In a twist on the evolving relationship between big tech companies and public education, Oracle Corporation is planning to host a charter school on its Silicon Valley campus, the New York Times reports.
The business software company is putting the finishing touches on a $43 million building for Design Tech High School, which will relocate in January from its current campus in Burlingame to the Oracle campus. Among other amenities, the new building features a two-story workshop space called the Design Realization Garage where students will be able to develop and build prototypes of their design ideas. In addition, Oracle employees will mentor the school's five hundred and fifty students in areas ranging from business plan development to user-experience (UX) design, while the Oracle Education Foundation will provide two-week courses and unpaid internships for students, with students who develop marketable ideas in class retaining the rights to their intellectual property.
Oracle, which owns the land and the building, will underwrite the building's maintenance costs and will transport students on its employee commuter buses, with the high school chipping in $1 a year in rent and covering operating expenses such as electricity and janitorial services. Oracle and school executives told the Times they had carefully worked out policies to ensure that the school will continue to operate independently, with Oracle playing no role in decisions about curriculum or faculty hiring.
Founded in 2014 with the aim of immersing students in design thinking, a creative problem-solving strategy popularized by Stanford University's design school, Design Tech teaches students to think empathetically about potential users before sitting down to devise a solution to a problem. Oracle employees volunteered to teach courses on coding, wearable technology, and digital design at the school, and after the company announced in 2015 that it would offer the school a home, the company embraced the school's culture and challenged architectural firms to meet with ninth-graders and faculty to get their input before developing a blueprint for the building.
"Nobody has done anything like this before," said Oracle Education Foundation executive director Colleen Cassity, who described the company's education efforts as "pure philanthropy." "We are finding our way very carefully and very thoughtfully around how do we provide educational experiences for students where the focus is on really serving them."
(Photo credit: DES Architects + Engineers)