New School Year Promises Indiana's First Class of New Tech Graduates
For New Tech School of IDEAS in M.S.D. of Decatur Township, this is more than just another school year. This school year marks an important milestone in education and state history—Indiana’s first class of New Tech seniors. Founded in 2007 as one of Indiana’s first three New Technology High Schools, IDEAS will be the first school to have a New Tech graduating class. Three seniors reflected on their experiences as some of Indiana’s first New Tech students.
Developing New Skills
The New Tech model is based on a series of 21st-century skills that accompany traditional academic standards to prepare students for life outside of high school.
“We work a lot on communication because we do so many presentations,” Keisha Merriweather said. “I’ve learned to open up more because I have to communicate so much.”
“Before I got into New Tech we hardly ever had to present, so when we actually did, I was really nervous about it and I wasn’t good at it. Once we got into New Tech, it became something you just expect, so it’s really easy now,” Gerald Wilson said.
“What I have learned from the New Tech classes is time management,” Carlos Gonzalez said. “The teachers gave us a lot of free time and, at the beginning, it was something that was hard to deal with. But as time goes on you learn to do the right amount of work at the right amount of time.”
New Tech’s project-based learning approach also helps students learn about group and leadership dynamics.
“I got a lot better at working in groups,” Wilson said. “You get in a group and it’s never you and your close friends, so you have to know how to work with anybody and get along.”
“We do a lot of group work where one person is assigned a leader. Tasks are given to each person and we have to depend on each other,” Merriweather said.
“I’ve gotten paired up with people that haven’t always been the easiest to work with. As time goes on, they may learn how to become better workers, but they may not meet the group’s standards. So you develop a sense of leadership in taking over the group and distributing the work,” Gonzalez said.
Preparing for the Future
Gonzalez, an aspiring engineer, feels that the New Tech model adequately prepared him to pursue his chosen career path.
“The hands-on work with the group projects, that’s how engineering is. You work with others,” Gonzalez said.
Although Wilson is unsure about his specific major and college choice, he also feels that New Tech helped him prepare for the future.
“There’s people that don’t want to do work, so you get better at picking up the slack. That prepares you for the future because there’s going to be people like that anywhere you go,” Wilson said. “The technology-based learning made me think about computer engineering and computer science, or maybe software design. Anything like that because now that I’m more experienced with computers.”
Merriweather feels that New Tech has prepared her to attend leading postsecondary institutions in her pursuit of a career in neuroscience.
“If I just continued in a traditional setting, I would have entered college unaware of what you’ll have to use when you leave high school,” Merriweather said. “I just feel like if I was to enter those schools, especially a competitive school like Johns Hopkins or Georgetown, I could compete because I’m used to the group work and communicating with other people, so I can get my point across. I won’t just fall back into the crowd like another student in a class.”
The structure of New Tech creates a classroom environment that differs from traditional high school classes.
“In my AP classes, there’s a teacher that lectures and we take notes. In New Tech, we may take notes but we’re going to apply those notes. In AP classes, you’re going to take notes and only use them to study,” Merriweather said. “We go into depth in what we do. We think outside of the box, like how to approach a specific problem and how many different ways it can be solved.”
After participating in New Tech, the students also found traditional classes easier.
“I have had New Tech classes and a lot of normal classes and the difference is that I find normal classes a lot easier now because it’s more of a sit there and what they give you, you just take in and write it back and give it to them, which is a lot easier than going through the project process and coming up with everything yourself,” Gonzalez said.
“I have a few electives that aren’t New Tech and they are too easy,” Wilson agreed.
Leaving a Legacy
As the students prepare for their graduation from the New Tech School of IDEAS, they reflect on the mark they will leave on the school.
“Me and a group of around 12 other members started the group called ‘Voice,’ which represents New Tech from the student’s perspective,” Gonzalez shared. “If there is a complaint from the student side or a suggestion, we get together every week and discuss how we can [address] it. We’re the connection between the students and the teachers so that if there’s something we want, we push for it and try to get [it].”
“I’m currently a Voice representative and we create the rules and the standards to live by in New Tech. I think my legacy is people will remember me as a hard worker, just an overachiever who looks at things from different angles,” Merriweather said.
Wilson is most proud of his academic accomplishments. “I’m at the top rank of New Tech because I’m fifth in the class right now,” Wilson shared.
As these exemplary students prepare for postsecondary education, they can move forward confidently knowing that they have developed the knowledge and skills necessary for success through the New Tech School of IDEAS. They will leave a legacy within their schools and represent a significant milestone for Indiana.
Published: September 2009