You Win with People

"Technology involves more than than just tangible tools, machines, and factories. It also involves the abstract thought and cultural practices that provide the contexts for such things and make them possible." - Larry A. Hickman

In late May 2015, College Ready Ohio staff and school participants took a research visit to southern California to visit two school districts working to create meaningful teaching and learning experiences for the students, educators, and parents. The research visits are conducted as an opportunity to learn from exemplary schools across the country in the area of technology integration. Schools participating in College Ready Ohio will receive mobile devices this fall to promote college readiness through digital teaching and learning. Catalyst Teachers participating in CRO's professional development have been participating in training over the past year in preparation for the device rollout.  

High Tech High, San Diego, CA

High Tech High hallway

High Tech High students engage in rigorous Challenge Based Learning experiences to build understanding. Some of the projects are driven by student interest, some are directed by teacher content, and some arise organically out of needs identified from the greater San Diego community. Rather than traditional exams and quizzes, students are encouraged to demonstrate their learning through performance assessments, including exhibitions of learning products rooted in inquiry.

"I found the 'High Tech' label to be a bit of a misnomer," said Ben Scragg, Program Manager for College Ready Ohio. "The first pieces of technology we saw when we walked in were a power drill and a table saw, not an iPad or a laptop. Students are using tools of all kinds as instruments to help them explore, reflect, and demonstrate their learning - in really interesting and rigorous ways. I've never seen any place quite like it, from a perspective of humanized, authentic teaching and learning." 

Cheryl Brilymer, Educational Technologist with CRO, shared her experiences on the visit "Through its strong leadership, HTH has intentionally created a community that places an importance on treating their students as people, and not just students. I saw students producing amazing and personally relevant works - documentaries, ethnographies, and professional level publishing. The culture of engagement and professionalism demonstrated in the classrooms and on every wall at High Tech High was a reflection of their commitment to the student’s future success.”

Coachella Valley Unified School District, Thermal, CA

Coachella Valley High School classroom

An amazing story is taking place as well at the Coachella Valley Unified School District. In a system where there are more than 19,000 students, all of whom receive free/reduced lunch, the community rallied in 2012 to pass a $41M bond resolution to provide an iPad for every student and teacher in the district. Since then, the school has piloted training programming for both students and teachers, and has delivered the iPads to the students. i

Coachella's strategic vision goes beyond mere iPad deployment, however. At the district's iCenter, which focuses on learning technology support, district staff have developed professional programming centered around the SAMR model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puendetura. Training related to SAMR encourages teachers to integrate technology on a spectrum that allows teachers to reimagine or redefine educational experiences that may not have been possible without the technology. Heather Sherman, Relationship Manager for Education and STEM Learning at Battelle Education, noted that "it is obvious that Coachella's commitment goes beyond just handing out devices to students and expecting magic to happen. They've put a lot of time into developing a foundation for what could be possible with these devices - not just for the teachers and students, but for the whole community."

Joshua Jennings, Executive Director at CRO participating school Global Impact STEM Academy shared the impact the visit to Coachella had on his orientation to the exciting progress his school is making. "I was impressed with their implementation at such a magnitude, and the fact that in can be done, in spite of the obstacles, encourages me about what we're doing at GISA. As with High Tech High, Coachella embraces the whole concept that school doesn't have to be how we traditionally think it has to be. Things can be done differently, and that's OK. People act how you treat them, and so their students have embraced that and responded impressively. I take that as an affirmation of what we're trying to do."

Overall, the visits provided CRO participants and staff with both insight and encouragement for the future direction of CRO programming and participating schools. "Visits also spurred a challenge for CRO schools to reach higher," said Dr. Steve Kucinski, English teacher at Dublin Coffman High School. "I think we all have different impressions about good teaching looks like. Is it about results? Is it about discipline? Is it about forming relationships, or any/all of these things? And it's exciting to see how these schools have embraced a vision of that. Our challenge, then, is to not try to replicate what they're doing, but to find how we might use their impressions in our own school contexts."

And those impressions seem to be in alignment with where CRO is headed. "I think these visits have been incredibly encouraging for us at College Ready Ohio, as we reflect on our first year of implementation," Scragg said. "During the trip, I kept coming back to the old Woody Hayes quote 'You win with people.' These schools embody that idea, and I think that corresponds with what we've tried to do in CRO, which is to lead with training and development, with the understanding that our students and schools come first. The devices are incredible and do allow us to do beautiful, meaningful work. And these visits reinforced the message that when people come first with solid foundations, the amazing can and will follow."