Sunday, November 6, 2016

Being a Learner During an Election Season

By Mr. Hussey, American Studies (US History) Facilitator 


Macintosh HD:Users:bhussey:Desktop:Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 11.05.30 AM.pngFor a myriad of reasons, the 2016 election has captured the interest and passions of the nation. If one follows the expansive coverage of it on social media, television, or radio, they will soon encounter commentators using a style of combative, polarizing, and absolutist rhetoric that impels readers and listeners to take a stand. For high school learners closely following their first election, this type of rhetoric can be difficult to navigate. Young people have been thrown into this unique political moment, and tasked with not only their understanding of elections and politics, but also the social act of “talking politics.” Learners, however, are resilient, and throughout this election they have found ways to express themselves.

Three New Tech High @ Coppell juniors shared their reflections on what it is like to be a learner during the 2016 election.


Carson Winnecker

This election is arguably the most controversial election in US history. Due to that fact, civilized conversation has proven very hard to come by. People seem to be motivated by emotion rather than logic and reason. I do wish that more people were open about their beliefs, and that they would respect the beliefs of others. Additionally, people seem to be dangerously uninformed or ignorant about both candidates. I believe that the mainstream media and people’s arrogance are to blame, as they are essentially forced to take a side in every issue. With ignorance, it makes it increasingly difficult to have a genuine political discussion. I’m opposed to simply yelling your own political agenda at the other side of the spectrum and expecting them to change to agree with you. I’ve always sought after purposeful discussions on why people feel the way they do.
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During this election, I have not tried to talk about specific politicians with other classmates and facilitators as much I have focused political satire. I feel that most people at NTH@C would be open to a strictly policy discussion. As for the future of politics, this election should exemplify that our political system is structurally frustrating, to say the least. Both candidates have a substantial amount of controversy behind them and have extremely high public disapproval ratings. I honestly don’t know what path is right to take for American politics, but we can’t just sit around and let history repeat itself. We have to change for the better, and we can’t wait much longer than we already have.



Rebecca Carroll


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As a young-adult with a well-developed understanding of my political views, I’ve never had an issue with expressing my thoughts and opinions. However, I’ve found myself surrounded by controversy during this election cycle. Among my peers, my views about this election are considerably unwelcome. Though conversations in the classroom remain fairly civilized, I’ve realized that once we begin to discuss the election on our own time, educational and productive conversation is difficult to have. Though many people strongly believe in individual rights, whenever I exercise my rights to express differing opinions I’m met with backlash. Though I work not to offend others while discussing politics, I will not compromise my beliefs in order to avoid offending others. No one has the right not to be offended. This being said, even as an outspoken individual with a developed understanding of my political beliefs, I still find myself avoiding specific issues for fear of being verbally abused because of my unpopular opinions.


Brianna Lee

It has been somewhat difficult to talk about the election at school. This election is unique in the way that people are extremely partisan, and so trying to talk with a person who is a supporter of the other candidate results in less “talking” and more “arguing.” I admit to being very vocal and stubborn with my beliefs and when I find a person like myself who doesn’t agree with me, it’s like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.

Macintosh HD:Users:bhussey:Desktop:Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 11.04.31 AM.pngIt’s because of this high tension between parties that most students will shut down their peers when they bring up the election. Even mentioning the candidate’s names during class results in at least three students saying “Okay, guys, let’s not talk about this.” I can appreciate this when people want to work, but sometimes it feels like no one cares enough about this historic event that we are living through. No one seems to watch the debates, and when they do, they just complain about having to watch it in the first place because their family made them. The best discussions I’ve had over this topic have been with my current events teacher and history teacher. While they were enlightening discussions, I want to have as deep of conversations with people my own age. I want to know how much my generation knows of different important subjects because some of these subjects will affect us greatly in our future. People don’t seem to understand that this election, and current politics in general, will affect us the most. If we don’t get involved, we won’t have any say in our future, and that can end up really, really bad.
Macintosh HD:Users:bhussey:Desktop:Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 10.56.18 AM.pngI think that the projects we’ve done so far in history and in current events has helped create a possibility where people like me, who love to debate, can have the opportunity to stay informed on both sides of this election. I have gained more understanding for the opposing side and empathy towards their supporters. So, while there isn’t much of a community in the student body in regards to politics, I do feel like my school has made a welcome environment and opportunities for discussions on the election.


