Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Exploring Photography Apps: A Few Examples

In this post I want to highlight a few photography apps that I have been playing with:
  • Wordfoto App
  • 100Cameras App
  • Hipstamatic App
  • uSketch App
  • PhotoTropedelic Ap
  • CameraBag App
  • Lo-Mod App
Most of the images I altered were ones that I originally made using a Nikon camera (D80 and D300).  I then altered the images using apps.  The only exception are images tagged Hipstamtic App.  These images were taken using an iPhone and the Hipstamatic App.  This app changes the iPhone into a plastic camera.

I would recommend all of these apps.

"Interior"(2011). Taken with iPhone using the Hipstamtic App.

"Kara" (2011). Altered using the Lo-Mob App.

"Lane" (2011).  Altered using the Lo-Mob App.

"In the Moment" (2010). Altered using Lo-Mob App.

"Finding Eden" (2011).  Altered using Lo-Mob App.

"Homeless in New York" (2009). Altered using uSketch App
"The Proposal" (2010). Altered using 100Cameras App.

"The Proposal" (2010). Altered using PhotoTropedelic App.

"The Constancy of Waves" (2010). Altered using 100Cameras App.

"Mark" (2011). Altered using Lo-Mob App.

At the Beach (2009). Altered using CameraBag App.

Harry Teaching (2010).  Image altered with WordFoto App

Reservoir II (2011). Taken with iPhone using the Hipstamtic App.

This is an animoto film I made using the images made during the last few days.

50 People, 1 Question

This video was created by Brian Vagnini a teacher at Morristown High School in NJ and Kevin Montes, an MHS student, who were inspired by the numerous other '50 People, 1 Question' videos available on the web. Over the course of four days, they interviewed 50 people at Morristown High School and asked, "When you are having a bad day, what is something that makes you smile?"

Brian and Kevin dedicated the video to their friend Max who was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, his senior year.  They write: "Throughout all of his struggles this year Max has managed to continue smiling and laughing, and put everyone around him at ease while fighting to get himself better."

Brian and Kevin did not allow for response directly on the site where they posted.  But you can comment here and I'll pass it along.

50 People, 1 Question: Morristown from Brian Vagnini on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On Learning Limitations of Self

History (M.A. Reilly, 2011)
So today I was interviewed for a film that is being made about a learning initiative at the high school in the district where I work. As a photographer I was fascinated by the set up Ben and Oscar (the film makers) brought in order to tape the session. I asked a few questions about the technical end of filming and said that I knew that as a photographer, moving image, has become more and more a reality of the work. I kidded them that I really needed to learn how to shoot film and hoped when I got around to it, I could call on them for pointers.

I didn't think much more about this conversation until I was on my way home.  Commuting seems to be a good time for thinking. It occurred to me that shooting a film is risky for me and I recognized the "excuse making" I have offered instead of getting on with the new learning.  I write a lot about uncertainty, risk taking and so it smarts a bit when I have the opportunity to see myself, as tentative and resistant.

When I write about change I rarely (if ever) discuss the associated loss that accompanies change.  Years in analysis certainly showed this to be the case, and had me asking, What occupies the space between knowing x well and doing something related that is new?  I realized as I thought about learning how to film that it wasn't the new learning that was problematic, but more so all of the foibles and errors I now make as a photographer that would come into focus.  Learning something new might reveal the limitations I have as a photographer.

To learn something related to what I love to do now, I would need to reveal the imperfections and challenges I mask to some degree with photographic technique. For example, in many of my images the horizon line can be off, not parallel and I have learned how to fix this so as to not have it mar the composition. Another issue is sight. I wear reading glasses but don't shoot with them and often I will soft focus an image to compensate.  This soft focusing has become a signature of my work.  But how do you straighten a horizon line in a moving image?  How does soft focus work in film?

Learning something new will likely reveal the unresolved problems I have with the art making I love to do.

I wondered how parallel the story I am telling might be for educators who are moving from work they now do (with all the imperfections mostly hidden or covered by technique) to new ways of working which may reveal those imperfections, those hesitancies?  I thought about how I still retain agency in my story as no one is forcing me to make films.  It will be a choice.  What happens when educators are forced to learn something? When some other, more powerful, determines what the learning will be?

