Series High Tech High Deeper Learning: Engaging Students in Work That Matters

Engaging Students in Work That Matters

Lesson Objective: Engage students in meaningful work for a real audience
Grades 6-12 / All Subjects / PBL
13 MIN


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How do you see students collaborating and learning from each other?
  2. What are the benefits of creating work for an authentic audience?
  3. How are students supported to develop passion, skills, and content knowledge?


  • Private message to Katherine Chapp
I really like this lesson because it allows students to choose a topic that they are passionate about. When students are passionate about something they are more likely to produce better work. I agree that students feel proud when they see their work being displayed.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Sara Walther
I really enjoyed enjoyed this lesson. It was very meaningful and was appropriate for the types of students he has in his class. I loved the way the students were working together and the way they were able to choose their individual topics. That one student who has an autistic brother was able to include his brothers art in his project, I loved that. This was a great lesson, student driven and very creative.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Lauren Vitiello
I think this lesson was awesome and super inspiring. I loved the boy that spoke of his autistic brother, really hit home. All of the students were very engaged and the students clearly love the project based learning. It was cool to see that the students were proud of their work and seemed to enjoy that they were making a difference in the world. The passion really showed! I also really liked that the students were questioning and interacting with each other. I noticed a lot of the students thinking out of the box which is something I always encourage.
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  • Private message to Stephen DiVisconti
Hi Jenn, I watched the video and thought about it a bit. I think that the learning becomes authentic the minute the kids enter High Tech High because they know why they are students in this different school. The idea that all of the students are in this particular school to learn how to transform knowledge into knowledge that they can use. I liked a lot of parts of the video and program but I think that I liked the practice of giving the students time to think about and to work through a process in order to learn and gain a deeper understanding from the the particular task, whatever that task may be. Students will gain ownership from the struggle. I didn't find anything that I disliked. Steve
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  • Private message to Shannon Walsh
-What makes his lesson authentic (real)? This lesson is authentic because the students are given the option to choose a topic or an interest to focus on with their projects. -In which moments were the students engaged? How do you know? The students were engaged while collaborating with their peers about their projects. You can see their interest and their analytical thinking skills being used while they are questioning each other and making improvements. -What did you like and dislike about this lesson? I liked the choice that the students were given and how they were directed to find interests that were focused on improving a social issue or community issue. The tracking of their project's success is the only factor of the lesson that I would find difficult in my own practice
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  • Engaging Students in Work That Matters Transcript

    +++ 00:00:04 +++
    DEEPER LEARNING Elevating Student Thinking and Student Voice


    Engaging Students in Work That Matters Transcript

    +++ 00:00:04 +++
    DEEPER LEARNING Elevating Student Thinking and Student Voice

    Master core academic content
    Think critically and solve complex problems
    Work collaboratively
    Communicate effectively
    Learn how to learn
    Develop academic mindsets

    Zoe Randall: Hi guys are you ready? You're going to have a seat up front.

    +++ 00:00:34 +++
    Ben Daley: Doing work for a real purpose and for a real audience, we think that's deeper learning.
    Student: Our boat went into accelerate. It's going to dip back a little.
    Ben Daley: Engaging students. "What are you actually interested in?" I think is a really great question.
    Chris Baughman: I wanted to emphasize this point. This work is really important today.
    Chris Baughman: They're thinking so outside the box at all times and they are really wrestling with some very difficult issues and really trying to create change.
    Isaac: The goal of my project is to help families with an autistic member in the family.
    Isaac: I need to add my logo.

