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July 30, 2012 / glencoyote

LASGS Programmatic Principles

Overview of Pathway

The Los Angeles School of Global Studies established its Linked Learning Career Pathway at the beginning of the current academic year (2011-12). Our pathway – Design, Media & Social Change – emerged out of the digital media sequence established the year before as a first conceptualization of a career based pathway. Both iterations developed out of our school’s prior commitments to project based learning and 21st century skills, and reflect our students’ strong interests in communication, graphic arts, and community involvement.

Since Global Studies opened its doors in September 2006 as a New Technology Network high school, our focus has been on student engagement. Project based learning supports increased engagement through projects that connect to authentic student interests and real world problems. In addition, PBL often incorporates adult connections beyond traditional school relationships. The variety of adult connections – and the multiple forms of expertise they model – offers students fresh ways to experience the learning process.

Global Studies has supported the development of 21st century skills through both an emphasis on the ‘soft’ skills of collaboration and communication and through the use of our one-to-one student/computer ratio that has encouraged the use of digital tools for research and assessment.

We saw the establishment of a career pathway as both an opportunity to provide a focus for our community and business partnerships and a challenge to create a unifying curricular theme that could support student success toward college and career. While the media and social change elements were natural outgrowths of our students’ existing interests, the emphasis on design crystallized as a result of staff exploration of methods to stimulate creativity and encourage experimentation and learning by doing. The design-thinking framework (empathize/ideate/prototype/test) provided us with a fresh take on the PBL model – one that challenges our students to take increasing initiative in a more self-directed learning environment.

As a small school committed to providing a college and career preparatory program for all our students it was an easy decision to extend the pathway curriculum to embrace our entire school. As an institutional embodiment of the Design, Media and Social Change pathway, we migrated our school newspaper, The Globe, to a digital format at the beginning of the school year. It is our intention that The Globe will grow into the digital hub of our learning community. To advance and deepen the school wide understanding of the pathway, this year our grade level teams have piloted integrated project based learning units as anchor projects at each grade level.

As we move forward we will continue to develop the integration of the pathway curriculum with our core academic courses. We are also seeking closer collaboration with business and community partners to ensure that our pathway is providing students with continuing real world experiences and the necessary range of marketable skills. Lastly, our advisory board will focus on funding the technology upgrades we need to keep our program current with industry practice.

The Pathway Theme

The pathway theme of Design, Media, and Social Change is intended to be broad enough to foster the personal interests of every student. The unifying core is the focus on effective communication – digital, written, oral, visual – to shape the student’s world. The implementation of design thinking supports the development of creativity and channels that creative energy through an iterative – that is, mistake filled – creative, collaborative process of learning through solving problems.

Media, of course, adds the challenge of self-expression for an audience. Digital, written, oral, visual communication that shares news, knowledge, culture, opinion, humor, reflection, and story with communities at various scales encourages young people to add their voices to the conversation.  And social change introduces power and a framework for analyzing the causes of the problems that need to be tackled, the reasons why media companies communicate the way they do, and the difference between media that dominates and media that liberates. The focus on social change turns school away from an emphasis on the transmission of knowledge from the older generation to the newer, and toward education as a process for injecting the energy and perspective of the rising generation into the public space, school as an apprenticeship for citizenship.

The evolving pathway curriculum at Global Studies reflects this philosophy by beginning with an introduction to the digital world for 9th graders built around Common Sense Media’s curriculum for digital literacy and citizenship. 10th grade students receive a more technical introduction to digital design fundamentals including graphic design principles and digital imaging. 11th grade studies advertising and persuasive media from a critical media perspective. Finally, 12th grade focuses on web design. This sequence reflects student interest in digital communication and graphic design and is also guided by the CTE course sequence in Arts, Media and Entertainment.

We believe that the emphasis on design thinking and communication means that the pathway curriculum will broaden postsecondary options for all our students regardless of whether they choose to pursue the industry specific directions. Our developing relationships with the ACE program, various local architectural and engineering firms, technically oriented colleges, and community organizations encourages us to believe that students who do want to pursue careers in design, media, or social change will be well prepared.

Student Engagement

At LASGS the focus on student engagement begins with connecting learning to students’ interests:

We believe that students want a learning environment that provides peer interaction and support. Our project based learning model emphasizes group work that teaches collaborative skills, acknowledges diverse talents, and encourages students to promote each other’s success.

We believe that students want a learning environment that makes full use of digital tools. Bringing social media, game playing, creativity software, and digital productivity and collaboration tools into the everyday academic environment empowers students by giving full scope and validation to skills and interests they have cultivated in their out of school lives.

We believe that students want learning that is driven by authentic concerns. At LASGS we find this authenticity through projects that have a contemporary entry point, are focused on problem solving, often addressing neighborhood issues or topics involving social change, and that involve working with people and organizations outside the school, and creating products for real audiences beyond the teacher in the room. We further support this authenticity through interdisciplinary, team-taught classes that facilitate the open-ended pursuit of exciting projects.

We believe that students want learning that is self-directed. Our PBL units are designed with flexibility in mind so that student interests can guide the process in a number of ways. This self-direction is sometimes achieved through selection of different sub-topics by different groups of students, sometimes through choice of core readings, and sometimes by choice of final product. In our further development of PBL, teachers are putting greater emphasis on student created questions as the starting point for projects so that the role of the teacher as facilitator and coach is increasingly brought to the fore.

We believe that students want learning that supports their future success. By developing 21st century skills and emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving within a college preparatory curriculum we are widening the possible post secondary paths accessible to our students. By building that curriculum around the Design, Media, and Social Change pathway we provide additional opportunity for engagement and career specific skills and guidance.

We believe that students want a personalized learning experience in which their personal history, experiences, and aspirations matter, and are seen by the community. Global Studies supports personalized learning through advisory classes that ensure that every student is able to develop a supportive connection to the school community. Support classes and Saturday school provide individualized academic attention. Personalized learning also means family involvement. When our seniors attend the Senior Dinner with their families we witness the culmination of a personalized approach to education as a transformation of academic success into the celebration of child, parent and community.

(If you are interested in making a financial contribution to support the work of our school please contact me for further information.)


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