Some big questions for me to ponder. Wonder what you think about it, as well.

Want (M.A. Reilly, 2010)

Monday, June 27, 2011


Reservoir II
Today after purchasing an iPhone, I immediately downloaded the Hipstamatic App, for $1.99.  I have shot with a Holga camera (plastic toy camera) for several years, but have lately had a lot of trouble finding a place to process the film correctly.  The Hisptamatic app transforms the iPhone into a plastic camera.  It allows you to interchange different lenses, types of film, and flashes.

I am including in this post, the first images I made on my iPhone using the Hipstamatic App. I recommend this app for all.  It would be ideal for a classroom set of new iPods or iPad2s as well.

The Beginning of Sorrow
Reservoir I

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Understanding Literacies in this Century: A Plea to English Teachers from a Mom

Along with the end of school also comes the requisite "Summer Book Project" that my middle school son unpacked from the bottom of his knapsack the other night, creased a bit. My husband and I consider ourselves fortunate. We have a terrific son who still loves to read, even after years of book reports.  Nonetheless, we're a bit worried given the way some teachers' assignments fail to recognize why people actually read and how literacies continue to change.  Failure to understand both is detrimental to learners.

I was thinking a lot about this when I learned that earlier today my son purchased Jing Pro in order to upload his "How-To" Minecraft films to YouTube.  He learned and continues to learn the ins and outs of playing Minecraft through chats, YouTube videos, and people who leave comments and post work on his Minecraft server.  He began playing Minecraft mid-April of this year. This play has led him to begin to learn Python, a programming language.  Rob and I recognize our son's play (composing in minecraft, making films, commenting on line, engaging in chats, negotiating code) as important literacies.  Unfortunately, his teachers do not.

At school, my son performs averagely (underneath the book report was the report card).  He does his homework, aces and fails tests and quizzes, is a voracious reader, writes a lot at home via the comics he designs and pamphlets he makes-- but he is clearly not an "honor's role" kid.  Neither Rob nor I have any aspirations that one day one of those shiny stickers announcing to the world that your child is on honor roll will ever grace the bumper of our car.

I should be honest here and say that I think all book reports are an odd way to respond to a text and do more to discourage reading than encourage. But nothing prepared me for the "Scavenger Hunt Book Report" that Dev is tasked with doing during the summer.  I get that teachers want children to read during the summer.  I support that desire 100%.   However, the Scavenger Hunt Book Report will only make children miserable and may well lead learners to believe that reading is about finding oddities in a novel.  There is no learning connected with this report that helps readers experience joy, pleasure, interest.

Choice is severely limited.  Students "MUST" select one novel to read from a list of 15. All of the authors are white, save one who is African American. As the mom of an Asian child, this disappoints me.  I have to sign the paper to indicate a book from this list has been read and my son will earn 5 points. I find such things like this insulting.  The directions require students to hunt for prescribed information while reading.  The project is a list of 26 tasks that readers must complete on the furnished paper. "NO partial credit" will be given for anything incomplete. The reader can earn an F (64 points or below), D (65 - 69 points), C (70-79 points), B (80 to 89 points), or A (90 to 100 points) which will influence their English grade next fall.

So what are readers "hunting" to find? I won't outline all of them as they are equally inane but here's a few:
  • Write a sentence from your book that includes a metaphor and the page # where it can be found. (5 points)
  • Find a four-syllable word and the page # where it can be found. (5 points)
  • Find a word that required dropping a silent e before adding the suffix and the page # where it can be found. (5 points)
  • Write two separate sentences from your book that include adjectives and the page # where it can be found. Underline the adjectives in each sentence. (5 points)
  • Write a sentence from your book that includes personification and the page # where it can be found. Underline the word demonstrating personification. For example: The fire crawled its way up the wall to the ceiling. (5 points).
I won't go on.  Frankly none of us even understand the personification example as crawled may be the action, but fire is the subject.  Why would you underline one without the other?

