Soft Skills for a Strong Future – High Tech High’s New Way of Teaching

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Greg Whiteley’s documentary Most Likely to Succeed, tells the story of High Tech High, a charter school in San Diego, California that has completely re-imagined high school education. The focus of High Tech High, is to teach students the skills they will need for jobs in the 21st century. The documentary stresses the facts that the standard educational system we use today was developed in 1824, and for the most part, has not changed (0:14). With the increase in technological advancements, many of the skills being taught in schools today will soon be taken over by computers.

The whole concept of high tech high is a complete revision of the educational system we all know today. There are no bells, no time slots, combined subjects, and teachers teaching whatever they want, however they want. High Tech High believes that with the immense technological advancement in society today, the standard curriculum is not going to give the students the foundation they need to find jobs in today’s society. They have developed a system of teaching students “soft skills” such as leadership, and collaborative working, by having students work on projects that they are interested in. The teachers and administrators believe that if students are engaging in work that matters to them, they are more likely to remember, retain, and use it later on in life.  

An important scene in the documentary that truly encompasses what High Tech High is all about, is the proposal for the year long project the students will be working on. The project combines their Humanities, and physics/engineering class. For the project the students will be learning about ancient civilizations that rise and fall, creating their own hypothesis as to why this occurs, and then create a physical manifestation of it. Using gears and linkages, the students are going to think of a way to represent their theories in a physical matter and then combine all of their projects into one exhibitable class project (0:26). Throughout the year these classes will be learning about civilizations and gears, but also about teamwork, cooperation, time management, and team building. The scene depicted below, shows the professor (very casually dressed) sitting, collaborating with his students, in a very casual way. All the students are sitting in groups, working together to create this idea. They are not in rows, they are not all facing the teacher, but instead facing each other, listening and working together to create a collaborative plan.   

Teachers working collaboratively with students at High Tech High (Most Likely To Succeed 0:26).

As ground breaking as this school sounds, it it hard to tell if it actually works. High Tech High has not been around long enough to know if this method of teaching and learning truly does help students in the workforce. Although High Tech High seniors score 10% above state average on their exit exam, and they have a 98% college acceptance rate (1:20), there still is not enough information to prove that these students are better equipped for today’s jobs. As a parent, it is scary to take the risk, they are betting on their child’s education, and that is not something many parents take lightly. Only time will tell how well this new form of teaching stands against the 126 year old curriculum we still use today.



Whiteley, Greg (2015): Most Likely to Succeed. Video documentary.