Culture that Empowers


Trust, respect, and responsibility are the hallmarks of our culture in the Niles New Tech program, where learners and teachers alike share ownership of the learning experience and school environment.

In the New Tech program, learners have a level of responsibility similar to what they might experience in a professional work environment. Working on projects and in teams, learners become accountable to their peers, taking individual responsibility to get work done. In this trusted, respectful environment, learners decide how to allocate their time, team roles, and how to collaborate. Traditional management tools such as hall passes and class bells are a thing of the past.

Teachers model a team-based collaborative approach. In addition to helping set program rules and policy, they have flexibility to customize classrooms and projects to meet the needs of their learners.

Related Resources

  • 21st Century Skills Culture: A video on culture from High Tech High - a different model of high school from the same family of progressive, constructivist philosophy. Like the New Tech program, learners at High Tech High use creative thinking and collaborative work to connect the classroom with the real world while developing 21st Century skills in mixed ability teams.
  • Empowering Young Learners: Short documentary of Stephen Heppell, professor of new media environments, making his way through London, describing his vision for schools, meeting with kids at the Be Very Afraid conference, and exploring ideas for classroom design in a technology pilot school. Great video on 21st century school culture.
  • The Myths and Opportunities of Technology in the Classroom: This one could realistically be categorized under culture, learning, and technology, but it probably fits here with the most impact. In this short documentary, Alan November challenges some of the accepted wisdom about technology in schools and proposes a scheme for enabling learners to become more active participants in a 21st century classroom.
  • No Child Left Behind and Global Competitiveness: In this short documentary, Yong Zhao, a professor at Michigan State University, argues for giving kids room to innovate by following their passions, not subscribing to a set of rules and interests dictated to them from the outside.
  • Designing Schools for 21st Century Learning: In this film, architect Randall Fielding demonstrates the connection between where and how learners learn in the 21st century.
  • New Learners of the 21st Century: Full program from PBS on education in the 21st century - featuring the foremost thought leaders, innovators and practitioners in the field, Digital Media is a startling preview of a 21st Century education revolution.
  • Let Kids Rule the School: New York Times Op-Ed by Susan Engel about reframing the way we think about schools. In it, she described the Independent Project done by a group of high school learners in Massachusetts.
  • The Independent Project: Youtube video explaining the Independent project - a school in Massachusetts gave a group of learners complete control over what they learned. The result is a case study in student engagement.
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