What makes me sad about this, apart from the quality of the assignment, is the larger issue of how out of date the educators are who assigned this work.  There is not one task that requires my son to demonstrate in some manner meaning he has made while reading.  Isn't making meaning a purpose for reading? The very literate life he leads at home via his gaming, reading, discussion (real and virtual), movie making, texting, and drawing is in many ways antithetical to what is valued at school and that's the problem we face. 

Curious as to how you would attend to this assignment as a parent. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On Faith and Science: Learning to Listen

Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk concludes:

It is difficult to undo our own damage and to recall to our presence that which we have asked to leave. It is hard to desecrate a grove and change your mind. We doused the burning bush and cannot rekindle it. We are lighting matches in vain under every green tree. Did the wind used to cry and the hills shout forth praise? Now speech has perished from among the lifeless things of the earth, and living things say very little to very few... And yet it could be that wherever there is motion there is noise, as when a whale breaches and smacks the water, and wherever there is stillness there is the small, still voice, God's speaking from the whirlwind, nature's old song and dance, the show we drove from town... What have we been doing all these centuries but trying to call God back to the mountain, or, failing that, raise a peep out of anything that isn't us? What is the difference between a cathedral and a physics lab? Are they not both saying: Hello?

I often think of observation as a sighted matter--one conditioned by vision, by seeing.  Perhaps it's because I am an artist I want to think, but even as I am offering up such rhetoric, I know it to be untrue.  Much art, like learning, requires listening.

Some days, I forget what it means to listen and even how to still myself long enough so I can listen, can discern the various layers of sound.  My job often requires me to act.  Some days I wonder if any action would suffice, regardless.

Once in Tuscany I learned to walk taking very small steps: heel to toe for an hour.  I walked about a monastery where I was staying in such a manner, making no attempt to talk and made no images, my camera and sketch pad left behind. 

Each step was a breath. 

Each breath was an act of faith.

Nothing was required, beyond heel to toe. Breathe.

So what might we make of Dillard and her words, especially those of us who reside at schools?  Is science our futile human attempt to call God, like a phoenix rising, from all that we have abandoned?  Do we substitute someone's given definition of "improvement" for learning how to be still enough so we might listen for some local truths being uttered by children? By teachers? By staff members? By parents?  Are we so busy saying hello, that we cannot hear?

Tomorrow when I get to work I'm going to take small steps.

Heel to toe.

Heel to toe.


Sunday, June 19, 2011


On Friday while I was out there was an afternoon storm.  I always am awed by late spring storms. What surprises me so, is how the colors alter and change as the storm gathers, intensifies, and then passes on. The aftermath as the cool air meets the warmth produces wonderful mist and fog. Fabulous lightning, but I couldn't capture it:(

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What 9 Kids, 4 Teachers & a Supervisor Taught a District

I knew last night would be important, grand, inspiring--so much so that I had trouble sleeping.  I was awake at about 4:30, anxious, and ready to get on with it.  After a significant amount of work, the culmination of an idea that began nearly 20 months earlier, happened. I would like to say I had great clarity about how Classics Academy actually began, but truth be told I have vague recollections of its start.

At that time I shared an office space in the basement of a high school with two colleagues, both of whom worked as coaches.  I had only begun the new job a few weeks earlier and was busy co-teaching with four different English teachers as I began to a get a handle on some redesign possibilities for the high school.  One of the first things the three of us (Celeste Hammell, John Madden and I) decided to do was to find a round table for our office space and "borrow" four chairs as we had hoped it might be a place teachers gathered to talk--figure things out. What I remember most about the start of the Classics Academy was how Harry Sugar, Cynthia Laudadio, Dawn DeMartino and Mark Gutkowski were gathered round that table planning: heads together, the room full of talk, speculation. Scott in and out making suggestions. I knew then what I still believe now: the surest way to redesign a high school is to invest in and support teachers' thinking.  Nothing more.

