High Tech High: Technology in the Classroom

What do you call a school that uses no textbooks, no examinations and non-traditional syllabus? School of the Future? Not quite.


High Tech High is very much a school of the present using methods that are on par with the needs of 21st century children.


The problem with traditional schooling is that it is outdated. Students are bored and they cannot see a connection between what they learn in school to what they want to do in life. So how to get students to enjoy learning? How do we get them inspired?


The idea behind using technology in schools began with the intention of addressing this problem. Our world is moving at the speed of science where new discoveries and new technologies set the trends and standards of everyday life. There is a rising need to not just integrate technology with traditional teaching methods but to use it to create new ones. High Tech High is a good example of such a schooling method. The school uses “the pedagogy of technology i.e. group-taught, team-performed and experiential-applied, and integrates that to the content of academia i.e. numeracy and literacy.”


Unlike traditional schools using technology, High Tech high does not use technology to teach students, but allows students to learn through technology. Teachers guide students in learning various subjects through project work, building solutions (this is where the engineering side comes in) that will ultimately solve an existing problem within the community. So far the school has a good success rate where 99.5% students have gone on to enrol into college.


According, to High Tech High’s CEO Larry Rosenstock there is an integral lesson to be learnt from technology: why is it that a child, regardless of its socio-economic background, when left alone with technology, whether it is a tablet or video game, will find a way to operate the gadget, and go back to it time and time again despite the various failures and frustrations that might first occur in operating the device? There is no denying that technology has an addictive quality to it. It integrates interactive, practical, hands on learning and provides a basis for peer to peer bonding (have you seen that new app? Did you hear about that new game?) And if the success of High Tech High is anything to go by, perhaps there is a lesson in incorporating technology with education.


If you want to share how you use tech in your classroom or know how you could integrate it your lessons, you can contact Lucy Jackson at ljackson@twig-world.com

NGSS in Film: How Science and Video work together

Changes are afoot in the US science curriculum. With new NGSS guidelines on the horizon, many teachers are concerned about how these developments will affect them and how it will change their classroom. Over the next few blog posts we will be exploring these challenges further, but today we are looking into how films and videos can help this transition to an NGSS classroom.


What is NGSS?

The Next Generation Science Standards is a new learning framework for science in the U.S. that is “designed to help realize a vision for education in the sciences and engineering in which students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in scientific and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of the core ideas in these fields.”


How can video learning support the NGSS concepts?

NGSS involves making teaching and learning science more approachable, efficient and engaging – resonating some of Twig World’s own philosophies. At the core of the Next Generation Science Standards is a focus on the student as the constructor of meaning through immersion in the science and engineering practices.

Here’s how teachers can use video to achieve this using the 5 E’s framework:



Introduce a concept through a video to mentally engage students. After the video, you can open up the discussion to assess what students have learned from watching the educational film.


The video not only captures student interest but also provides an opportunity for them to express what they know about the concept or skill being developed, and helps them to make connections between what they know and the new ideas.



Students carry out hands-on activities in which they can explore the concept or skill. They grapple with the problem or phenomenon and describe it in their own words. This phase allows students to acquire a common set of experiences that they can use to help each other make sense of the new concept or skill.


Where space or resources are an issue, teachers can use video to showcase an activity or experiment and open up a discussion.



The significance of this phase is that experience follows explanation. After students have explored a concept, the teacher explains the phenomena using the terms the students have developed. This is tricky because, at this point, the teacher must also steer the students towards the appropriate scientific language.


Here, the teacher can start a discussion making a list of all the terms the students have come up with to explain the phenomena. A complementary or glossary film can be played on the same concept at this point. You can now use the terms the film uses and substitute them with some of the key terms the students used to describe the phenomena, leaving the rest of the sentence the same. This helps students learn a scientific language which encourages further investigations and inquiry.



Think vertical! NGSS stresses on vertical alignment among the grades which means that students don’t end up learning the same topic twice. Instead, students are encouraged to expand their existing knowledge to new information learnt in different subjects and apply this to real-world situations.


Videos that are mapped to topics allow teachers to find relevant and complementary films quickly and efficiently, allowing students to get a succinct, focussed overview of each topic, from a real world viewpoint. For example, a physics lesson on sound waves can be easily linked to a biology lesson on adaptive divergence in certain species within a matter of minutes using video.



This is where teachers get a chance to evaluate student progress. But it’s not just teachers assessing the student’s progress but also the students assessing their own understanding of the topic at hand. Most videos come with activities like quizzes and games which is an exciting and interactive way of evaluating student knowledge.


Video adds the sixth E to the teaching framework, which is Enjoyment. The foundation of teaching any subject, especially science is to make it fun and get students to enjoy what they are learning. It is important to ignite their curiosity to seek out knowledge and ask the right questions. And it isn’t just enjoyment for the students but also teachers. Videos dramatically cuts down on lesson preparation time and helps lower teaching workload overall, allowing teachers to enjoy actually teaching their students.


As the saying goes: teach a student how to learn and they will learn well for a day. Get them to enjoy what they learn and they will learn for life.