Information about the pictures:

Learners worked in groups to design, create, and deliver presentations about the 2016 presidential election including information on the candidates, party system, and electoral college. Each group also used the study of presidential elections from the Gilded Age as a lens to interpret the current election.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Senior vs Facilitator Games: Culture Through Competition

Senior-Facilitator Games at NTH@C

By Luke Armstrong, Emily Petty, and Zane Porter

Texas is known for football and Friday Night Lights. The players and coaches prepare for the weekly battle and the cheerleaders, bands, students, parents, and fans ready themselves to cheer on their team and occasionally talk trash to (and about) the opposing team.
New Tech High @ Coppell has a tradition of encouraging the senior class and the facilitators to field teams for multiple athletic events throughout the year. The senior class is responsible for planning and getting approval for the games. Last Wednesday, the games began with the first of many competitions—football. While the game is seven-on-seven, one-hand touch football, the game is no less intense than tackle football and requires passionate, athletic play. The facilitators got the best of the seniors this year, but that only motivates the seniors to work together to try and beat the facilitators in the basketball game this December.
Facilitators see the games as an opportunity to build culture and camaraderie with the learners, but also see room for the games to grow into something that incorporates more learners and facilitators. Sophomore facilitator and interception extraordinaire, Clay Greenwalt, explains that the games are “something that is unique, something that not many schools do, but it builds camaraderie through sports that we don’t really have at our school.”  He goes on to explain how the games are “a bonding experience that helps bridge the gap between facilitators and learners that we wouldn’t get another way...having memories to look back on and build positive memories to point to.”
One of the facilitator quarterbacks, Brian Hussey, believes that the games “give a lasting memory of high school for the seniors. It emphasizes relationships between the learners and facilitators that allow us to compete together without the hierarchical, facilitator to learner dynamic.” The learners feel empowered when they are able to look back on their relationship with their facilitators as one of learning, growing, and competing without the burden of the traditional learner-to-facilitator separation.

Learner’s Perspective

By Emily Petty

To put it simply, the NTH@C Class of 2017 does things differently. We have always taken the rules given to us and morphed them to fit what we want them to say. The senior-facilitator football game is no exception.
In the past, the game has just been a football game with no other learner roles. This year, however, we were able to incorporate a wider variety of learners by adding different roles like cheerleading. I enjoyed being able to help add this aspect to the game and had fun involving my peers.
As cheerleaders, we were able to create cheers and posters that encouraged the players and made the game more exciting. Despite the expected senior loss, the seniors were able to come together and bond over a shared experience and goal.
The senior-facilitator games are an opportunity for us to grow as a class and to help build our school’s culture. We want to continue a valuable tradition, and hopefully, gain some bragging rights over the facilitators.

Learner’s Perspective

By Luke Armstrong

As head coach, I felt like I took some responsibility for my players. I wanted to make sure that everyone got to play and that no one walked away feeling like they weren’t a part of the team. I could immediately feel the energy from each and every player. We all had a strong desire to win on Wednesday, so I did my best to harness that energy and performance into a fun time with a win.
Though we did not win, I know we enjoyed it and felt like we really left our mark. For most of the process, I had a surreal feeling that it was finally our turn to play the facilitators. We all had a great time getting ready for the game and thinking of things we could do that would be fun for all of us, regardless of if we won the game.

So what are the next steps for the senior-facilitator games?

Emily Petty worked hard to add more seniors to the activities by including cheerleaders, and Rachel Printz and Trent Holland found their place as the play-by-play announcers. During the game, they referenced Mr. Greenwalt’s Membean obsession and Ms. Bence’s Zumba classes (although, she teaches yoga).
When asked about how the games could be improved, Spanish facilitator, Caroline Daniel, said, “It would be nice to have some academic games to go along with the athletic events.” She goes on to say that the senior-facilitator games “are a valuable tradition, and we could guide the seniors to include more learners through a wider variety of activities.” Math facilitator, Anthony Hufford added that “the games are good and valuable,” and he asked “How could we involve those learners who are not athletic? We could include an academic decathlon or some sort of other academic game.”

At New Tech High @ Coppell, we are invested in the process of learning and growing. We understand that part of the learning process is building quality relationships and creating authentic, real-world products. This means that we need to constantly reassess and revise our work in order to keep what is valuable and reconsider what might become better with revision or possibly need removed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Punkin' Chunkin': Learning in the Classroom and Teaching in the Community


The fall season captivates us:  cooler temperatures, falling leaves, shorter days, and flying pumpkins. Well, maybe flying pumpkins aren’t the norm everywhere but on the New Tech High @ Coppell campus, this season elicits the excitement that partners with the physics legacy project Punkin’ Chunkin’.