So these four teachers along with the humanities supervisor, Scott Klepesch, designed a senior experience based on Ancient Greece and Rome, which was a passion the teachers shared.  The plan was for students to enroll in five courses: AP Latin Vergil, AP English - Classics Academy, AP European History and two new courses: Classical History and Mathematics (a team taught class) and The Symposium, a course about creativity. After fairly significant struggles which included addressing many people's doubts, the Academy opened this September with nine students.  In these days of budget conscious communities, the Board and Superintendent showed the necessary backbone in funding this initiative. Our charge though was to grow the program for the next school year. Classics Academy was one of four curriculum/course initiatives, along with American Studies I, American Studies II, and African American Studies at the high school.  This year about 65 students participated in these courses. Next year more than 350 students are enrolled in the same four offerings,  and teachers have also designed additional courses also based on their passions and interests.

Last night these nine students produced individual works for a public exhibition that was well attended. From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. nine presentations/performances were given, each unique and all in response to a question about how the past informs their individual and societal present.  Kevin Coughlin from Morristown did a great job of reporting about the exhibition here.  Please take a look before reading on. Truly the performances by the students exceeded anything I have seen in 25+ years of education work. Below is an example from the evening in which senior, Gloria Bangiola conducted an 23-member orchestra of her peers. "Reconciliation" is an original composition Gloria composed based on her reading on the Iliad and her desire to situate the dichotomy between human's brutish expressions and our betters angels.

So if the story ended with a great and inspiring night it would be a success, but this story didn't end there. What is most remarkable, and I want to suggest, even critical, is that these nine students, their four teachers, and a supervisor have helped to change the discourse in the district.  I lost count today of the times students, teachers, directors, and even board of education members discussed the importance of passion based learning, made recommendations for curricular changes based on privileging passion and interests, and suggested that all students had a right to the deep learning witnessed the night before. One junior student told me this morning that he was changing his schedule so that he could be in Classics Academy next year.  He said, "I want to be a scientist who is influenced by the Arts."

24 hours.

Really it's not a lot of time and yet the conversation has changed. Perhaps the event allowed us to hear one another, to dream bigger than we might have felt comfortable to do in front of one another at an earlier time.  Perhaps the nine voices who stunned us while showing us their brilliance also allowed us to understand what Michael Doyle wrote about in a recent post, Arne in June.  Michael said:

The blueberries are still mostly green, just blue enough to remind me of Uranus through our scope.

Raspberries and snow peas and basil and purple beans explode in our mouths, in our brains.

Light, light, and more light floods us daily--anything is possible in June, anything. There's enough energy for all of us who survived the past winter, more than enough.

"Enough" is a wonderful word foreign to many of us. If you know "enough," you know "content."

Less than a week ago, a dolphin eyed me, and I eyed it back. Not much to say, even if we could speak the same language. It's June, and there's more than enough to go around.

Yes, anything is possible in June. The challenge of course is to recall that spirit when less bright times arrive (and we know they will arrive), when doubt and fear fill us and our sense of possibility flickers. Then, I will recall these nine kids, their 4 teachers and a supervisor who helped us to remember that our dreams must be bold.  I will remember the tweet sent to me as I wrote this from another teacher at the high school telling me he's rolling up his sleeves. He has caught the passion bug and spent the day testing out ideas with his students.

I want to be there for this teacher, to use every shred of possible power I have to position him and his ideas for success.  That's the job.

That's the revolution.

It's not in canned programs, regardless of how slick  or pretty they're dressed. It's not in having or not having PLCs or PLNs or strategic plans or vision statements. It's not in the common core.

It's in people.

The power of community can change the direction this country is heading. 

Look, I know that way off in the distance there's Arne Duncan. There's fear. There's the impossibility of PARCC and NCLB and governors who just don't get it and plans to evaluate these fine teachers I've written about here with some awful metric (the new sexy word of the day).  I can hear the drone and for the first time in the 2 years since I took this job, I believe we can get it right for ALL kids, not only nine.  They have showed us the way.  One community in NJ will get this right regardless of what the politicos in Trenton and Washington DC do and don't do. 

Really, it all comes down to this: Last night after the performances as I was getting ready to leave, a father of one of the students said softly and simply: This year has changed my daughter's life. Thank you. 

