OK, I was at MacWorld (as faculty in the education strand) and met Steve Wozniac— and didn’t blog. I was at FETC, where I spoke several times and began a meaningful dialogue with David Thornburg. And didn’t blog. I went to the Discovery corporate meeting where CEO David Zaslav was. No blog. So why now?
Clark Magnet High School is why. On Saturday, Feb. 2, as the DEN knows, the DEN gave a virtual conference for more than 950 registered attendees. I was giving one of the first talks and made the presentation from the site of Anderson W. Clark Magnet School in Glendale, CA, part of the Glendale Unified School District. There, Katie Warren and Brett Harvey had done a really magnificent job of finding great food, great presenters, and a great facility. Frank Guttler from the AFI and I were both lucky enough to be in that neighborhood. So I gave my little talk about kid’s modern media minds and how they really have changed and the great rewards awaiting education if they engage that new mind. Afterwards, a man come to me and said “I want to show you this school.” That man was Doug Dall, the principal. No surprise he was there on a Saturday. He, Dr. Lila Bronson, district tech director, and I went on a tour of a school that was doing everything we talked about in the virtual conference–for real. Steel and formica real. It is impossible to do it full justice, but on the tour we passed volunteers from nearby JPL (the rocket science place) working with students on their robotics project. A doctoral candidate was helping kids in an ROP project. There were not only labs, there were model tech projects, new and old, include a flashing room of Intel switches (IT folks know they’re not in that business anymore). Everywhere there was evidence of students being engaged through the real use of technology. There was data from the Pacific shoreline on heavy metal pollution, there were magazine covers, essays, and graphics. There were also sculptures around and a serious nod to the arts. It was a school that did real work with kids, tied to a real and meaningful curriculum. Reading skills, too. Yes, they were a National Blue Ribbon School (When asked how he accomplished that with so much project-based learning, Doug just winked). They warmed my heart with their chromakey studio and their world-class work with heavy metals at the ocean. “You know I’m doing something right when the FBI calls and wants my kids’ harbor data,” Doug said. Two really epiphanal things on the tour, that maybe only experienced teachers can appreciate. First, a printed note on a stack of papers that said “Note: I couldn’t finish the final because (name) made me enter the fish data in Excel – Love (name)”. And, a look in the bathroom (yes, they are key indicators). The school was ten years old and still had the original mirrors in the boys room. Teachers will know that this speaks volumes about students investment in the school. In an area adjacent to Los Angeles Unified, where my kids went, where the drop out rate is around 50%, Doug knew the one kid in ten years who didn’t complete the program at Clark. They are a Magnet, yes. ROP and AP tests are both live there. More than twenty home languages. Career building co-exists with Health. They are Title I, but have kids on the way to Cal Tech. The same principal for ten years, which tells you something. And a Saturday where the virtual met the real. Worth a blog, don’t you think?