mass destruction – the pen and paper. Read more »


The Diary of Anne Frank

For the last three weeks, I have sat behind the small ticket counter at OnStage Playhouse…listening. Listening to hammers, listening to the click clack of shoes on a seasoned stage, listening to pages rustling between fingers and, most importantly, listening to voices speaking the words of those left behind by time – channeled through the cast of The Diary of Anne Frank. Of course, the words crafted by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, and adapted for the stage by Wendy Kesselman, are powerful on their own. But, this production is different.

Yes, the power of Lucia Vecchio’s performance of Anne is sure to leave most theater-goers with red eyes and runny noses. Yes, the subtle complexity of the towering Sven Salumaa’s portrayal of Otto Frank will leave audience members scrambling for speech. These things are a given. The power of this intimate, expertly casted and staged performance lies in the earnest eyes of the seventeen and eighteen-year-olds that are working dramaturge and sound, who are researching props and back story, who are writing rehearsal reports and sending emails to cast and crew. The power of this interpretation of The Diary of Anne Frank lies in the Interns.

It was a ballsy move for Artistic Director Teri Brown and Director Kym Pappas to experiment with the already established internship program. It is paying off in ways, I don’t even think, they could have imagined. The original idea was to take the current internship program and add an even deeper layer of exploration by pairing each intern with a theater professional in order to create a depth of understanding of the process and production of a stage play. That they chose it to be Anne Frank is almost ironic in light of the recent social movement hailed as “Occupy.” What they have allowed the interns to experience is a way of being in the world as seen through the eyes of a thirteen year-old who dreamed of a future, planned for forever, and spoke poignant words in the silence of her own thoughts.

I cannot disregard the juxtaposition of the short but meaningful life of Anne Frank with the current lives of the interns who are in the “blossom” of their own youth, as she was. Anne interpreted the lives of adults and their reactions to the controversies and atrocities of her day much as the Interns do – through innocent hopeful eyes. In her own way, she made changes in her life and the lives of others simply by having a different vision of her tomorrow. But Anne had one thing that most youth do not have today – the simple solitude of reflection. She was able to think about her life, her circumstances, her expectations…and she wrote them down. Most of our young people today don’t have this luxury.

That’s why the Charles K. Nichols Internship Program at OnStage Playhouse, and its troupe made up of high school seniors and college freshman (Victoria Acosta, Gina Bernacett, Dempsey Davis, RJ Haines, Emilio Olsen, Julia Sola, and Tony Rivera) is so much more than just a performance. Through their research and immersion in Anne’s life, they are able to see their own world through Anne’s eyes…and work to never repeat it.

The Diary of Anne Frank runs from November 4 to December 4 at OnStage Playhouse, 291 Third Avenue, Chula Vista. Ticket prices are $16.00 general admission.


A Fork in the Road

On April 15, 1846, a diverse party of emigrants (old and young, native born and immigrant, women and men, upper class and lower class) embarked on a journey, that for many, would be their last. They wanted something, something different  – and they were lulled by the promises of self-interested men with ulterior motives and a lack of care for their fellow man. The people of the Donner Party would never know that their histories would fill the history books of California students. They never knew their lives would be examined and re-examined for any glimpses of insight into the human psyche. They never knew that their experiences, their decisions, their human failings could be the inspiration for humanity’s evolution – from consumerism and consumption to innovation and creation!

We have inched slowly toward a fork in the road – just as the Donner party wagon trains moved slowly forward over the great plains of Iowa and Nebraska to the real fork in the road in Wyoming, shown above. When they stood at that pass and argued about whether to take the well worn trail around the great Salt Lake or take a new, unchartered one that might get them to California faster, they did not have the luxury of hindsight as we do now. They did not know what would await them in the months (and even years) to come. If they had known the incredible suffering that their poor decisions caused them, the deaths, the destruction of families, of reputations, of the fabric of their lives, they would have surely taken the steady route. Read more »


Prophetic History

About four years ago, I had taken my oldest daughter to see a local production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. I was obsessed by The Crucible in high school – thinking that the genius of Arthur Miller was his ability to craft a play grounded in history with profound commentary on the culture of his time. We sat in the car on the way back home talking about the play and its meaning and why it seems that, in our current times, no writers have mastered what Miller had done a half a century before. Suddenly, I posed the question to my daughter…if you were to write a play about issues today such as climate change, social injustice, and big government (remember Bush was still in office at the time), what story from history would she write about. She thought about it for a while and simply said, “The Donner Party.”

Little did I know that these three words would completely change my life.  I remained quiet the rest of the way home, thinking about whether the story could be the basis of a new work of fiction. After that evening, I immediately requested everything I could on the Donner Party and read voraciously on the subject. I remembered being somewhat obsessed with the story as a child; focusing on the topic that quickly gets associated with the group of families who traveled west in 1846 – cannibilism. I remembered briefly passing through Donner Pass on my way to Reno on a high school trip. At 17, I fixated on the Donner Pass sign; feeling like I had some connection but no understanding of what that was. Read more »


We Have a Wicked Problem

“It is not possible to find the solution to a complex problem from within the system of thought that created it.”

–Albert Einstein

In their work, Planning problems are wicked problems, H.J. Rittel and M.M. Webber (1984) lay out a framework for describing “the wicked problem.” Although developed from a social planning viewpoint, their framework has implications for those seeking to reform current educational structures and processes.

Wicked problems are essentially those that are too big to resolve and have no ready solutions. Rittel and Webber describe “wicked problems” in these terms:

  1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem (defining wicked problems is itself a wicked problem)
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better-or-worse
  4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem
  5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a “one-shot operation”; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every attempt counts significantly
  6. Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique
  8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem
  9. The existence of a discrepancy in representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem’s resolution
  10.  The planner has no right to be wrong (planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate) Read more »