Last year, we teamed up with the Napa Parks and Recreation Department to create Countdown Clocks for the first ever Napa Lighted Art Festival. The Game Design class experimented with the idea of what a clock is and is not and how to incorporate ideas of time in different ways using Illustrator and After Effects. The video below is a sped up version of each clock. They were supposed to be projected on several buildings downtown in between the light shows in 20-minute increments. The finished work never got used and the students were disappointed. But that's not the end of the story.
There were many contributing factors to the failure. This was the first year of the festival and we didn't know what we didn't know, that countdown clocks were not needed that year. We also encountered pretty devastating fires in the Napa Valley and sponsors were not able to recover from the financial loss from lost tourism and pulled out of their sponsorships. Time was not on our side either, as we were working under very short deadlines.
Needless to say, the students and I were devastated when we were informed that their work would not be included in the show. In the short term, the students had made some really cool artwork and learned some great technical skills along the way, so it was not a complete failure, but emotions were running high for quite some time.
After a few months of cool down and finishing off the school year, I had some time to regroup my thinking and decided to reach out to the Parks and Rec department to see if we could try our collaboration again. Yes! They were interested and big changes were already in the works to hire a community liaison for schools in the district, to hire consultants from the UK, Ross Ashton and Karin Monid from XYZ company, and we had a lot more time to plan properly and find new sponsors for the students to have their own building. We decided to give it another go.
I'm so glad we stuck with the project and tried again because the extent of learning and the scope of what we accomplished this year really blows me away, when I think about it.
See the New Tech Lighted Art Project below!
This year the project entailed students creating their own six-minute show by working in 4 teams to create a cohesive, yet varied art exhibit. The work was then projected on a 70 ft wall on the Native Sons Hall during the Napa Lighted Art Festival, January 12-20, 2019. Our show has gotten nothing by praise from audience goers and there is just nothing like seeing student work projected on a building of that magnitude to a live audience of thousands. The stakes were high and the students came through. There were many sleepless nights when I wondered if they were going to make it, but they did and did so in an incredibly professional manner. I am so proud!
A Create-a-thon in the middle of it all!
As a part of the sponsorship agreement with Adobe, we offered to run a day-long school-wide design day, using Adobe Software. The top creators of the Create-a-thon were given the opportunity to have their work included at the end of our Lighted Art Project. If you want to know more about the Create-a-thon specifically, you can find the blog post HERE.
So, my students were tasked with both putting on a major event for 650 students in early January, as well as creating their Light Show art piece. These two tasks took up our entire Fall semester.
Our Step-by-Step process
At the beginning of the semester students interviewed for a variety of jobs on each team, Project Managers, Technical Experts, Designers and Documentarians. They submitted resumes for the job and had to do a presentation of a SWOT analysis of themselves as hirable people.
Ideation phase: Students met in their hired teams and ran through the ideation and prototyping phases. Then pitched their ideas to the entire group with a visual presentation.
They met with Ross Ashton and Karin Monid from London via skype to discuss Knows and Need to Knows. Ross presented some basic concepts they needed to keep in mind when they created their artwork, such as taking into account the scale of the building, the ambient light and technical issues.
Iteration was key in this project as students worked through their prototypes, gave each other feedback and got feedback from their mentors. Through all of the process, students ran the decision making meetings and took leadership roles within the class and within their smaller teams.
Students met in Scrum meetings or "stand-up" meetings at the beginning of every class to see what had been done, what still needed to be done, who would do the tasks and when they would be complete. They used the Agile Project Management protocol to manage time, resources and people.
We live in a little bubble, up in Napa, California. We get caught up in our daily lives of attending classes, doing our projects and getting the work done. But did you know, that in between those six-week progress reports, there are some incredible ways that New Tech Penguins are influencing the world of education and changing the way the world operates? You thought you were just a student a high school that's just a little different, but little do we all know how powerful our work really is. Let me enlighten you!
