Larry Rosenstock, winner of the 2019 WISE Prize for Education – created by QF’s global education initiative – continues to contribute to education through his book
“Don’t stop.” That’s the advice Larry Rosenstock – the co-founder of High Tech High – would give to young educators and his former students, and it’s an ethos that he still lives by. He may be retired from High Tech High, the innovative school he helped set up 21 years ago in San Diego, US, but Rosenstock still thinks deeply about education and the possibilities it brings.
That much is clear by his reaction to the news – that he had been nominated for the WISE Prize for Education, an accolade created by Qatar Foundation’s global education think-tank WISE. Asked what he would do with the prize money if he won, he said: “I’d like to share the work of High Tech High students and teachers with the world,” which sparked the idea for a book and its accompanying website.
The book, Changing The Subject: Twenty Years of Projects from High Tech High, was released earlier this year. Co-written by Jean Kluver, an MIT graduate and former Dean at High Tech Elementary Explorer, and Jeff Robin, a former art teacher, an artist and founding faculty member at High Tech High, the book features fifty projects that illustrate the potential of the project-based learning ethos that the school espouses.
Indeed, High Tech High has become something of an inspiration for educators both in the US and around the world who are looking for a better way to educate and inspire young people. Instead of the traditional rote learning beloved of many schools, High Tech High focuses on creative, immersive, project-based learning.
The title of the book, Changing the Subject, refers to a key theme of High Tech High, and one passed from Rosenstock and his co-founder, Rob Riordan to the myriad teachers who worked at the schools – it matters less what students know than what they can do.
“When we learn, really learn, we transform the content, the self, and the social relations of teaching and learning. This is what it means to change the subject,” Rosenstock and Riordan wrote in an email that was passed from teacher to teacher.
If you look at the book, the teachers had a real passion for the projects and had done real work around it
The book is a deep dive into the myriad projects the school has run, featuring a huge range of subjects, remarkable in their complexity and ambition. From a working rocket to treatises on the meaning of incarceration, it showcases not just the ambition that education can entail, but the potential of young people to exceed the expectations we have of them. “It’s amazing,” Larry says, “that children did these projects!”
The book also highlights the work that went into these projects, as well as the work required of project-based learning in general. As Robin says: “If you look at the book, the teachers had a real passion for the projects and had done real work around it. Then they presented this to their students and let their students go off and make it their own. Project-based learning has to come from somewhere, you don’t just sit around and talk about doing a project.”
“Many people falsely assume project-based learning is all about the product”
Yet, the book is as much about the process as the product; something ingrained in project-based learning. “Many people falsely assume project-based learning is all about the product,” Kluver says. “We put a focus on what it is the students are creating more than a test result, but that can be an experience they are creating, or a service they are doing in the community. It’s not just about engineering or rockets or building something – there are many other ways to do a project, and we wanted to show that in the book.”
“That’s the theme for the book – this is what children did!”
As for Rosenstock, he’s very proud of the book and of the work that Jean and Jeff did. “’Don’t stop’ is the theme of this book,” he says. “We are all still learning and thinking and trying to reach something. That’s the theme for the book – this is what children did! Children made that thing! That’s what gets people attention, that’s what makes parents happy, that’s what makes kids want to do more.”
Established in 2011, the WISE Prize for Education creates a platform for innovative solutions that help solve some of the problems the education sector faces around the world.
WISE 2021 will take place in Doha, Qatar, from December 7-9, under the theme Generation Unmute: Reclaiming our Future through Education.