New Tech Schools Are Better Together: Collaboration = Community Building

February 20, 2018

By President and CEO Lydia Dobyns

Imagine our surprise when one day the New Tech Network (NTN) website was flooded with dozens of emails asking about the New Tech school model and requests to conduct interviews with “whoever works at New Tech”.

We receive frequent inquiries regarding project-based learning, creating a collaborative school culture and interest in visiting a New Tech school. These requests were decidedly different as all of the questions were about Our New Tech Story.

The mystery was solved with this specific inquiry:

“I am working on a project titled Our New Tech Story. We are partnering with Cobra Tech Academy to create a media campaign highlighting our schools. I am 11 years old and in the sixth grade. One of my project requirements is to conduct an interview. I would like to interview a member of the New Tech Network. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.”

Intrigued, we went digging for more information. We found that four teachers in two El Paso ISD middle schools had launched a school-wide project entitled: Our New Tech Network Story. Bulldog Tech and Cobra Tech Academy students were conducting research so that their final products would promote and persuade students and parents about the unique educational experience their New Tech school provided.


We were thrilled to participate, and very early one morning, I joined over 300 Cobra and Bulldog Tech sixth graders, via video, to answer their questions. It was a wonderful way to start my day. The questions were wide-ranging and were personal (“Why did you choose this career?”) as well as strategic (“How was New Tech Network created and why?”)



Partway through the interview, it became clear that almost all the answers pointed to the collaboration established early in our work, and the power associated with learning together, not only in their teams inside a classroom, but even more importantly, across schools. The original Napa New Technology High School was born out of a collaborative effort.  There was no single founder or inventor, and like successful global businesses today, products and services are created by teams who solve problems.

Last year, Getting Smart produced a series of articles and resources called “It’s a Project-Based World.” Noted author and all-around educational wizard, Tom Vander Ark, recently wrote about collaboration and noted “ almost every significant contribution requires a team. That is increasingly true whether you’re a doctor, entrepreneur, first responder or educator.”

As I told the story of New Tech Network, whose origin started 21 years ago as a result of a collaborative effort among the local school district, parents, teachers, and the business community, I explained to the 300 students listening that this founding group asked questions that are still relevant today, and that they, as students can help us solve: “Why can’t high schools model themselves to solve relevant, pressing real problems we face in our community and in the world? Why does school  operate in its own world that is hardly recognizable outside the classroom?”

The question I loved most was what I hoped for in the future of New Tech Network. My answer was simple. I wished more schools would connect and collaborate. I wished that schools could face common challenges and learn from each other and that every student in a New Tech school could experience a powerful connection that comes from being part of a national network of 200 schools. My hope is that school could be relevant, rigorous and help students build deep connections to other students, their communities and find voice and purpose.  I believe we are better working together. I appreciated being invited into Bulldog Tech and Cobra’s learning journey, and can’t wait to see that they produce.



New Tech Network partners with El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) to re-imagine the middle and high school experience. As of the 2017-18 school year there are eight New Tech schools spread across the district. EPISD serves an ethnically, culturally, socioeconomically, and linguistically diverse district of approximately 60,000 students. Situated on the U.S.-Mexico border, EPISD serves multi-generational El Paso-area families, recent immigrants, and documented and undocumented students who cross the U.S.-Mexico border daily to attend school.

In our collaboration with EPISD, we found early alignment with its aspiration to graduate every student prepared for higher learning and careers, to empower them as knowledgeable and engaged citizens, innovators, and drivers of a robust, bicultural economy.

New Tech Network, a national nonprofit organization, is a leading design partner for comprehensive school change. We work closely with districts and schools to create innovative learning environments. Through a proven school model, a project-based learning platform, and powerful professional development, we coach schools toward lasting change and ongoing improvement.

There are nearly 200 schools in 26 states and Australia in the New Tech Network. Visit a school today!


Tags: ,