Quite frankly, that's the only measure I'm paying attention to.   

Happy Bloomsday

Some years ago while visiting in Ireland, my family and I made our way to Sandycove Point, Dun Laughaire where I saw these three people.  This is where Joyce's Ullyses opens and where the author spent some time.

Happy Bloomsday!

Ordinary Angels.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An Alternative to High School: Humanities High School

Special thanks to the many people who read, edited, commented on a draft of this that had been posted on Google docs.  Deeply appreciative of your insights and commentary.

I. Introduction

…And the ultimate critical and empirical test of any educational reforms in a semiotic society is not limited to changes in students’ or systems’ statements, discourses and capacity to critique same – but, as it was in Dewey’s time, the capacity to contribute to the building of democratic institutions, civic spaces, public dialogue and indeed, the capacity of such reforms to have material consequences in the distribution of resources of all types.
    - Allan Luke, “Two Takes on the Critical” (from 2002. Education in Semiotic Democracies: Teaching and Learning Beyond the Nation. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.)

There are three concepts that frame the thinking in the development of Humanities High School (HHS): equity, leveraging learning everywhere,and  rhizomatic learning.

1. Equity

In conceptualizing an alternative to traditional forms of secondary schools, Allan Luke’s synopsis of what educational reforms might engender is critical and (in)forms our sensibilities about learning outcomes privileged at Humanities High School.  We want learners to be able “to contribute to the building of democratic institutions, civic spaces, public dialogue.”  Lost in the current rhetoric about schooling as preparation for workers is the more important objective to develop and inspire global citizens who are critical, creative and recognize “the capacity of such reforms to have material consequences in the distribution of resources of all types.” HHS is dedicated to developing learners who are passionate, responsible and proactive in matters related to social and economic equity.

2. Learning Everywhere: Leveraging Social Media and Community

The second consideration that informs decisions about HHS is encompassed in the Academy’s vision statement: Learning Everywhere.  We understand, even appreciate, that learning is not confined (nor has it ever been) to school.  Rather, learning takes place within and beyond the school. To that end,  HHS stretches the understanding of “school” by deliberately leveraging Web 2.0 tools to connect students, teachers, and mentors with one another and with those beyond our formal system. Through social networking services like BuddyPress, Diaspora*Alpha, and media sharing sites like Vimeo or YouTube, social bookmarking services like Diigo, research tools like Zotero, EasyBib, Citeulike, online games such as Minecraft, as well as microblogging services like Twitter, or Tumblr--learners are able and encouraged to access others and resources. Whereas HHS is not a “high tech” school, it does require students and faculty to employ technologies as a learning method. In keeping with the policies of the XXX School District, students may bring to school and use any Internet ready device responsibly.
3. Rhizomatic Schooling: Where Knowledge is Collaborative

The third consideration informing HHS is an understanding of learning based on rhizomes and knowledge making that is collaborative. In contrast to the traditional view of education in which schooling is understood as a function of transference of expert-determined content from teacher to student, HHS will be developed as a rhizomatic community.  A rhizome is the horizontal stem of a plant, usually found underground. From the plant's nodes, it sends out roots and shoots, each of which can be self sustaining.  The rhizome is all about middles. Marcy Driscoll (2004) writes:

The rhizome is a tangle of tubers with no apparent beginning or end. It constantly changes shape, and every point in it appears to be connected with every other point (p. 389).

In conceiving of HHS, the idea of connectivity is central to the design. In defining the rhizome, Deleuze and Guattari (2002) write that it:

has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb 'to be,' but the fabric of the rhizome is conjunction, 'and . . . and . . . and' (pp.24-25).

At HHS, we imagine learners (students, teachers, librarians, and mentors) resembling a sea of "middles,” a continuous forming and reforming of alliances based on need, interest, direction, redirection, assessment, and commitment.  Unlike the design of many traditional high schools, the rhizomatic school is based on joining and rejoining as opposed to a hierarchical structure where the teacher dispenses content often determined by an external "expert" to the student who receives the content. 