While attending the Education Innovation summit for HundrED in Helsinki this week, I've had the chance to chat with educators from around the globe, doing incredible work. We've heard keynotes from people doing deep and meaningful work teaching disadvantaged children important life skills, to teenagers who speak at the United Nations and are changing the way we talk about and act on global environmental issues, to project-based schools where students travel the world solving problems as they go. Let's just say that the people in the room are BIG players on the education stage. These are people who are moving and shaking the world for good.
In the midst of the speakers, one representative from HundrED presented the results of the most recent youth survey about what students want to see in the education world. Students from all over the world were invited to weigh in on what issues were most important to them as learners. This survey, is now being used to inform policies moving forward this year on the global stage and has been shared with hundreds of the big players mentioned above. Most of the answers they received came from the U.S. If you look at the graph, about 140 U.S. teens answered the survey out of about 400 students world wide. Guess where about 100 of those responses came from?......New Tech Penguins. That means that a quarter of our student body have contributed their feedback to the very people who have the power to make serious change in the world of education! Do you remember filling out that survey? Thank you if you did and pat yourself on the back, you are now playing on the world stage!
We don't even know the impact we are having!
It strikes me that as staff and students at New Tech, we don't even know the impact we are having on the world! It's time to review some of the really cool things we are doing and revel in the kudos a bit. I share these, not to brag, but to help you wake up to the very important work we do every day, whether you realize it or not.
Kudos on this last year of work!
Besides influencing global education decisions Penguins have accomplished some great things:
1) Students worked directly with software folks at Adobe to develop Photoshop for the iPad and their names will appear in the credits for the software when it is released
2) We tested and helped to develop software we can't even talk about yet, something that will affect students all over the world when it is released.
3) We are in the process of creating a Lighted Art Project which is expected to be seen by 20,000 visitors in January.
4) We have modeled how teens can work with adult mentors, locally and from across the world in meaningful and effective ways. Our latest mentor from London had nothing but glowing things to say about our students.
5) We have started movements that change the way people over-consume in our society. Our work has led to real personal changes in how we ourselves make our consumption choices.
6) One student recently spoke at key education conference, Fusion, about what we do at New Tech with Project Based Learning and Portfolios, in front of hundreds of educators.
7) Three students have attended leadership workshops at Stanford and brought back ways to more effectively do school, creating a task force and activities with tangible next steps.
8) One student last year, was featured on an NPR podcast, allowing our innovative learning process to be heard by hundreds of thousands of listeners.
9) The 9th graders have modeled integrated learning through one inquiry question with many teachers on the team. There is potential to share what is working and not working with educators in all sectors.
10) We have received awards for Best in Show and Best in Category for two student films in the CA Student Media Festival.
11) Many penguins met with world renown filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola to learn about how he sees the arts and film in education.
12) Film club students created a video encouraging people to vote in the mid-term election that got almost two thousand views.
13) Our Blog Portfolio program, as imperfect and young as it is, is influencing people from Vietnam to England to Brazil. We are an international award winner, recognized in a list of top 100 global education innovations.
14) Penguins won Best in Show and 1st Place in the Big Sur Division in the Engineering Arts Alliance Competition in San Francisco.
15) One New Tech student had art shown at Adobe Max where 4,000 creative professionals had the opportunity to view the work.
16) One New Tech student was presented as the Young Man of the Year at the Men Making News 12th annual awards ceremony.
And this was just in the last year. I haven't even mentioned things that have occurred in the last couple of years like talking with Anita Hill about her documentary in the cyber cafe, or having a student serve as an youth member of the Napa Valley school board, or the building of our tiny houses, or the year we won the ultimate frisbee championship, or, or, or.
So how will you view our school? Will you complain about some small detail or see the larger picture? Our learning is truly awesome!