    +++ 00:01:04 +++
    Mike Strong: Experiencing the work and then the production or the exhibition of that work does something to a student, that sense of I made something really cool and people came and saw it.
    Jeff Robin: The ultimate goal is to show what the students have done and to communicate what they've learned.
    Student: Guys, has anybody not gotten their parts yet?
    Engaging Students in Work That Matters featured organization: High Tech High

    Lower Third:
    High Tech High
    San Diego, California

    Lower Third:
    Ben Daley
    Chief Operating Officer High Tech High
    San Diego, California

    +++ 00:01:36 +++
    Ben Daley: We think that when students can transform knowledge and use it in a new way, that's when they've really mastered it. That's how you know, oh yeah, that student, they really get it.
    Student: About us is like the dream room.
    Student: Like what we're actually trying to do.
    Student: Yeah, and then the staff is like--
    Student: There's like kind of like a completely different topic.
    Ben Daley: They are taking that knowledge and they are doing something with it and they are kind of making it their own. For us that's the achieved state and for us that's when you've really mastered deeper learning.
    Student: My prototype is almost complete.

    +++ 00:02:05 +++
    Chris Baughman: Your prototype? That new flyer that you're working on? Nice.
    Student: Yes. Yeah, that we just discussed yesterday.
    Chris Baughman: Okay great.
    Ben Daley: So the mission of High Tech High is to have students do meaningful work for a real audience through project-based learning.
    Lower Third:
    6th Grade Humanities
    Chris Baughman: Hey, guys, good morning.
    Students: Good morning.
    Chris Baughman: Whoa, that's like one of the best we've had in a couple of weeks.
    Chris Baughman: Another group finished last night so a little celebration for Savanah, Miranda, and Livney [ph?]. Give it up for those girls.
    Lower Third:
    Chris Baughman
    6th Grade Humanities Teacher
    High Tech Middle Media Arts, San Diego, CA

    +++ 00:02:32 +++
    Chris Baughman: To me work that matters means that the audience is not the teacher to put it pretty simply. So for this project, The Voice, their audience is out in the community. Every student has selected actions that they want to conduct to try to make a difference in the world. Students were asked to select an issue or a cause that they felt very passionately about. They then had to become educated on the issue so they did significant research. It was in that phase that they started to reach out to local organizations that were working on these issues.

    +++ 00:03:08 +++
    Chris Baughman: When you go out to the bowling alleys and you go talk with people and you go to your dog park, when you go sell roses, that's your audience. Okay? This is really critical important work that you're doing so please, your audience is out there. That's why this work is really important today. Okay? So let's get to work, guys. Here we go.
    Chris Baughman: They are engaged in the process of learning. They care about what they are creating and therefore learning is not a chore. Learning is fun. And learning becomes important and what they are producing becomes important.

    +++ 00:03:42 +++
    Student: How am I supposed to help? How am I supposed to act now?
    Student: Well I have how you can help.
    Student: Okay so maybe you should-- that's not your website is it?
    Student: Oh my website? This is my website.
    Student: Yeah, you should add the link to your website right there.
    Student: That's your logo but add the link to your website here.
    Ben Daley: Deeper learning is going in depth. You're in the company of a passionate adult who is kind of going on this intellectual journey and you're along for the ride with them. You're posing your own questions. These are the kind of skills I think students need to be successful in college and in life.
    Lower Third:
    8th Grade Student
    High Tech Middle Media Arts, San Diego, CA

    +++ 00:04:13 +++
    Isaac: The goal of my project is to help families with autistic member and the family and also bring awareness to the cause.
    Isaac: What do you think?
    Student: Autism, yeah.
    Student: Maybe you should add a picture of your brother.
    Isaac: I chose this subject because my brother was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. I'm having my brother do some splatter art on some canvases and I'm hopefully going to sell it at an art festival that's going on this Saturday.

    +++ 00:04:41 +++
    Chris Baughman: I know you have information about autism to raise awareness about children with autism. Do you have anything about your brother or about the artist, I should say?
    Isaac: Oh yeah we do, I actually have "the artist" and I have "more about autism" and then I have my organization's mission.
    Chris Baughman: Fantastic.
    Chris Baughman: This project has a lot to do with the curriculum that they're learning and the new skills that we're teaching them.
    Chris Baughman: Just ask for the name so you can follow up. From her phone call you can follow up with a professional email.