The rhizomatic school understands knowing as a generative process and requires a shift in teacher talk from telling to inquiring alongside students; from talking often to listening and conversing.  Such shifts reveal the uncertainty present in dynamic learning and destablalizes the belief in an expert based curriculum.In this manner it is most significant how the rhizomatic school reveals the fallacy of content-driven teaching as the method that better ensures there are no w/holes in students' knowledge.A rhizomatic perspective not only expects "holes" in knowing but understands and appreciates these opportunities for new learning. Knowledge is not situated as a knowable list of objectives.  One concern educators voice about student-centered classrooms, is the worry that students won't learn as much as teachers will not be determining all of the content, nor sharing their insights and knowledge with the class.  They worry that although they might teach students A and B concepts x and y, neither will learn concept z as only student C will have occasion to learn that.

In the rhizomatic school, thinking resembles the tangle of roots and shoots, both broken and whole.  Problem framing and decision-making rest with all learners: teachers, students, mentors, local community and global partners. Again, Driscoll’s description of rhizomatic learning is important. She writes:

Break the rhizome anywhere and the only effect is that new connections will be grown. The rhizome models the unlimited potential for knowledge construction, because it has no fixed points…and no particular organization (p. 389).

It is expected at HHS, that as learners work solo, in pairs, small groups, with the teachers, and mentors--new alliances will be formed and broken leading to the potential of new connections being learned/unlearned/relearned. Further curricular and programmatic decisions at HHS are based on an understanding of knowledge as collaboration (Cormier, 2008).  Dave Cormier (2008) in "Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum,"  clarifies an important shift in what "counts" as knowledge from the prior century to contemporary times. The expert-centered pedagogy where content was defined as a list of knowable objectives is problematized by a sociocultural perspective (Heath, 1983, Gee, 2008) as well as the presence of the Internet. Cormier (2008) writes:

The existing educational model with its expert-centered pedagogical planning and publishing cycle is too static and prescribed to accommodate the kind of fluid, transitory conception of knowledge that is necessary to understand the simplest of Web-based concepts. The ephemeral nature of the Web and the rate at which cutting-edge knowledge about it and on it becomes obsolete disrupts the painstaking process by which knowledge has traditionally been codified. (np)
In contrast to the expert-based curriculum, Cormier writes that the "rhizomatic model of learning, curriculum is not driven by predetermined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process" (np). This understanding of knowledge is ahead of the belief in standards that still is informing national, state, and local curriculum decisions.  We understand this to be a tension worth exploring with students as we are obligated as a public system to adhere to Standards. 

II. Humanities High School

At HHS, learners, teachers, and community-based mentors work collaboratively to provide students with the occasion to compose a cohesive liberal arts education that privileges the arts, humanities, problem solving and problem finding. HHS is committed to preparing students to be global citizens positioned for career and college choices.  

In year one we anticipate enrolling 80 students who previously earned none to 30 high school credits.  From year two on we will annually enroll 80 students, creating a fully functioning high school with about 240 students by year three and about 300 students by year four. We anticipate that students will complete graduation requirements at varied rates and therefore we will determine entry into the gateway experience, internships and capstone project by the number of credits earned.  To be awarded a high school diploma, students will successfully earn 120 credits, including coursework specified by New Jersey Department of Education, and complete a high school project.

1. Design Principles

Five design principles exemplify the core values of HHS:

  1. Academic Excellence: Academic excellence is achieved by leveraging learners’ passions and curiosities in the development of  multi-disciplinary units of study. HHS core curricula are problem-based, relevant, foundational, inspirational, and intentional. The curricula are designed to develop learners’ critical and creative thinking dispositions, embed 21st century multi-literacies, and privilege the arts.

  1. Personalization: Every student is known well by HHS educators. Personalization is achieved through advisory, personal and communal learning plans, shared ownership of curriculum, mentorship, full inclusion, dynamic assessment, problem-based learning, internship, e-portfolios, community based learning, and public exhibitions.
  2. Active and Experiential Learning:  Learning takes place at school and in the larger community. The HHS community empowers learners to compose minds-on and hands-on work that is beautiful and subject to private and public critique. Everyone teaches and everyone learns. Faculty learning is privileged in the design of the school term and day.

