School 2.0: Creating the Schools We Need ~ Chris Lehmann

Chris Lehmann, Principal of Science Leadership Academy, home of EduCon 2.2, models and advocates Creating the Schools We Need for preparing students for living and working in 21st century. In a short chat with Chris this morning, I told him how I am always so inspired by his work and what we experience at EduCon, and how I try to change my work with students as a result. But, I noted, it is so hard to move change beyond that locked door. His response was vintage Lehmann, so here’s the sneak peek into a part of his presentation. As teachers we are being slammed with testing mandates, and the Keystone Tests will almost finish us. Chris believes that we need to lobby, to load students and parents on a bus and go to Washington. We need to engage our leaders in the process.

The CoverItLive School 2.0 Conversation: of Chris Lehmann’s Keynote:

Citing his two children, Chris said that education matters because children need to love school. He wants all teachers to see all children, including his own, as someone special. Four years ago, 120 students and parents sat in a room in the Franklin Institute and gave their children to SLA, a school that did not even have a building at that point. Chris said that was a humbling experience, and we need to remember that every day parents send us their most precious resource–their children–and that matters.

What can our schools be and how do we get there? Chris has 4 biases:

  1. School 2.0 is easier than you think; it’s progressive education with 21st century tools. It’s John Dewey, The School and Society & The Child and the Curriculum. It’s not hard today to have students create something powerful that tells their story in ways that people listen.
  2. Citizenry, Not Workforce: our job is to co-create with our students the 21st century citizen, and that will give us the workforce. Our job is NOT to create a workforce, so the CPO of Dell doesn’t need to tell us he wants a workforce.
  3. Educators, parents and students know more about school than any politician sitting in office today. How do we regain the power we ceded to others?
  4. Public Education = Democracy. Without public schools, we do not have a democracy.

The Great Big Question: How can we have so many passionate, dedicated educators in our schools and still have so many problems? Chris says that teachers care passionately about their students, so what’s the problem?

  1. Fix the System: Put a good person into a bad system and the system will win every time.
  2. The World in Which We Live: The Maddening Paradox of Education 2010: we have never graduated more students, but schools are broken and we need to fix them, and isn’t it horrible that this is our conversation.
  3. Data-Driven Decisions: Assume that you use good data–and good data ain’t cheap. The data we use to measure our students is cheap–the multiple choice scantron test. So, why do we allow this form of testing when we have the work they do every day. Let’s make that work matter.
  4. Accountability = External; Responsibility = Internal: no one can hold me more accountable for students in my charge than me; we need to change the language because language troubles down, and accountability is a troubling word in the educational landscape. If we want to own our schools, we must hold ourselves accountable and teach our students responsibility.
  5. Just a teacher syndrome: what can I do? I am not just a teacher; I AM A TEACHER, and there is no job with more influence and power. WE must be activists and fight for what we want.

How do we do that?

