Since 2011, I've been working at THINK Global School, the world's first and only traveling high school.
It's a spectacular school built on a powerful concept that travel can teach lessons of global importance and activate students to affect meaningful change. Together with students, we travel to three different countries every year to learn about the world.
I've been fortunate to be a part of the school since its second year in operation. Since then, I've been working with the teachers, students, and staff to help realize the potential of our communication.
A collection of TGS student work
Over time, it became clear that TGS needed support for its students and staff in the creation of content and the utilization of technology. The school attempts to do innovative things with their three devices and learning platform of THINK Spot. In Berlin, out of the core values discussion, academic need, and a travel experience bottleneck, the newMedia Lab was born.
What is the newMedia Lab?
While THINK Global School is unique in its nomadic, tech-heavy nature, many schools have similar variables or realities that could call for support with their own newMedia Labs. This Lab is open to the public on THINK Spot, but I have provided here the breakdown of the course with commentary to aid not only educators and learners but those in the new media industry looking for self-development opportunities.
The core purpose of the newMedia Lab is to support a learner in their acquisition of skills for connected learning and the sharing of their world experiences.
The most basic objectives for a learner in this ungraded course are:
- to develop skills for effective communication with new media.
- to become an efficient user of tech who exhibits 21st century skills.
Students should have the ability to riddle off those two objectives at any time, as they should be constant, explicit, and clear results of the daily sessions for skill development.
The curriculum follows a spiral model, which students circle twice in a year. The content follows a pattern in order to facilitate the students' learning, and these five flexible areas of new communication are written, audio, still visual, video, and social.
Units represent skills and proficiencies that can later be added to a student's resume or portfolio. When relevant, we use a problem-based approach to engage with a type of media and build skills.
How are students separated?
Every student of THINK Global School attends the newMedia Lab every week, and these 44 students are separated by skill level and drive.
- New students develop their technical foundation in Level 1.
- Returning students who apply strong effort perfect their skills in Level 2.
- Students who are self-directed join Level 3, where they develop their own curriculum.
- Finally, all seniors are in Transition Level to build skills for the world beyond TGS.
Each level has goals to situate students for success in the digital world, more immediately with the creation of digital portfolios that they own and carry on past their high school career.
What's a Lab session like?
Lab sessions provide learners with a weekly forum to discuss concepts surrounding technology and communication and a laboratory environment to develop skills in both to help successfully reach the term goal.
The Lab atmosphere is collaborative, and the teaching and learning responsibilities are shared amongst all present. At times, everyone is poised at their laptops, and other times groups might be working "in the field" with cameras or iPhones to gather raw material.
I keep my instruction time short, so as to increase work time for the students.
How do they get grades?
My expectations of each learner are that they:
- Abide by the Lab rule (be IRL) to foster a collaborative environment
- Approach every task with best effort and aim for personal high standards
- Actively engage in all Lab tasks
I have small classes at THINK Global School and a unique environment that allows me to get to know each student and their strengths pretty well. Because I am able to build that personal knowledge, it's easier to differentiate tasks with the hope that they are intrinsically motivated to create.
It's an ungraded course; however, students will jointly evaluate their applied effort (on an A-D scale) with me at the following progress checks:
- October - Learning Habits assessed
- December - Term 1 effort assessed
- March - Term 2 effort assessed
- June - Term 3 effort assessed
At these progress checks, if a student is achieving "A" effort marks and shows proficiency in all media types, they are eligible to rise in the newMedia ninja ranks.
Here's a video discussion between myself and Matthew Straub who was curious to know more about how to help teenagers document their experiences and tell stories digitally.