“If we can teach students to ask powerful questions and then seek out the answers to those questions, they will be able to learn what they need both today and for the rest of their lives.” – Chris Lehmann – USA
Chris Lehmann believes school exists for one reason: to teach us how to learn. As founding principal of Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Lehmann created a school that is founded on an inquiry-driven, project-based, 1:1 laptop model and he is considered one of the pioneers of the “school 2.0” movement. Lehmann also co-chairs the extremely popular EduCon conference, and author of the blog, Practical Theory.
“SLA believes that technology should enable students to inquire more deeply, research more broadly, collaborate more effectively, present more powerfully and share more widely than ever before,” says Lehmann. “Our students can be expert voices in the world, and their ideas and their reach can extend far beyond the classroom.”
Lehmann’s leadership has not gone unnoticed. Lehmann is a frequent speaker (at ISTE and TED, for example), presenter and author. And just to name a few awards and accolades: In 2012, he won the Lindback Award for Excellence in Principal Leadership in the School District of Philadelphia. In 2011, he was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for his work in education reform. And in 2010, Lehmann was named as one of the “30 Most Influential People in EdTech” by Technology & Learning Magazine.
I am pleased to share today’s Daily Edventure with Chris Lehmann. Enjoy!
What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?
It seemed like the best, most grass-roots way for me to make a difference.
Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
So many… when I was getting my administrative credentials, I took several courses with Tom Sobol. He gave me language for many of the things about education that I felt deeply. He reminded me that humanistic teaching was essential to what we do, but that we had to have enough steel in our spine to do it. He believed that his students could change the world.
Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education. What has changed as a result of your work?
Science Leadership Academy (SLA) has taken seriously its role as a leader in the School 2.0 movement. We have worked to be a model of inquiry-driven, project-based, modern education for schools all over the world. Our conference – EduCon – yearly brings over 500 educators from all over to take apart that pedagogy and learn together.
In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
With the tools at our disposal today, I believe we finally have the potential to realize Dewey’s dream for education.
Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
Inquiry. If we can teach students to ask powerful questions and then seek out the answers to those questions, they will be able to learn what they need both today and for the rest of their lives.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
An Internet-connected laptop. Because then they have the world at their disposal.
What is your city doing well currently to support education?
Philadelphia has a $300 million budget deficit. Not the best time for that question.
How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
We have to get away from thinking that one score on a test defines a child, a teacher or a school.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
Massive financial crises and instability of district-level leadership. In its seven years, SLA has had six different district superintendants.
How can teachers or school leaders facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Have a powerful narrative about your work, have a vision and systems and structures to implement that vision and stay laser focused on that.
About Chris Lehmann
- Birthplace: New York City, NY
- Current residence: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Education: BA – U. Pennsylvania, MA – Teachers College, Columbia U.
- Website I check every day: New York Times, BBC, ESPN, Twitter, Facebook,
- Person who inspires me most: Pete Seeger
- Favorite childhood memory: Being on the field at JFK Stadium for the celebration of the 1980 Phillies World Series victory.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Florida (work)
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? Today – my children crack me up.
- Favorite book: The World According to Garp by John Irving
- Favorite music: Van Morrison – Moondance – the perfect album.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? From my Dad – “You don’t have to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life, you only have to figure out what you want to do next.” And from Tom Sobol, one of my mentors, “When you have the chance to change the world, don’t screw up.”
- Your favorite quote or motto: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead