The Secret Sauce of Replicating a Good Idea

| January 7, 2011 | 3 Comments
  • Email Post

For a good idea to truly have a powerful impact, it needs to be replicable. And that’s what the New Tech Network is doing: teaching schools across the country how to scale the Napa New Tech model.

“When you talk about meaningful change that’s sustainable, you’re talking about a system change,” said Chris Walsh, director of innovation and design at New Tech Network, which is a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks. “What the New Tech system represents is [dismantling] the traditional model, then putting back the components so everything meshes together.”

It’s an arduous process, and one that takes a year’s worth of planning and hard work on everyone’s part, and about half a million dollars to institute. For starters, the three non-negotiables that every New Tech school must have are:

– 1-1 computers (that is, one computer for every student)

– Project-based learning

– Team teaching

And the schools must be flexible in reconfiguring the curriculum. “If you have pacing guides, and you have to cover this topic on this day, it won’t work,” Walsh said.

But if and when schools are prepared to move forward, the process goes something like this:

– New Tech Network coaches visit an interested school and show them the master plan of how a New Tech school is put together and governed.

– New Tech coaches shadow the converting school’s teachers and administrators.

– Educators from the converting school are brought to Napa New Tech to see first-hand how the system work in practice.

– Educators from the converting school go through a five-day training process (last year 400 new teachers were trained for 27 new schools), where they’re introduced to a “blitz of project-based training,” according to Walsh.

– When the school becomes part of the New Tech Network, New Tech coaches visit the school up to 10 times a year, keeping close tabs on the rubrics. They also offer them remote support with Skype, e-mail, and lots of phone calls.

– Each year, all the New Tech educators convene at a national conference to get “re-energized,” Walsh said.

One more interesting point Walsh brings up about teacher training:

“Traditional schools of education don’t graduate students who are ready for this, so a lot of time has to be spent training teachers,” he said.

Related

Explore: ,

  • Email Post
  • Elizabeth

    How about teaching homeschooling networks across the country how to scale the Napa New Tech model?

    • Anonymous

      Great question, Elizabeth. I’ll look into it and write a post about progressive homeschooling networks.

    • Anonymous

      Here’s the response from Paul Curtis, assistant director for school design and implementation at New Tech:

      “While I think many of the principles of teaching and learning in a New Tech school certainly apply to a homeschooling environment, homeschooling is a different “model”. When I say model, I mean that you have a cohesive set of systems, procedures, and solutions that are used to cope with a specific set of parameters and constraints. The constraints and parameters of a school with large classrooms containing 1-2 teaches and 25-45 kids is different from those that govern homeschooling. Some things NTN has in common with homeschooling are a more student centered approach, a desire to make things relevant to students, and much more differentiation to the student’s specific needs.

      In all likelihood, a homeschool parent would probably only be interested in a few aspects of the model that they might like to incorporate. So, if I were giving some advice to anyone who wishes to be more “New Tech” like in a homeschooling situation, I would suggest a few specific things. First, get some training in Project Based Learning so that you can create opportunities for deeper learning around rigorous content. Second, research websites like P21 which outline the skills that are critical in the 21st Century and work to incorporate opportunities for the students to practice them. Third, look into using tools like Google docs and discussion forums to create opportunities to collaborate with other students studying the same thing.”