Monday, July 14, 2008

Social Networking Part of Schools of the Future

Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy (SLA) is featured as one of six Best of Cool Schools using Project Based Learning by Edutopia magazine. Chris Lehmann (left) is the Principal of this innovative school and, with the teachers and students, is attempting to create a school reflecting "Dewey for the Digital Age."

One of the key features of SLA is the ubiquitous use of social networking tools (like Moodle) by teachers and students as ways to enhance learning. In traditional schools, students are punished for "passing notes in class" but at SLA students and teachers are expected to contribute to dialogues through social networking on their computers. They become more engaged in their learning because they question, comment, discuss, disagree, defend, reflect, and converse electronically during classes.

This is difficult for some traditional educators to accept because they feel students should "pay attention" and "show respect" for a teacher lecturing at the front of a room and not be using computers or other electronic devices during class. Teachers at SLA avoid those traditional teacher/student roles as much as possible in favor of project-based learning and a flattened hierarchy in which students have a voice in what they will learn and teachers have a voice in how the school will be run. This school views collaboration, networking, and dialogue as ways people learn rather than as distractions or disruptions.

The photo on the right shows students in an art class at the Science Leadership Academy.
Click on the heading above to see the article about SLA in Edutopia magazine.

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