Novemeber 2010, Volume VII, Number 14
Feature of the Month
Innovation and Integration at Manor New Technology High School
By Steven Zipkes and Les Simpson
Manor New Technology High School in Manor, Texas, is a 100% project-based learning campus that uses the seamless integration of technology in the classrooms and throughout the campus to enhance the engagement of students. But technology does not drive the instruction: It augments the pedagogical approach. Form follows function, with teachers and students finding ways to imbed technology in their work naturally, instead of designing or working through a project that forces the use of technology artificially. Using technology is just another way to meet the school’s learning outcomes for collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, and course content, and it has not only generated academic success but also enriched the school’s culture.
Because of this integrated use of technology and project-based learning, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently urged his audience to “consider Manor New Tech High School in Manor, Texas, as a model for reaching underserved youth,” and he added that “within its first year, 2008, Manor students outperformed the state average by 16 percent in science.”
Seamlessly integrating technology into daily academic life (as suggested by the Curriculum Matrix provided in our new member packet from the Successful Practices Network) has led to some amazingly innovative work, from the school’s own YouTube channel to deeply integrated cross-curricular projects like “Gilgamesh: Monster Mash,” which involved English language arts, engineering, world history, and digital media literacy.
An example of one such innovation this academic year is the implementation of “video reflection stations” in several classrooms. Pioneered by Les Simpson and the students in his digital media literacy classes (aka the “Digital Dojo”), a reflection station can best be thought of as part reality television and part academic assessment. The combination is offering a new, fast, and insightful way for students to demonstrate their knowledge and express their thoughts in a creative, technology-literate style.
Although a very powerful tool, a reflection station is actually easy to put into practice. It just requires a video camera and basic editing software (in Manor classrooms, the students typically use iMovie and the built-in iSight cameras on their iMacs and MacBooks). Filming with the camera, the students respond to a specific prompt, sometimes determined by the teacher, sometimes by the students themselves. Typical individual reflections last from 30 seconds to more than a minute. Once these reflections are collected, a student video editor (or team of video editors) goes through the footage and extracts the best quotes and sound bites, putting them together in a final video that summarizes the students’ thoughts on the topic at hand.
For example, in response to NBC’s recent “Education Nation” week, Les Simpson’s students created a “reflection wall” on their class website where they revealed what Manor means to them. These videos can now be viewed in a special section in the Digital Dojo website (and a special iChat mobile reflection by the authors of this article can be found here).
Adapting various technologies for use in the classroom has proven to be the best way to enhance the 21st century skill sets that students (and teachers) need to be successful. Each innovation and implementation leads to another, allowing Manor to grow and evolve to meet the demands of its clientele and the community it serves.