The T&L team welcomed a dynamic group of superintendents, CTOs, and other school leaders from around the country to Redwood City, California, in March for in-depth networking and collaboration at the first of our four 2018 Leadership Summits: “A District-Level Look at Innovation in K–12.” Over the course of two days, attendees inspired and challenged one another to shape strategies that will empower the next generation of innovators.
SCHOOL VISIT: DESIGN TECH HIGH SCHOOL
We visited Design Tech High School’s brand new facility, where we witnessed innovation in action, both in the physical space and in the culture of entrepreneurship and “extreme personalized learning” embodied by the school, whose philosophy is best summed up by the guiding question “Is it safe enough to try?” The school focuses heavily on design thinking and project-based learning, partnering with entities such as the Oracle Foundation (which funded the new construction) to enable students to build real-world skills with expert practitioners outside the school. Students have the independence to drive their own schedules and construct their own paths of learning, choosing to explore what fuels their passions. As one senior at the school says, “Typical social pressures don’t exist here. I am able to discover who
I am and do what I love.” There’s “always room to do something
new,” says another student. “If you want to try something, you can go ahead and do it.” Such freedom can occasionally lead to a touch of chaos, admits Rob Bolt, the school’s partnership developer. “Everything is a test,” he says. But the rewards of nurturing grounded, independent students— whose test scores happen to be above the average — are well worth it.
GENERAL SESSION AND PANEL
To kick off the general session, Lori Stollar (Grayslake Community High School District 127, PA) shared her district’s PILOT (Pursuing Innovative Learning Opportunities for Tomorrow) program, which gives middleschool students a risk-free period during the day to explore project-based learning within the context of STEM/STEAM. Activities are designed to be relevant and integrative, and to incorporate ideas for future career paths.