NTH@C hosts a Fall Festival each year highlighting the launch of pumpkins across the school’s back lawn. Punkin’ Chunkin’ is a project in which the learners choose to create a trebuchet or a catapult that will launch a pumpkin a predetermined distance and land in a 55 gallon bucket. Learners must stay within a specific budget, show mathematical understanding of the angular launch, and actually build the catapult or trebuchet.


At New Tech, learners aren’t told what they have to learn - they are dropped into projects that make them ask for content. In this project, learners request workshops from their facilitator, Mr. Hesse, about mathematics, design, and construction in order to create these pumpkin launchers.


During the planning phase of their designs, they watch videos introducing them to vectors, which leads to a class discussion connecting vectors to mechanics. In projects like these, learning leads to more questions: “To throw the payload as far as possible, how long should the beam be? Where should the pivot point be on the beam? How high off the ground should the pivot be? How heavy should the counterweight be?” This is just a sampling of what you will hear on any given day during punkin’ chunkin’ season.


After the learners have received the information they’ve asked for, they return to designing digital 3-D models of their machines with their catapult-building group members. Once the learners have conceptually constructed their design including a dimensions and parts list, they begin working on the creation of their pumpkin launcher (either a trebuchet or a catapult).


The Fall Festival gives the Coppell community a chance to see the final products in action.  Along with all the gourd-flinging fun, the fall festival also offers plenty of kid-friendly carnival games as well as food and drink for sale.  Admission is free, food and game tickets are a quarter each, and all proceeds will go to support our learner-selected New Tech Gives Back partner organization, Texas Trees Foundation.

We invite you and your family for some NTH@C fun on Thursday, October 27 from 5:00-7:00pm.  It isn’t really fall until you’ve seen some Punkin’ Chunkin’!


By Facilitators: Brock Hesse, Brandy Osterberger, and Kolby Kerr

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Design Your Future: Senior Capstone Projects




Recently, one of our graduates was mentioned in an article about a local company called Gemmy that is bringing innovation to our community. You can see the article at http://www.coppellcitizensadvocate.com/

Or here: 



After reading it, I was reminded that we have learners every year who are able to go off to college or careers with a vast toolbox for success. Senior Capstone Projects hone skills and knowledge while also allowing our learners to make an impact on the world. The professionalism that our learners demonstrate in the process and come to embody is heavily embedded in our system. Read below for thoughts about the benefit of Capstone and an overview of the process. 

A short interview about the benefits of Capstone:

With Malcolm Smith, NTH@C graduate and current Gemmy employee

Q1: Can you think of a project/class that directly helped you with what you are doing at Gemmy?

A1: I don’t think any one class or project can be credited for what I am doing at Gemmy. It was the overall work ethic New Tech taught me. From working in teams to managing my time, the overall ideology of how New Tech teaches has been my greatest take-away from the school.


Q2: How did the Capstone process translate into post high school success?

#2- My capstone was an ambitious, long term project that required me to learn a completely new skill (coding, I made a video game). I had to utilize my graphic design and animations methods I already knew while applying that to the new code methodology I was learning. It wasn’t an easy task, and literally took me over 8 months to do. This taught me to be dedicated to one large project (which is still being worked on today, the game is set to release on Xbox One in early 2017). On top of learning coding, what really sold the deal was my ability to market my game once completed. I had to pitch and prove the quality of the game in order to sell it on Steam. This was through their “Greenlight” program. I later took what I had learned from that experience, and applied it to my pitch to Microsoft to get the game on Xbox One.
I think overall the capstone was a great method to teach me new skills, while also using what I already knew to create one grand product. I apply this to every project I take up both at work and personal. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and great things need time.


What is Capstone?

One of the features of a New Tech High @ Coppell education that makes it unique to other school experiences is that all of our learners are required to participate in a capstone project their senior year. The Senior Capstone Project is an opportunity for learners to showcase the growth that they have experienced at New Tech by designing and completing a project of their very own. Successful completion of this comprehensive project communicates that learners are ready to move on to postsecondary education or a career.  Learners create a project that is unique to them and their passions, interests, or future career choice. The project is meant to show the learner's readiness to move on from high school--a crucial element of this readiness is their ability to manage time, meet benchmarks and work independently.