How can I say all that I want to say about these amazing things we've done! It's not about getting a swelled head, but it IS about waking up to who we are and how powerful we can be. I see students who do not take advantage of all the mind-boggling opportunities that are available to New Tech Penguins, who do not value what we have at New Tech, who do not see the possibilities. AND I see students and staff who do realize what players we really are on the world stage and how much influence we can have on the world around us. I want to invite you to be a part of the latter group!
I get so super-excited about the possibilities and see that we can do so much more, dream bigger and take advantage of our unique position as a school and as a learning community. Will you get excited with me too? What we are doing in our little school has consequences beyond our limited viewpoint.
It turns out, that WE are BIG players too! Whether we feel like it or not.
It's time we stepped more into that role, saw ourselves as the global change makers we really are and acknowledge what our little school has done and what it can do in the future. Stay woke out there. You are attending an incredible school. Get everything you can out of being here at New Tech, engage and act as though you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by thinking big, and the world is yours!
Here are some of the slides from today's talk Kendra and I gave about blog portfolios for a master class for Finnish Teachers. Teachers were very eager to hear about what we are doing at New Tech High and there were lots of questions at the end. There is interest in having students from different schools read each other's blogs and comment on each other's work. We are really excited to meet with people on their e-portfolio committee tomorrow morning to continue the dialogue.
We gave a survey to 1/4 of the student body, 107 students and summarized their responses below. We wanted to know how often people blogged, whether they found it valuable, and what would make their blogging more meaningful. The results are shown below.
We are very excited to continue exploring ways to think about blogging as an integration into staff/class routine rather than something extra that needs to be done which we found out, is something the students are asking for! In what different ways can we have students post? Video? Flipgrids? Podcasts? Screenshots? Screencasts? There are ways we can play and explore that can help us understand that blogging can take as little as five minutes time but still accomplish great things.
Tomorrow I and my colleague, Kendra Parsons, will have the privilege of teaching a master class on how to use blog portfolios to have students show what they know, teach other and connect to the greater community. Amongst our preparations for tomorrow's class, as well as our participation in the Hundred.org Summit in the following days, we've clarified a few hopes, issues, and lightbulb moments.
More reflections to come as the week unfolds!
I feel so glad to have gotten the chance to attend the Adobe Max 2018 as an Adobe Education Leader. It felt like an opportunity to bring back a plethora of information to my students. But truthfully, the most impactful things I can share with them are connections to the people who Design for a living. I showed this to my class and they were so excited to see someone from Soul Pancake speaking directly to them. All of a sudden, what we do in the classroom has become more focused and more rooted in the real world. I loved getting shout-outs from these folks! Thank you to everyone who sat next to me or stood in line with me and played along. It means a lot to the students!
Here at New Technology High School, we focus on working with community partners so students can apply their learning in a real-world environment. In planning projects, teachers focus on Authenticity, Adult Connections, Academic Rigor, Active Exploration, Assessment Best Practices, and Applied Learning, The 6 A's.
In my 6th year of teaching, I'm getting bolder about the kinds of projects I am asking my students to do. This year, I threw down the gauntlet, and managed to get sponsorship for a dedicated building for student artwork for the 2nd annual Napa Lighted Art Festival. This means that student art will be projected on a 38 x 70 foot wall of a building during the week of Jan. 12-19 amongst a juried exhibition of over 20 project art projection pieces throughout downtown Napa. They will also be giving a panel discussion talk about their creative process to the community on Jan. 17 right before the evening show starts.
High Stakes = High Engagement
First, let me say how SUPER excited I am to be doing this project in conjunction with Napa Parks and Rec, as well as teaming up with the folks at Adobe to prepare for this event. I've done some really cool projects in the past, everything from designing a real traveling museum exhibit with my Game Design Class to creating an award winning Journalism video for the California Student Media Festival. But I've never attempted something this high profile with this much at stake. The Parks and Rec department expects over 20,000 visitors to the weeklong event, so if we fail, the fail will be huge.