  1. Problem Framing: HHS is committed to guiding learners to be “problem finders” who know how to determine problems, frame critical questions, and apply creative and critical thinking to develop additional questions and solutions.  Curricula are framed as compelling questions and negotiated with students, and understood as complicated conversations (Pinar, 2008).

  1. Purposeful Design: Governance is shared among faculty, students, administrator, and central office liaison. Learning at HHS is a combination of school time, virtual time, and community-based. HHS collaborates with civic, arts-based, and community groups.  The physical learning space had been designed with the understanding that learning is embedded in practice, collaborative, must allow for teachers, mentors and peers to be responsive to “just in time” needs, and fosters creativity.

2. Academic Preparation

The core curriculum at HHS is multi-disciplinary, problem-based, relevant, foundational, inspirational, and intentional. It is designed to leverage faculty and students’ interests and passions, develop critical and creative thinking dispositions, embed 21st century multi-literacies, and privilege the arts. Faculty and students work in multi-disciplinary teams to design curricula that are aligned to the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards and based on compelling questions.

Designed to inspire greater levels of academic achievement by linking student interests, passions, and curiosities to educational experience, the HHS curricula are based on posing and answering questions, and finding, framing, and solving problems.  As a result, multiple disciplines are often combined.  For example, incoming students might address the questions: “What does it mean to see? How are seeing and observing similar and different?” through different disciplinary lenses.

By leveraging teachers’ and students’ passions, learners become practiced at critically and creatively thinking about issues that impact society. In traditional high schools, discrete courses, marking period, midterms, and finals are often the method through which students earn credits applicable for graduation. At these schools, course work is tied to a traditional 180-day calendar.  In contrast, HHS students do not take traditional courses tied to seat time or discrete disciplines and are encouraged to work virtually, as well as in person. Utilizing Option 2 (N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)1ii), personalized learning plans are developed with students and their parents/guardians that fulfill the Morris School District graduation requirements while emphasizing students’ interests, emerging as well as established. These experiences can result in: project-based courses, virtual offerings, community-based internships, college courses, and capstone projects.  

At HHS, there are no AP offerings or separate honors track. Courses are suitably rigorous and tailored to students’ zones of proximal development (ZPD). Whereas we anticipate a range of experiences learners will bring to the school, we also anticipate that learners may well need academic support, especially our learners who may be newly arrived to the United States or in need of special services.  No remedial model is used at HHS. Instead, mediated learning experiences, such as dynamic assessment based on Lev Vygotsky’s (1986) concept of ZPD and Reuven Feurstein’s (1980, 2006) theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability are employed. Dynamic assessment embeds intervention within the assessment procedure.

Students are awarded high school credit tied to satisfying the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content standards via a pass/fail evaluation system that includes public exhibition, the development of an e-portfolio, and the capstone project. State assessments are issued at HHS as required. Assessment is ongoing, seamless, and is a shared responsibility between students and their teachers and mentors. Students compose e-portfolios that are reviewed by learners, teachers, and community mentors, and that exemplify mastery of New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards.  Report cards are narrative in nature, coauthored by students and teachers. Student transcripts indicate successful completion of core subjects and credits earned.

3. Governance and Faculty

HHS privileges the arts and humanities. Educators with experience and credentials related to the fine and practical arts, humanities and design/technology compose the majority of faculty positions.  These educators are joined by mathematics and science specialists with deep disciplinary knowledge who are able to situate their studies within a problem framing curriculum. Discrete subjects such as English IV, Biology, Geometry are not offered, as an integrated approach is stressed.

At HHS, teaching is shared among faculty which consists of certificated teachers and administrators.  Every educator teaches. Additionally, community partners also teach, not in place of certificated staff, but in addition to. Governance is shared through a visionary planning board (VPB). The VPB is composed of faculty, students, partners, parents/guardians, and other community stakeholders. Membership on the VPB is determined by election (for teachers and students) and appointment (administrators, community members). 