The project is meant to showcase the learner's ability to apply academic learning in real contexts, therefore projects should have some connection to an academic discipline (e.g. Biology, History, Accounting, Marketing, etc.).  The Research Component will demand that learners go beyond high school level depth in a specific field (or fields) of study.  In completing this component, the learner will prove that they are willing and able to seek out and master new knowledge and thinking beyond course requirements.


Once the learner has completed the Research Component, they are ready to tackle the heart of the Capstone Project--the product itself.  Like projects at NTH@C, we expect learners to create a tangible application of their knowledge and thinking that contributes to a real community.  We want them to ask the questions: What does my area of study look like in the real world?  We want to know if they can move from knowing about something to doing something.
At the completion of the project, learners present their products to business, school and community leaders. Various learners have found their passions and future careers through this process and it is one of the aspects of our learning community that empowers our learners to tackle their future and change their world.

 


Friday, October 7, 2016

Networking Olympics: Creating Family and Building A Positive School Culture

For the last couple of years, New Tech High @ Coppell has held various Wonderful Wednesday events that promote a positive school culture and build a sense of family and shared community. Our campus is split into 20+ teams of learners that are comprised of learners 9-12. The learners choose their own team names, design a t-shirt and develop their own chants/cheers or other methods of group affiliation.

Days like this are important to our school because our school doesn't offer traditional forms of involvement like band, choir, athletics, etc. Our learners are able to participate in those things by busing to the larger high school campus, but it is also important for us to have a shared identity around school events.

Networking Olympics took place on September 21st and as the new principal of the campus, I feel that I really got to see what makes this place home. The day began with an opening ceremony followed by the playing of various athletic (think big kid field day) and intellectual (think digital trivia) games, and concluded with a closing ceremony. Awards were given for overall score and the most spirited.

As the rookie principal, I felt like this was the day that I really became one of the team. Whether it was leading the school in cheering or getting to watch the various competitions, you can't help but feel like you are a part of something greater than just yourself. We are a community of learners and we are going to laugh together, learn together, and push each other to be better every day.

By Steffany Batik, Principal of NTH@C


The Learner's Perspective:

The New Tech Olympics is designed to create a solid foundation of relationships within each networking at the beginning of the school year. It immerses the grade levels and gets our freshmen (we call them rookies) acquainted with the quirky traditions of New Tech.

Speaking from a learner’s perspective there is nothing about this day that isn’t purely thrilling. Starting the opening ceremony with a “hype” video and ending the day with awards means there is always something to look forward to. Throughout the day each group of networks goes to seven different stations and “battles” against three to four other networks. Networking Team Captains put their own twist on a series of classic games; learners love anticipating their old favorite games while at the same time getting to experience something new to keep them on their toes.

Speaking from a planner’s perspective it is at least 6 weeks of rigorous planning that leads up to a day of pure success and fulfillment. I have planned the Olympics for the past three years and am honored that I got to be a part of this exciting tradition. Networking Team Captains are constantly learning and improving the Olympics every year as well as bonding with different learners.

New Tech as a school community is all about bonding, traditions and working together. The Olympics brings that mindset to the rookies, and reminds the rest of us why we choose to learn at New Tech High @ Coppell.

By Bella Platamone, NTH@C Senior













Saturday, September 3, 2016

In Praise of Collaboration

At NTH@C our work focuses on five learner outcomes: agency, collaboration, knowledge and thinking, oral communication, and written communication. The outcome that has most struck me in the last week is that of collaboration. From the moment learners arrive at school in the morning, to the moment they leave, they are challenged to engage in learning through various methods. At the heart of a number of these methods is the use of collaborative learning structures to strengthen the learning experience.


Cornell University explains collaborative learning: 

"Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct. Collaborative activities are most often based on four principles:

  • The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.
  • Interaction and "doing" are of primary importance
  • Working in groups is an important mode of learning.
  • Structured approaches to developing solutions to real-world problems should be incorporated into learning."

For more information on collaborative learning, it can be found here on the Cornell University website. 

What does collaboration look like?

Collaboration can look like a lot of things. It can look like learners working together on a shared document in a digital space. It can look like learners sitting in various formations and interacting continuously or intermittently. It can look like a division of labor that comes together in a culminating presentation or product that each learner has a stake in. In all of these ways and others, collaboration is something that is evident in who we are at New Tech High @ Coppell. The pictures shown here are of the culminating presentation of our senior first week projects. When true collaboration happens, learners aren't just working for themselves but for others and for the collective as a whole.

