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Deeper Learning; Most Likely To Succeed

“Our “leaders”—on both the left and the right side of the aisle—continue to claim that our schools are failing and in need of reform while, in reality, our education system is obsolete and needs reimagining.” ― Tony WagnerMost Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era

The expression on the 4th grader's face says it all. It's a look I've seen on my own sons' faces, a looks that says, "I have no purpose here. I'm tired of playing the game of school." This is the essence shared in the opening scene of "Most Likely To Succeed", a persuasive film pushing the concept that modern schools should provide opportunities for students to experience deeper, personally relevant, learning. I was eager to catch a screening of this critically acclaimed film, and it did not disappoint in the slightest.



A refreshing, new vision for education is presented by the students and teachers at High Tech High in San Diego, California. Deeper learning is achieved through student inquiry, project-based learning, and presentation to an authentic audience. According to philanthropist, Ted Dintersmith, knowing "stuff" is decreasing in value because information is so readily available. However, deep learning and problem solving will become the currency of this innovation era.



The film explains the U.S. economy is experiencing greater production with fewer laborers. Just as machinery has replaced a good percentage of physical labor, computers are replacing knowledge-based labor. Creativity and innovative problem solving are the skills coveted by successful businesses and institutions. Our current educational format is more than a century old. Horace Mann introduced leading U. S. industrialists to a regimented, compulsory school structure made popular by the Prussian Army. In 1892, a standardized U. S. curriculum was created by the "committee of ten". The economy of the industrial era required a labor force with moderate knowledge, moderate skill, and unwavering compliance with structure.

"What kinds of skills are required in a modern economy? What kinds of people will thrive in a modern world?" - Larry Rosenstock, CEO High Tech High

At High Tech High, there are no bells, no tests, no textbooks, no subject-specific courses, and no report cards. Instructors sign yearly contracts to teach to their passions. HTH students and teachers have complete intellectual freedom. Students practice making decisions, asking deep questions, and effectively communicating and collaborating with their classmates. Despite these innovative shifts, HTH students score 10% higher than the state average on the ACT and post a 98% college admissions rate. 50% of their students are considered low income.

“Our task is to educate their (our students) whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.” - Ken Robinson

Other takeaways from "Most Likely To Succeed"; retention of memorized content is short-lived, standardization of education removes human elements and purpose, modern learners should have opportunities to make something that hasn't previously existed. As educators, we are tasked to prepare students for jobs that don't yet exist. How do we do this with a standardized, teacher-centered, curriculum? What is the most important thing the students learn at High Tech High? They learn about themselves, and they experience joy in learning.

"Most Likely To Succeed" is recommended viewing for all educators, students, and their parents. It will stretch perspective, and ignite conversations about where education is, and where we want education to be with respects to school and learning. Will Richardson adds to this conversation with this challenging narrative from his recent TEDx Talk, "schools are not places for learning.
Is he right? Can this be true?


References & Resources


Innovators' Ideas for School Reform - Chicago Tribune, John Carpenter

Most Likely To Succeed; Schools Should... - Huffington Post, John Thilman

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“Today we speak casually of lifelong learning, but in a few decades, it will likely be so much the norm as hardly to require its own label.” - David Perkins

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Fill in the blank to complete the following phrase;______________________ learning.

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