Two pieces I wrote were recently published. One – What Works: Collaboration, humility and audacity – sums up the first year at Harvest Collegiate:
Over the past year, I have had the honor, privilege, and daunting task to co-found a new public New York City high school, Harvest Collegiate High School. The proposal for the school was set forth by Kate Burch, then an NYC teacher and now our principal; I joined the team last January and helped move us, along with a team of experienced teachers and a social worker, from an idea that existed on a dozen sheets of paper to a fully functioning school with 126 ninth graders when we opened this past September. As we finished our first year at the end of June, I looked back and realized that without a doubt, this was the best year of my teaching career. By any measurement — student learning, attendance, student and staff morale, excitement from incoming students and families — things went outstandingly well.
As I think about this incredible past year, I think about the infusion in it of both audacity and humility. It’s audacious to start a school, but I think we did it with humility for how much we could do well, for the giants whose shoulders on which we stand, and for our place in the larger political/educational world.
The second piece is in my role as a member of the “Team of Experts” for the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Project 24: From Rocks to PowerPoint: Technology is a Tool. It seeks to remind people that as districts rush to implement new technological platforms, we need to remember that technology is a tool, not an end:
One of the earliest lessons I teach students in my Global History courses is that technology is not something that was newly invented, but rather, it’s anything humans create to help make our lives easier. Language was a good starting place for humans. A lot of progress has been made from there: parchment, ink, pens, paper, the printing press, telegram, computer, iPhone, etc. Thanks to technology, the communication that defines our humanity became more powerful over time.
Another lesson I teach my students is that we’ve also made pretty big advances in the technology of murder. For thousands of years, humans used technology like rocks and sticks to kill people. Humans worked their way up from there as well: slingshot, bow & arrow, sword, rifle, machine gun, nuclear bomb. Over time, we got a lot better at destroying humanity as well.
I think it’s important to keep these two extremes in mind when thinking about building up a technological infrastructure for schools and districts. Technology has the power the amplify our humanity, but it also can deaden it. Technology is the tool, but it’s not an end in itself.