technological utopia in a school

March 28, 2008

Once again, I was WOWED by our guest speaker in ECI 831 on Tuesday night. Chris Lehmann is the principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. I had just read 2 articles that related: How To: Use Social-Networking Technology for Learning and My School, Meet MySpace: Social Networking at School so I was pretty excited to hear what Chris had to say. This school is only 2 years old and is extremely progressive. Technology is paramount at this school and is used extensively. Students must be selected to attend this school and go through an interview to be considered for admission.

They do a national search and build a network to recruit staff. Check out the qualifications for teaching at SLA:
• Applicants must be PA State Certified or eligible for PA State Certification in their subject area.
• Applicants must be committed to the idea that we teach students first and our subjects second.
• Applicants must be willing to challenge students to work in an inquiry-driven, project based environment.
• Applicants must be willing to work collaboratively.
• Applicants must be willing to work in a diverse environment with students who reflect the rich heritage of Philadelphia.
• Applicants should have a strong background in technology infusion into the classroom and be willing to see their classroom as happening both on and offline.
• Applicants should have an interest in developing extra-curricular activities.
• Applicants should be energetic, flexible, and have a strong desire to work with administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and students to create a school that reflects SLA’s core values.

Can anyone say “dream job”??

I completely LOVE their strong commitment to communicating with parents. There seems to be a lot of interaction with parents and opportunity for parents to be as involved as they would like to be.

Their mission is also shared openly and students and staff live this mission together: “How do we learn? What can we create? What does it mean to lead?” This commitment to this mission, their philosophy of distributed leadership, and not trying to be everything to everyone, but doing what they do well is refreshing.

The idea of UDL is very interesting to me. I had not heard of it before Tuesday night, but the Center for Applied Special Technology has an excellent definition of it: “Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing curricula that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL provides rich supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all.” I want to spend more time learning about this concept of curriculum design as I am in charge of curriculum development at the law firm that I work at and think this might be useful.

They do have filters in place to monitor online activity, but they still have issues just like every other school. I was surprised when I went to the SLA website that they have the student websites so readily available to the world. It concerned me with how much information students shared here. Maybe they are needless fears that the media has instilled in me, but I nevertheless do have them. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the level of technological use at this school is fantastic and will open many doors of opportunity for the students which is evident on the masterpiece websites they have, but there is just a lot of information that we usually advise students (and even adults sometimes) not to post.

There are SO many questions that came to me after the presentation. Here are just a few: I wonder if they have the same problems that we do with technology? What is their Internet policy? What is their view on cell phones and iPods in the classroom? How are they funded? How is curriculum development dealt with (I don’t know how it works in the US, but in SK, we have to follow the SK curriculum and do not have that type of freedom to develop our own curriculum at individual schools – correct me if I am wrong here)? How are personal laptops dealt with? What advice would they have to teachers about implementing technology; 1:1; parent communication; social networking in schools (or as Chris referred to it – academic networking – maybe this would motivate teachers to use it in classrooms!)?

See my fellow classmates posts about Chris’ great presentation: Rosanne, Dave, Corey, Ken, Leah, Marlene, Shaun, Walter


7 Responses to “technological utopia in a school”

  1. Tom Humes Says:

    Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

  2. […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

  3. Rosanne Says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Chris’ presentation and like you I had a lot of questions throughout the presentation. It’s too bad I missed the session (got caught up in making tutorial videos and completely forgot about the class. I signed in at 8:15, Oops!! I listened to the recording the following day). The chat was interesting and thought provoking. I too was taken by surprise by the amount of information on SLA student blogs. Great post, Connie.

  4. Corey Terry Says:

    Connie – the job qualifications are not much different that I would want at our school, problem is, good applicants are hard to come by, but, I really believe in growing your own people and having them improve to what you want and desire. Just some thoughts, great post!

  5. Shaun Loeppky Says:

    Connie, Sask schools (High school level) can create their own locally courses, but still have to follow the set curriculum and complte the required credits.

    Is it me, or when we had the presentation on the situation with Al Upton and student “safety”, many of us were indeed silent on the issue. Of all of our presentations, I really think that discussion (very much in my opinion) was skimmed at the least. The only real opinions were from Ustream! Did you get that impression?

  6. ccossar Says:

    I agree, Corey – good applicants are hard to find, but like the idea of nurturing the people we do have.

    Thanks, Shaun, I had forgotten about locally created courses, but the curriculum still looms! I agree that most of us were silent during the Al Upton session. Not really sure why though. Maybe it scares some people?

  7. I think teaching at a school where all of the staff were highly motivated and interested in what they were teaching would be everyone’s ideal place to be. I wonder how teachers indicate and demonstrate their interest and motivation? How are the teachers challenged to continute to work at a high level?
    I always follow the curriculum but have learned to twist into new ways to suit my teaching. I think you can can take the learning/foundational objectives and apply them in new and exciting ways to your teaching.

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