 


What does collaboration sound like?

Collaboration sounds like a lot of different things given where learners are in a process. Sometimes collaboration sounds like clarification of objectives and making sure everyone in the group understands what their roles are and what the outcome is going to be. Sometimes collaboration sounds like incessant questioning of each other and what they are learning and doing. Sometimes collaboration sounds like a frenzied march to a deadline to make sure everything is done and completed to everyone's satisfaction. Sometimes collaboration sounds like giving feedback and seeking constant improvement. The pictures below show learners at 8:05 in the morning (30 minutes before school starts) refining their presentations that were due that day. Learners were talking, joking, laughing and providing encouragement.




By Steffany Batik, Principal of NTH@C

Friday, August 26, 2016

Empowering Learners with First Week Projects

At New Tech High @ Coppell, the school year begins with a sort of induction period for our learners. During this time, learners are put in grade level groups for first week projects and they also spend time in what will become their networking groups for the year. Networking groups are comprised of students from all grade levels and help to create the unique family atmosphere that exists at NTH@C. This week's blog spotlight is about our first week projects from two perspectives. Next week, we will feature some of our seniors and their community partner projects.


The Facilitator Perspective

by Mr. Kolby Kerr, Senior English Facilitator, NTH@C

Senior year is special—it’s the year when it’s finally all about you.  At NTH@C, learners hear a different message.  During the first three days of school, learners participate in a first week project before diving into their content courses.  It’s a way to re-engage in our project-based process and start the year by making a real impact in the community.
The senior first week project challenges learners to propose partners for our school-wide New Tech Gives Back program.  Every year, New Tech learners raise thousands of dollars and work thousands of service hours to help organizations that are working to transform our community and our world. We have freed child slaves in Ghana, aided local families fleeing from domestic violence, empowered Coppell Special Olympians, built a home for a Dallas family in need, and more.  And every year that partnership starts with a group of passionate seniors.
I’ve watched every group of seniors for the past seven years work through this project. They’ve debated with each other the merits of one nonprofit over another, dug through public tax filings to validate the credibility of organizations, then deliver polished and persuasive presentations that articulate sound arguments, connect with audiences, and cast a vision for the school’s involvement. But more than all this work, I’ve watched as young men and women struggle with the tough questions of this project:  What makes an organization worthy of our investment?  How can our whole school become true partners to effect change?  What kind of legacy do we want to leave on this school?
It’s that last question that makes this project so profound.  They are seniors--they are supposed to be focused on football Fridays and college applications, on prom dresses, tuxedo rentals, and caps and gowns.  But instead, from the first day of school, NTH@C seniors are being challenged to think about others.  
Senior year is special here at NTH@C because learners have the opportunity to shape their legacy. They don’t wait to be told at graduation to go out and change the world—they are doing it now.

The Administrator Perspective

by Ms. Steffany Batik, Principal, NTH@C

I am the principal of a small high school and for the first three days of the school year, I was able to walk around the campus, visit classrooms, and chat with both learners and facilitators. Some of this talk was the usual catching up after a summer and some of this was related directly to the goals of our first week projects. The first week projects are a way to get our rookie learners acclimated to the school and to project based learning, but they are also a way to refine the process for our upperclass learners as well. Through the process, learners get to know various facilitators, classmates, and more about themselves because of the way the lessons have been designed.

It is difficult to put into words the low hum of creativity and energy that exists in my school for the first three days. Instead of a dry rundown of a syllabus, learners are developing skills they will need to be successful during the school year and in life. The work of the first week projects culminates in both the creation of a product and a presentation. Some of the products are designed for use throughout the school year by individual learners and the presentations provide a way for learners to be held accountable for their learning while also making the process an interpersonal construction of collective knowledge.

Here is a list of the first week projects by grade level:
Rookies: "I am New Tech" project focuses on self awareness and self assessment. Learners create a time capsule to be opened senior year and also learn pieces of the New Tech culture and climate.

Sophomores: Time Management project focuses on learners developing a tool kit for personal use and a project to share strategies with other learners about how to organize, calendar, and other executive function skills for success.

Juniors: College and Career Readiness including research about colleges, interest inventories to identify careers, and holding a college/career fair in class.

Seniors: New Tech Gives Back research and presentations are developed by groups of seniors to help our school select a charity organization for the year that we partner with and help raise money for. Seniors are graded on a rubric and the top presentations are then voted on.