    +++ 00:05:10 +++
    Chris Baughman: A lot of the Common Core Standards focus on the ability to read expository texts, to be able to understand main ideas, important details, that they're able to do that research. To dissect that text whether it's on a website or in materials provided by the organization, and then transform that knowledge into usable documents within their project. They are thinking so critically. They are thinking so outside the box at all times and they are really wrestling with some very difficult issues and really trying to create change and that's difficult for any person.

    +++ 00:05:52 +++
    Ben Daley: I think that making student work public is a great driver for school improvement.
    Jeff Robin: The ultimate goal is to show what the students have done and to communicate what they've learned.
    Lower Third:
    Jeff Robin
    Arts/Mixed Media Teacher
    High Tech High, San Diego, CA
    Jeff Robin: I want the kids' work to be on the wall for two reasons. One because they feel great that their stuff is on the wall but more that the other students that see it and say "Wow, I want to do work like that." So it's like inspirational and it also makes you feel good about what you've done.

    +++ 00:06:28 +++
    Ben Daley: Sometimes you just come in and you think to yourself I can't believe that fifth graders did that. I can't believe tenth graders did that. That's when you know wow, we're really kind of getting somewhere.
    Zoe Randall: Hi, guys. Are you ready? We're going to have a seat up front. Awesome.
    Zoe Randall: So I want to remind everyone what we've talked about already which is critique, revision, reflection. So you are at one of those stages, one of those points in the process.
    Lower Third:
    Zoe Randall
    6th Grade Multimedia Teacher
    High Tech Middle Media Arts, San Diego, CA

    +++ 00:06:54 +++
    Zoe Randall: Through our projects I feel that students are really engaged in something that they are deeply passionate about. Through that passion they are learning that much more and I feel that just enriches their own personal growth.
    Zoe Randall: Alright we have two more days, let's do this!
    Chris Baughman: Zoe and I have worked together very closely on the last two projects. And I think the one major benefit of the collaboration is that we have two different brains and we really pushed each other to places that we hadn't thought we would go. And what that resulted in was higher expectations for the students.

    +++ 00:07:34 +++
    Zoe Randall: What are you working on right now?
    Isaac: Right now I am actually on my own what is it my website and I was planning on adding a picture of that.
    Zoe Randall: It looks much better having the top your logo.
    Isaac: Yeah.
    Zoe Randall: Did you add in a fact?
    Isaac: In a fact? No, she said to add the one fact so I did that.
    Zoe Randall: Okay which one was that?
    Isaac: This one.
    Zoe Randall: "Though it is five times more likely in men it affects one in every eighty-eight children in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide."

    +++ 00:08:06 +++
    Zoe Randall: Being able to see their literacy skills in action and then assess how those skills are coming out, that's very important. There's a lot of connections with the digital and twenty-first century skills that they're using and it's really wonderful to see the results of that and also push them to be critical about their work and make it even better.
    Zoe Randall: Email me a final copy of the JPEG. Alright, good job.
    Isaac: Thank you.

    +++ 00:08:31 +++
    Ben Daley: We are trying to create projects that have a kind of simple set of entry points and then students can really kind of flourish in a bunch of different directions. And so for us that's creating the opportunity for complex thinking and complex problem solving.
    Lower Third:
    9th Grade Physics
    Scott Swaaley: Guys, has anybody not gotten their parts yet?
    Scott Swaaley: Every day here we throw things in front of them that most 14, 15, 16 year olds don't have to deal with. And that's hard.
    Lower Third:
    Scott Swaaley
    9th Grade Physics & Engineering Teacher
    High Tech High, San Diego, CA

    +++ 00:09:04 +++
    Scott Swaaley: It's really hard when every day you have a problem in front of you that no one is going to give you the answer to. They'll support you, but they're not going to feed you the answer and it becomes very natural, hopefully for these students that when they hit that stuff it's just second nature. They oh, I'm going to make that happen.

