Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Building Better Schools

Today at PETE and C (Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference), Sharon, Ryan, and I had the fortune of hearing keynote speaker Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Learning Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia. I didn't initially take notes but felt compelled to pull out my laptop as Chris expanded on his comments. Following are my rough notes. You can find a recording of Chris's presentation on the PETE & C ning. Click on the "Coveritlive" embedded below the video to view comments being made by participants during the presentation.

What do you think of Chris's philosophies of education? Feel free to post your comments below.

Education, not training
Teach 21st Century citizenship, not 21st Century workforce skills

A big problem: Lack of humility on part of some teachers
We have some culpability if student fails; sometimes students fail us.
Should be humbled by the fact that we don’t have all answers to helping students succeed.

Some still saying schools need to be more like businesses; that model has obviously failed.

Ask “What’s good?” rather than “What’s new?” What works best with kids?

We must have vision! Tell a better story. Need a better way to talk about education.

You can’t standardize.
How can you have both differentiated instruction AND standardized testing? standardized curriculum? Can't have both.

We learn best when it matters to us. True for kids, too. Do we let kids get so engrossed in their learning that they can’t believe how much time has passed? Or are they watching the clock?

"If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play." -John Cleese

This is how the smartest people in the world work . . . lifelong Kindergarten.

Things are different. Kids are learning differently at home with access to computers and other technologies.

The minute kids walk out the door from school at the end of the day, they are pulling “banned” devices out of their pockets--things they aren’t allowed to use during the school day.

Kids at SLA use their cell phone cameras to document lab experiments. Post on Flicker, use in projects, etc.

Instead of banning cell phones and other devices, teach the kids how to use them productively and responsibly.

"The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn." ~Alvin Toffler

Scary thought . . . what are WE willing to unlearn and relearn? What things are we still doing in our classrooms that are no longer relevant or no longer working?

Now what?
Ideas are easy, implementation is hard. How do we do it in our schools?

Have a vision, and build everything around it!
At SLA, everything revolves around their 5 core values: inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, reflection

What does Chris want of SLA students? Thoughtful, wise, passionate, kind

Caring Institutions:
How many of us know mission statement of our District? Is it being sustained?
We teach kids, not subjects! (Some of us need to change our language. Don’t say, “I teach social studies. Say, “I teach KIDS social studies.”)

Colleagues should hold each other responsible for how kids are treated in classrooms.

What do you think? Show the kids that you care about what they think.
What are the questions we can ask together?

It’s not about us. It’s about the kids.


Kids need adults.

We can learn from many.
Parents excluded because schools are open while parents are working. It’s easy to demonize what you don’t understand.

Synthesis works

It has to matter.
Dare kids to do work that matters. They will do it with passion we’ve never seen out of them before.

The day has to make sense.
We asked kids to shift gears so often--every 42 minutes--that they have no way of making connections.
Block scheduling; schedule English, history, etc. at one time in one block.
Integrate art and science. Learning Periodic Table? Art teacher taught kids at SLA to do screen prints of symbols representing elements. Students explained their interpretations of their elements' prints.

We need to think about thinking.
What are the take-aways from your class? Use content of class to reinforce thinking skills.

Assessment as real and transparent.
Assessment is work that they create. Make grading obvious. Let them know what they need to do to be successful.

Project-based learning does not have a test at the end of the unit. The students’ real-world work is the assessment tool. Challenging, rigorous, real. Tests & quizzes have their place to assess whether students have learned enough to start a project. Make kids create something and then teach it. You will know if they have mastery. Students are empowered.

This stuff is hard. Have to give up the easy measurements.

But what about the tech?
Must be like oxygen. Invisible, ubiquitous, necessary.
Got to be everywhere and quit talking about it so much. It’s about the ideas, not the tools.

Must go away: “Please shut off and put away all cell phones, ipods, and gameboys before entering the library.” Let them work authentically. (Biggest problem with cell phones they have at SLA is parents calling kids in the middle of the day. Tell the parents to text, not call!)

We have old school with a few new computers. We have to give the kids the tools they need to be successful. Businesses don’t require employees to bring their own tech to work. They provide it.

Research, collaborate, create, present, network.
Use tech tools to make schools transparent. We can invite the world to our schools. Share if we choose to share.

What is the role of teacher in the age of Google? Teach kids WISDOM!

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