I often meet with my students and wonder out loud, will this be a total disaster? They always say the same thing, "We've got your back, Mrs. Gottfried!" And I believe them. Because whenever someone comes into my class and says, "Can I borrow a few students for an activity in another classroom", all my students shout, "NO! We're busy!" When the end of the period comes, I hear groans around the room. "Can't we just have some more time to work?" Which tells me they are committed and driven to learn. So, yes, I'm worried about failure, but in terms of teaching and learning, we are already hugely succeeding if success is measured by engagement!
But, How to Grade?
For the project, I wanted the WORK to be the focus, not student compliance. So how does assessment come into play? I offered for students to be paid in points (as if they were dollars) and that they would get a paycheck every two weeks. They get $100 (points) for Knowledge and Thinking for the technical work, $100 for Agency, $100 for Collaboration, and $100 points each for Oral and Written Communication. That's $500 for two weeks of work. This averages to $67 an hour since our class meets for less than 4 hours a week, which is really high pay for student work! Last week I had a student ask another student if they were truly earning their $67 per hour or if they were phoning it in.
I meet with each student individually and we do a review based on rubric items chosen by the Product and Project Managers. They negotiate their pay for the two week period based on evidence they bring to the table. They ask for what they feel they deserve. If I would've paid more, I tell them so after they've been paid, and we talk about why and how they undervalued themselves. They learn that next pay period, they will not make the same mistake and will ask for what they are really worth, so they don't miss out on the $$. If they overvalue themselves, we talk about where I disagree with them. I bring evidence to back up my claim and we come to an agreement together about what is fair pay.
This means that instead of the pavlovian cycle of turning in work to get the grade, we are focused more on creating processes that support all the students, so that we ensure success on the final artwork. And grades are negotiated and discussed 1:1 with me, based on observation, team member input and quality of current work.
I also pay them in opportunity. I often have folk contact me when they are looking for an intern, or for a student to do some paid work for them. Guess who I always recommend? And I can recommend them confidently because I've got their resumes in hand, and I've seen their work ethic at play. In the first month of school three out of 22 students had gotten paying gigs or long term jobs with the resumes they created and a recommendation from me.
Is negotiating for pay getting results?
I have to say that it's quite freeing for both me and for the students to not have this constant worry about who, how and when grades will come in and go out. Students get to concentrate on doing meaningful work, without having to deal with the constant disruption of school business. I am feeling as though, some students, who have struggled to find their place and find their stride, have met with their teams and with me and seem to be re-engaged. The team is invested in making sure everyone gets top dollar for their work. Often work is done outside of class when a student is determined to learn a new skill or conquer a new deliverable. In other words, we are rocking and rolling.
Use of Mentors
We meet every two weeks with consultants for the Light Festival, Ross Ashton and partner, Karin Monid, who are based out of London. We are lucky that Karin and Ross are willing to Skype with us when it's late at night in the UK and class is in session here in Napa. Having these regular check-in meetings to get feedback on prototypes, review technical questions, and to talk about sound design has kept the students on their toes and moving forward. I highly recommend enlisting a community partner to do regular check-ins to make sure that large projects do not stagnate between deliverable deadlines.
Stand-up Meetings, Roles and Leaders
At the beginning of the project each student developed resumes and did an interview presentation, a SWOT analysis of who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are and where their opportunities are for learning. I then hired certain students as product managers, project managers, technical leads and designers. Making use of those roles, I often meet in smaller groups with project managers and leaders for status check-ins and to troubleshoot team dynamics. Each team consists of 4-5 students, each one playing a specific role in the process. And ALL students are designers in that they are expected to create new artwork, as well as play the leadership role for which they were hired.
Project Managers are also Scrum Masters for their group and we use the Agile framework for product development. Srum meetings are an excellent way to break larger projects into bite size chunks while maintaining accountability within a group. They make progress visible through the use of a Scrum board and they help me to diagnose when a team might need some extra support from me, as the instructor.
The Real Test: Can They Function Without Me in the Room?
