Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Understanding the Role of Chris Lehmann in the Universe

Me, via email, 6/26/05:

I'm just heading out for NECC, and I realized I forgot to ping you to see if anyone from (influential "high tech" progressive high school) was going to be there.

Chief Academic Officer of said school:

i am sad to say i do not even know what NECC is, let alone going to it!

I'm happy my friend and colleague Chris Lehmann and his school, Science Leadership Academy, have been picking up a positive buzz, particularly after NECC last week. Nobody and the world knows more about the combination of running a high school and using the web effectively than Chris. But here's the thing: it is the combination that is unique.

There are hundreds of schools in this country that are similar to SLA, and I'd bet thousands that explicitly are trying to do similar things, right now, today. It is just that they aren't blogging, and in particular, their principals aren't blogging, and they aren't going to NECC. In what, if any, sense is this a problem?

It is not like these schools are trying to keep their work a secret. You can read whole books about them! And articles in magazines about education and features in newspapers. And they have websites. And their own organizations and their own conferences. Many are actively working to spread their models to other schools and other cities with the help of philanthropic and venture capital. You can open one yourself!

Chris has taken a different approach in promoting SLA because a) he's Geek Boy, b) he likes to write, and c) SLA's sugar daddies are a fiscally suspect city government and a non-profit, not the Gates Foundation and CVS. Blogging, giving keynotes, hosting EduCon, etc., all make it less likely that SLA will be undone by fiat in the next wave of Philly's ongoing budget crisis, but the more common approach is to go talk to New Schools Venture Fund, not tech coordinators and consultants at NECC.

For the ed-tech audience, Chris is the tip of a school reform iceberg which otherwise requires just a little more effort to seek out. It is not blogging and twittering, but it is out there.


Chris Lehmann said...

And that's just a weird headline to see pop up in your newsreader.

I do worry, Tom, that it's been harder than it has to be to get the progressive ed folks from the CES world to cross barriers and talk to the 21st century learning folks, and vice versa. If what we're doing at SLA makes people from ed-tech look at progressive ed a little more closely and vice versa, we all win.

Suzie Boss said...

After a while, these ed "camps" start to sound like the Sharks and the Jets. Chris seems to be able to see past the artificial barriers and just keep his eyes open for good ideas. Everybody gains when we get to hear about the community taking shape at SLA.