Classroom 2.0: Creating The Schools We Need with Chris Leamann

Note: the following live blog reflects notes from Lehmann’s presentation. You will want to visit the archives (information to follow) to listen to Chris again and again because he truly makes sense.

Chris Lehmann, Principal of SLA, says School 2.0 is progressive schooling and that Dewey is as relevant today as yesterday. Our goal is not 21st century workplace bu 21st century citizenship, preparing them for the lives they will lead. Public education is democracy. We cannot take the measure of a school as a test score. The way to educate students is to ask ourselves what we value and then build to meet those values. The teacher who tries t0 make a difference is not by putting a great teacher in a bad or failing system; we need to fix the system. Our biggest problem is a lack of vision.

Principals often value rows and textbooks; our vision most think deeper. We cannot standardize nor can we measure by standardized tests. If we want kids to learn deeply, then we must understand that the way they demonstrate this is different. We are ahistoric in thinking about education. The problem with data-driven decisions is that the data is good, but good data is expensive. We overlook the work that students do every day. How does their work become less real, less vital than the once a year standardized test.

MIT Media Lab motto is lifelong kindergarden, and these guys get it right. An 8 period day with 42 minute periods is not lifelong kindergarden. So, when was the last time you were engaged in lifelong deep learning? Do we do anything in our schools to let kids learn, discover, and play that way, or do we say, “let’s move on.” Attending today live or virtual is better than forced professional development. We need to give students a reason to care and structure our schools for the passion that we bring as teachers to school.

School today competes with more sensory overload than ever, but the outside world does exist. Stand outside a comprehensive high or middle school; what you see is hands reaching into devices that school bans. And then you see re-engagement with the life they lead. We need to be thoughtful about how we make school relevant by integrating their out/inside lives. What will we learn and unlearn. Do we really need to learn html now; nope, we need to unlearn it.

What do we teach and how do we teach it? We can do more and take our kids further, yet we are holding them back more than ever before. We need to be held to responsibility that is internal not external. WE have left others determine our accountability, and we need to reframe that. How did we forget that we are robbing students of tomorrow if we teach the way we did yesterday. If the white board only replaces the black board, are we teaching differently.

What should our schoold be about and what stands in our way. Students must be thougful, wise, passionate, and kind. Do you teach physics, or do you teach kids physics. The language we use matters. We teach kids, not subjects; so how do you structure that.

At SLA, you have an advisor for 4 years to 20 students. The curriculum of advisory is the community of advisory. Students have an academic, social, and emotional advocate. Parents know that. It’s a powerful thing, and it has to be more than homeroom. Teacher advocates must help get their students through as a whole person. That changes the fundamental sturcture of the school.

Learning is inquiry-driven. How will they learn, reflect what they have learned. What are the questions we can ask together? Let’s get kids asking good questions. We need to be student-centered. It’s about kids, not us. We need to be teacher-mentored; teachers matter and kids need adults because kids do not necessarily have constant mentors. It does take a village, and often that village is the teachers. Learning must be community-based; ustream to different comunities, law firms, car shops, architects, finding an adult that can help you learn.

Schools must be collaborative; synthesis works. Schools have to be passionate; it has to matter. The work that they do now must be real, vital, and matter. Teachers must be passionate…a constant flow process that problem solves (the biodiesel project w/2 patents pending). What if we said to kids, high school is real life and it matters. School is integrated; the day has to make sense. Block, with 5 periods for meaningful inquiry. Students travel together for electives and core, and the core is 3 subjects. Technology is integrated throughout. We can make the day make sense. School must be meta-cognitive; we need to think about thinking. We learn subjects that should make us logical systemic people in the world; we learn to write to communicate; we learn to frame logical arguments, and all of this makes us functioning members of our world.

But we need a better answer to why we learn this? How did we change the way students think about thinking. Learning must be authentic from head, heart, and hands. Learning must be understanding-driven and project-based. What can kids design and develop when they are asked to create? What does that look like? At the end of the unit, when you really want to know what the students have learned, if your answer is “I give a test,” then you are not doing PBL; you are doing a project to keep kids interested but are more interested in testing; it’s a dipstick, not PBL!

What we gain from our kids is engagement. What we lose is that we can measure everything they know. If you get 30 same projects, you did not let kids unleash creativity; they just followed directions. What about tech? It should be like oxygen; it is ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible. Do teachers share their laptops with 6 other teachers? Why do we ask kids to do the same.

What must go away is banning their tools. We deny access. We need to use these tools in cool ways that make sense and are relevant. Why do kids use cell phones badly in school? Because they have not been taught how to do it well. Certain technologies are not additive; they are transformative. Tech tools should enable kids to research, collaborate, create, present, and network with the world. We should not be content masters; any kid with a google phone has more access than we have knowledge. We need to leverage that use. We need to invite the world into our schools. It can be a/synchronous, but the world needs to see it. And learning must be about something that matters to them. And it needs to be transparent. Google makes learning transparent, and it can make it better.

What is the role of the teacher in the age of Google? WISDOM.


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  1. Tonya Wilson said:

    This was a great presentation. Thanks, PA DEN LC!

  2. Jennifer Brinson said:

    RJ — Thank you for the thorough notes – though I popped in for part of a session I do appreciate that you get it right for us! Lehman is amazing and what he says truly makes sense. “Thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind” — it’s sort of his mantra! “Head, heart, and hands” — Love it! He is so right on!

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