There have been a few days when I could not be in the room to teach them during critical phases of the project. One of those planned absences fell at a time when they needed to make some important decisions about the overall vision of the project. They elected one of their product managers to run the class discussion and another to take notes, so I would know what happened while I was away. The substitute let me know that they were very impressed at the level of work happening in class without having the assigned teacher in the room. Everyone participated in the discussion and they came out having made some clear decisions. I left town that day knowing they could handle things, and they did!
l think that, overall, when we treat students as though they can handle large and risky projects, that they most often rise to the occasion. Teenagers are so hungry for real and meaningful work and a chance to show Agency. I am hoping that this project becomes a yearly occurrence and each new Digital Design Lab class gets the chance to work on such a high level project. And if not this particular project next year, I'll just have to find another amazing partner and another amazing project. Anyone out there want to do something incredible with my Digital Design students? We are up for it! I hope people can come out and see their work in January and come meet the students at their talk on Jan. 17th. More details to come!
Sneak Peak Prototypes
Welcome to my Lantern building project here at New Tech High. I'm excited to share some information about how I built my 9th grade lantern prototype here on my blog post. We are creating lanterns for the Napa Lighted Art Festival.
Below you will see photos of my geometry rationales that prove to you that the shapes I am using are Regular Polygons.
How to Create Regular Polygons
1) First get a compass and a straight edge
2) Draw 2 circles
3) Label on X and the other Y
Rationale or Proof
Here's the explanation to why the regular polygon appears the way it does. For example, I made two circles with equal radii so each side of the triangle is equal to the radius.
We often make the mistake, as educators, of going to community and industry partners with our hands out. We ask, "What can industry do for my students? How can industry help" It wasn't until I was talking with a team member at an Adobe field trip that I realized that I tend to swap that request around.
My first question, whenever I meet anyone in industry is, "How can my students help you with your business?"
It was in the asking of that question, with a team of people from Adobe who happened to be touring my school, that I began what has been a powerful relationship with their company. It turns out that Adobe often wants the feedback of students on product that is in development. They want students who can speak up, are not afraid to offer clear opinions, that are interested in making beautiful images with their products, that understand the basics of project management, and who are generally mature enough to work with a team of adults to communicate clearly what they want and don't want.
To that end, a group of my students were invited to come visit Adobe Headquarters this week, to work with a team of researchers and developers on product. Students got to show the team how they use the product, discuss what they like and don't like, review marketing preferences, and answer a whole host of questions. To some students, it would be intimidating to meet with 15 adults and to be put on the hot seat, but because we concentrate on building collaboration, and oral and written communication skills at New Tech High, these students were up to the task.
After having a great working session with the crew and speaking with their research folks, we has an incredibly powerful career panel, where a small team of people with varied job titles at Adobe, spoke to the students about their path from high school to Adobe. They talked about their trials and tribulations, as well as where they chose to pivot to pursue their interests instead of staying on whatever path they thought they were supposed to pursue. The general message was one of supporting students to think about following their bliss, considering design your own majors or double majoring in seemingly disparate subjects, or choosing minors that support their creative passions.
The entire trips was eye opening for all the students. They were super grateful to have the time and the special connections they made with folks at Adobe. Surprisingly, the Adobe folks were also super grateful to have the students there. I think that in making industry partners, the relationship has to go both ways. We can not just take, take, take, but also offer added value to our partners, such that we help companies in some way, by offering insight into a demographic they don't normally hear from, or by creating great product that can help companies in their endeavors.
What an incredible day. I know it has helped my students gain confidence, gain more clarity about what their next steps are in college and beyond, and it's opened doors for them that would not normally be open. I hope all teachers are on the lookout for ways to partner with industry. Just remember, ask not what your industry partner can do for you, but what you can do for your industry partner!
