Remembering High School

In the old days…before globalization 3.0 and the age of the Internet, all you had to do was be on time, have a good memory and stay out of trouble. It was a fun time, and jobs seemed plentiful.

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Now, we see jobs disappearing, everybody has a 4.0 GPA and a decent SAP. It’s not fun anymore either. Yes, the world has changed, and what we called high school must change too.

To be competitive you have to have a new skill set for a very new – global – economy. You are competing for a job with every kid in the world for a workplace that values creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship…. things that are not routinely nurtured in most schools.

Not only are we facing off shoring and out sourcing, according to a recent study by Oxford Research “nearly half of all jobs are vulnerable to machines–to applications using information technology.” It was predicted that over 47% percent of the jobs that exist today would be gone–forever–over the next 20 years.

Blame technology and what author Thomas Friedman calls globalization 3.0. The world he says “has shrunk to a size tiny” and we have lost our prowess in manufacturing, and in the provision of services like banking, accounting and insurance because computers can be found almost everywhere in the world.

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Any country can provide such services at a fraction of the cost, and ship it via telecommunications. We are suffering a “jobless recovery,” and our communities and schools are facing challenges not well understood by politicians, policy makers or parents.

The good news: school is changing – perhaps too slowly.

In 1996, San Diego gave birth to a school called High Tech High. It’s really not about high tech though. It is about design thinking, art integration and project based learning. It’s about learning how to learn, and thinking differently about what you learn. The founders did something no school has ever done before.

Instead of teaching all the disciplines per se, i.e., math, science, art and music etc., they replaced those silos with real world “projects” or challenges requiring collaboration, also known as project-based learning or PBL. This methodology requires “out- of- the- box” thinking, research, observation, and multiple communication skills. Projects are assigned at the beginning of each semester and team taught by the teachers.

Since, many schools the across America are using many of the same techniques.

According to a Getting Smart Blog, published online by the organization of the same name, a national non-profit network, called New Tech “partners with districts and communities to develop innovative K-12 learning environments … centered on a culture that empowers, teaching that engages, technology that enables and outcomes that matter, so that students graduate aware, eligible and prepared for college and career. The Network currently consists of 180+ public and charter schools in urban, rural and suburban communities in 29 states.”

These new methods of teaching and learning are at the center of The Innovations Academy in Scripps Ranch, where they require the teacher to be “guides, not guards” and to let students “question the answers, not answer questions,” recognizing that real learning occurs when we fail, a notion at odds with the way things used to be.

As schools across America embrace the new methods, life long learning becomes the new normal for our students. As Kotaro Nakamura, Director of the School of Art and Design at SDSU said recently, we want our students “to get the job; and know what to do after they get it.”

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