4. Acceptance Process

Maintaining the racial balance presently found at XXXXX  High School will guide the acceptance process of students into HHS.  Parents/guardians of students interested in attending HHS will indicate their interest via a form the District will provide and a lottery will be used to determine who is admitted. 

III. A Year in the Life: Close Up Look at Learners at HHS

During the time students earn the first 60 high school credits, they work within a Learning Commons concept--a dynamic, collaborative environment, combining individual space, group space, lab space, in-depth research service, with access to a librarian and ESL/bilingual services. Students at HHS are issued an Internet ready device such as Mac Book or iPad3 and work within a wireless environment.  Organized by trimesters, students work in teams, individually, and with teachers and mentors as they explore a common set of initiating questions designed to help them frame and respond to community based problems.

It is expected that most students will complete 30 credits during a school year, although we recognize that students may need more or less time to do so.  A first year then usually consists of students working to successfully complete several projects (usually three) in succession, interspersed with expeditions, community-based mentorship, and reflection.

1. Symposium

The Symposium emphasizes student inquiry, critical thinking and craftsmanship and is taken by all entering students. Students conduct original research and share results in team presentations that are expected to be multimodal.  Learning expeditions—deep investigations of rich academic and civic topics—enrich the multi-disciplinary work students while earning their first 30 credits.  Students maintain an e-portfolio of their achievements in academics, service, fitness and the arts, and present them in formal review. The e-portfolios and public exhibition of work form the core of student assessment.

2. Gateway Experience

After students have earned 30 credits they are able to enroll in the Gateway Experience. As community based learning is privileged at HHS, the gateway experience bridges school and community, affording students the opportunity and responsibility to work for 10 hours a trimester in a community-based enterprise such as a business, non-profit organization, or with a professional group.  The community-based work may be conducted in person, virtually or a hybrid version of the two.

3. Internship

Students are expected to participate in community-based learning through internships. It is expected that students (having earned at least 60 credits) will participate in community-based internships of 4 to 8 hours per week that are related to their studies. Internships are arranged with businesses, nonprofit organizations, and professional groups. Related academic course requirements are often embedded into the Internship experience. Additionally, students may opt for a multi-week internship (up to 3 week period) during their last year at HHS.

4. Capstone Project

After completing 80 credits, students are ready to design and complete a capstone project. Students complete a project (graduation requirement) with an external mentor and are supervised by a core faculty member. These internships may be conducted virtually and will include connecting each student with a community mentor and a sustained internship. Internships may be conducted throughout the world and will not be limited to the United States. Fourth year internships are arranged with each student and may extend the third year Internship or be developed newly. They may be conducted across the calendar year and are not limited to the notion of a “school” year.

5. Exhibition

In spring of each school year, HHS students and faculty are expected to present aspects of their work via public exhibitions.  The exhibitions are a combination of:

  • Maker Faires, featuring innovations
  • Art and Design Shows
  • Performances
  • Research Symposium
  • Film Festival
  • Culinary Arts

Works Cited

Cormier, Dave. 2008.Rhizomatic education: community as curriculum. Innovate 4 (5). Donwloaded from here on 6.10.11.
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, FĂ©lix. 2002. A Thousand Plateaus Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London, UK: Continuum.
Driscoll, Marcy P. 2004. Psychology of learning and instruction, 3rd edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Allyn & Bacon.
Feuerstein, Reuven; Falik, Louis; Rand, Yaakov & Raphael Feuerstein. 2006. Creating and enhancing cognitive modifiability: The Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment program . Jerusalem: ICELP Press.
Feuerstein, Reuven; Rand, Yaakov; Hoffman, M., & R. Miller. 1980. Instrumental Enrichment: An intervention program for cognitive modifiability . Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.
Luke, Allan. 2002. “Two Takes on the Critical.” In Education in semiotic democracies: Teaching and learning beyond the nation. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Pinar, William F. 2008. What is curriculum theory? Taylor & Francis e-Library.
Vygotsky, L.S. 1986. Thought and language. Cambridge. MA: MIT Press.