Externships can give you some of the biggest payoffs in terms of time spent. I KNOW teachers need their vacations to regroup and recharge. However, if you invest a few days or a week of your time during winter or spring break, it can really change the way you bring your game to the classroom and change the support that you get from outside businesses. In the long term, I'll work during a break any time to get that kind of support from outside business! I'm a better teacher and the opportunities it has opened for my students are amazing. Read on to find out why it's worth it....
A crew from Adobe walked through my classroom last year, wanting to see what we were up to in Digital Media. I had just read an article about externships, where teachers work at a business for a period of time to get outside of the classroom bubble, and happened to ask one of the visitors if Adobe ever did anything like externships. The response was, "Not that I know of, but if you do some research and get back to me on it, we can keep exploring that idea."
Fast forward a year and I've had the privilege of externing twice as Adobe, once during Spring Break for a week and then for another week and half this summer. Needless to say, it was a huge success and one which I can't speak highly enough. Bottom line, both teachers and students can benefit greatly from teacher externships.
So what was it all about and why should you explore your own externship possibilities?
Externships are defined as a set amount of time that teachers work at a company, usually a few days to a week or two. On-site tasks for teachers can include attending meetings, shadowing a variety of jobs, doing research, providing support that college-aged interns might provide, and just being a useful employee. Externships can be paid or unpaid, depending upon the business, the district or the pre-created externship program. I was lucky enough to get some grant money as a stipend for my first externship and was then invited back by Adobe on their dime for a second externship a few months later.
For both externships, I was embedded on a product development team, worked on providing valuable insights into the education community, what teachers and students need, gave feedback on product iteration, had conferences with heads of various product teams to talk about what is most important for students, met with people whose focus was on forward-thinking educators, met with designers, coders, marketing people and more.
I observed what types of physical environments in the workplace support creativity, problem solving and productivity, learned about how teams collaborate in the real world, learned what tools people use to communicate remotely and in person, and was steeped in project management approaches in the professional world.
And because I was embedded at a company that uses the very skills that I teach my digital design classroom, I got a chance to connect and geek out over digital design concepts, such as font choices, color choices, use of hierarchy, and design thinking as it is applied to product creation. I saw, in action, how to conduct user interviews, user testing sessions, conduct my own research and create user profiles and more. I helped my team better understand the very students, teachers, creative professionals and business folks they are developing product for. It was beneficial for both me and for Adobe. I got to see how the sausage is made and they got unique insights into what really happens in a digital media classroom.
How my experience changed what and how I teach
The amazing things is that I have now brought best practices back to my students in all areas of learning, including how to best collaborate on projects, how to use more elevated and practical knowledge of design principles and how to best manage workflow. I can speak with confidence to my students about why certain things that I teach are important and where they come into play in the day to day operations of a tech company. I have a much clearer idea of what sorts of jobs are available to them once they leave school and how to direct them toward those opportunities.
Once you are in the door, the possibilities are endless
There were all sorts of outcomes that were completely unexpected that came out of being in the Adobe office.
NONE OF THE ABOVE THINGS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT PHYSICALLY BEING AT THE COMPANY.
If you want to make things happen for your school and open up opportunities for your students, you have to show up and get some face time with the business people who can make that happen.
The truth is, businesses are wanting to help us in the classroom and with our students. But in order to forge those relationships, you have to go where the businesses are, and not the other way around.
That means getting out of your classroom, pushing yourself to make some calls to businesses that align with what you are doing in your classroom and asking for connection and help.
And even without all these amazing connections that I've made, if I did nothing else, I've learned about how business operates, how adults use the skills I teach every day, and how students can plug into that adult world, once they enter the workforce. That, in and of itself, makes the externship experience worth while.
(The secret truth about externships)
I was worried that I would be exhausted after giving up my vacation time to work outside of the classroom. It turns out it was surprisingly energizing. It's not like working at school with students. I worked with adults, had real hour long lunch breaks, had time to think and complete my thoughts without interruption, and generally marveled at how adults outside of the education field work every day. It's all very civilized.
If you have any questions about externships, just comment below and I'll be happy to answer them!
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!