  1. Organize: If not me, who? If not now, when? We cannot cede the moral high ground; we must care about what is best for us; we need to fight for what we need; the educational technology group must lead the way because we have the best tools and stories to lead educational change. When is your school district putting 1000 students and 1000 parents on busses and going to Washington? When will we make the politicians take the test first? Would our educators make AYP? And why can they make students accountable for something they are not accountable for? Who will stop them? We have the power and we have ceded it and Chris does not know why/
  2. Education, Not Training: we are not educating today, we are training them, and for something that may not exist. Why do we need an MA to work at Starbucks? Why is education being blamed for jobs that do not exist?
  3. A Big Problem: A Lack of Humility: We must admit that when we fail a child, we actually do fail them. That’s not acceptable. We need to know enough to make sure that each student succeeds. We need to humble ourselves so we can rteach all kids. It is our fault.
  4. A Related Problem: The Discussion is A-Historical: Schools are not and should not be businesses because business do fail. The comprehensive high school model in 1920 manufactured students for business and it doesn’t work. What is our purpose? We are in an a-historical time. (Angelo Patri–A Schoolmaster fo the Great City — 1917) “What the school system needs to understand is that is strength lies, not in the strength of the central organization, but in the strength of the individual school, not in making one school like another, but in making each school a distinct unit. The need of the system is the preservation of its units, so that each school can keep itself alive, wide awake, responsive to its people, easily adaptalble to the needs of its people.”
  5. “What’s Good?” Is Better than “What’s New?”
  6. Tell A Better Story: WE Must Have Vision: we need to have a better way to tell our story.
  7. You Can’t Standardize: Differentiated Instruction, Differentiated School: if differentiated instruction works for students, then differentiated schools is what we need to create.
  8. We Learn Best Wben It Matters To Us: think the EduCon model, where students organize, participate in, and present. When in the last year have you had a powerful learning moment, and you realize that the time has flown? Do we set up our classes that way? our schools that way? We need to make learning matter.
  9. “If we want creative workers, give them ebnough time to play.” John Cleese from the MIT Media Lab= Lifelong Kindergarden.
  10. Things Are Different. How Do We Deal With That?: We need to recognize that two-year olds are good with things digital. Why do we try to teach differently than how students play (and want to learn) on school-banned tools. Why do we ban cell phones? If discipline is your first priority, you will never get to your second. Let’s not ban things but rather teach them to use them intelligently.
  11. “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 — Do we learn math with a slide rule? Do we hand code html? What do we do when something stops being necessary? What do we do when we stop being the best slide rule teacher…
  12. Scary Thought: What are we willing to unlearn to relearn?
  13. Ideas Are Easy, Implementation is Hard

Have A Vision

  1. Inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, reflection: 5 core values of SLA.
  2. Coalition of Essential Schools: 10 Core Valuses
  3. High Tech High
  4. Christian Long’s Learning Manifesto
  5. Lehmann: students must be thoughtful, wise, passionate, kind

Caring Institutions: SLA

  1. We teach kids, not subjects: “I teach kids social studies…”
  2. 4-year advisory program: colleagues hold each other responsible for how they teach students
  3. Inquiry-driven: what are the questions we can ask together? Listen to students’ aswers.
  4. Student-Centered: it’s not about us; it’s about what they create.
  5. Teacher-Mentored: kids need adults and we need to fill that role.
  6. Community-Based: we can learn from many (outside of school); use the technology to build beyond the school’s walls (Pull Your Pants Up Campaign); rethink how you want your students to learn; whom can you Skype?
  7. Collaborative
  8. Passionate: and it has to matter! Dare kids to do work that matters and they will do it with passion and energy.
  9. Integrated: the day has to make sense. In a traditional high school with a 42 minute period x 8, they are exhausted by the end. Make every moment count and build a better day. Connect disciplines across the curriculum.
  10. Meta-Cognitive: we need to think about thinking, and teach kids to consider what they do, every day. We can’t just teach to the 10 percent who might do what we do.
  11. Authentic: assessment as real and transparent, and not teaching to the standardized assessment tests. Make work meaningful to them, and make it transparent.
  12. Understanding-Driven: PBL

At the end of a unit, when you really want to know what a student leaned, if you give a test, then you are not doing PBL. The PBL is the assessment and it must be REAL WORLD WORK!–challenging, rigorous, and real. This is not a fantasy. What we gain is empowerment. What we lose is the illusion that we can measure everything we have learned in the classroom–and this is a hard shift.

  1. Technology must be like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible. It has to be part of what you do and you have to stop talking about it. It’s not about the drama or the tool; it’s about the project.
  2. Relevance: shutting off and putting away cell phones or mp3 is no longer relevant. Let’s let kids learn in their best way, and if listening to music is their way, then let them. And tell parents to text them.
  3. Neil Postman: certain technologies are not additive; they are transformative. We need whole new schools. We need to give the kids the tools to transform the classrooms. If we want true change, technology is a transformative tool, not an add on. Research, collaborate, crete, present, network–and do it in ways that can empower kids. Don’t get involved in convenient and false taxonomies.
  4. Transparent we can invite the world to our schools. There’s a time for a walled garden and not.
  5. What is the role of the teacher in the age of Google? WISDOM.

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