    Lower Third:
    9th Grade Humanities
    Mike Strong: So find the measurements across the bottom of your pole.
    Student: Okay.
    Mike Strong: Find the measurements at the deck level-
    Student: Okay.
    Mike Strong: Or wherever you're going to make the top of the bulkhead.
    Lower Third:
    Mike Strong
    9th Grade Humanities Teacher
    High Tech High, San Diego, CA
    Mike Strong: I teach with the physics teacher and a lot of the projects that we do are integrated physics, some engineering, English, history is all kind of blended together.

    +++ 00:09:37 +++
    Mike Strong: Biggest thing is make sure the lines are straight.
    Student: Okay.
    Mike Strong: Because over and over--
    Student: Will make you do it again.
    Mike Strong: Over and over again people will keep using it. All that means is two points.
    Student: Okay.
    Mike Strong: The project that we're working on is a survey of piracy through ancient into medieval history and a little bit of modern piracy studying things like the abduction of Julius Caesar, geographic advantage in certain regions over time.
    Student: Really snuggly like right up here.
    Chris Baughman: So your boat goes backwards?

    +++ 00:10:07 +++
    Chris Baughman: On the physics side we actually set up a game almost a tournament where 30 students are pirates. The other 30 are merchants and they have very different goals and often different materials and they actually have to build from scratch radio-controlled boats.
    Chris Baughman: See if you could just get a servo [ph?] working with this guy. See if you can do that in the next half hour.
    Student: Okay.
    Student: Our boat when it accelerates it's going to dip back a little.
    Student: Yeah, but.
    Student: It will be like a solid like, I don't know, we might change it.
    Chris Baughman: It all of a sudden get students so motivated that they now have this kind of end point where oh my god, we're going to actually go to do a little versus [ph?] competition and all this and they almost learn everything by accident on their way to that destination.
    Student: So now let's just put them together as best we can.
    Student: We've had those, it's just we couldn't- we didn't figure out where they went until yesterday.

    +++ 00:10:58 +++
    Chris Baughman: The exhibition space will have the dioramas they are making in their humanities class which are a artistic representation of their chosen piracy topic.
    Mike Strong: Ideally to make that just black, yellow, and red, but let's try it.

    +++ 00:11:13 +++
    Mike Strong: There's a baseline for what we expect students to learn. I want you to be able to write a six to eight page research paper. We want you to learn certain content from your physics course. I want you to know certain elements of history and why they're so important, but I also want you to be able to look at this product that you're working on whether it's a boat or some other mechanism and I want you to figure out how to get from point A to B and we're fairly liberal with class time allowing the student to sit there and struggle through something so that they get that deeper understanding, that deeper learning experience.
    Student: Well we did that math right so all of this together--
    Student: Yeah, 116--
    Student: Is yeah, one kilo.
    Student: One thousand one hundred sixty grams.
    Student: Yeah. It's heavy.

    +++ 00:11:51 +++
    Mike Strong: Most important to a project like this is learning to have a sense of pride and ownership in something. They know that at the end of it all they are going to have a product that a lot of people are going to come see and experiencing the work and then the production or the exhibition of that work does something to a student. That sense of I made something really cool and people came and saw it.
    Student: And then we'll just fill in these two parts with like--
    Student: The motor.
    Student: Hot glue or something.

    +++ 00:12:20 +++
    Ben Daley: We want students leaving this school passionate about something and feeling like they have the skills to explore that passion.
    Mike Strong: We have visitors here a lot. They get intimidated by when you look around you see the walls and you see the work that's done and the displays and a lot of times they have this sinking kind of feeling of well this is what you guys do. We can't do that. And I guess my challenge to schools like that is don't try and replicate the work, replicate the principles behind the work.
    #### End of hth_main

School Details

High Tech Middle Media Arts School
2230 Truxtun Road, 2nd Floor
San Diego CA 92106
Population: 312

Data Provided By:



Ben Daley
Chris Baughman
Jeff Robin
Zoe Randall
Mike Strong
Scott Swaaley


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