Chris Lehmann: Changing the Learning Environment

chrislehmannChris Lehmann, the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy (SLA), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and one of the leading education voices for education, talks about changing the learning environment.

Connect Learning Today: Chris, what should the learning environment look like?

Chris Lehmann: To me, the learning environments we need are inquiry-driven, project-based, and modern. And what I mean by that is that we have to create spaces where kids can ask questions—and not just the questions we want them to ask, but really—take from teachers those beginning steps towards an idea, and then really build on that with their own interests, their own ideas, and their own passions.

CLT: How will we know… or evaluate that?

Chris Lehmann: Students will be able to demonstrate what they have learned across a myriad of media, while also leveraging the tools of today to be able to do that. If you walk into a workplace, and someone is working on a laptop or desktop, we don’t say they’re involved in a technology project, we say they’re doing their work. And yet in schools, when you put a computer in front of a kid, we say it’s a technology project. We need to get past that idea.

CLT: What should we be saying to kids then?

Chris Lehmann: The great, big lie we tell kids all over the world is, this will be good for you someday—you’ll need this someday. When we have no real idea they ever will or won’t.

CLT: What can we do to change that?

Chris Lehmann: What we need to do to change learning environments is to create a space where the work that kids do, in classrooms—or whatever that learning environment may look like—matters to them. We waste the passion, the energy, the ideas, the intelligence of the young people all over the world by telling them this will be good for them someday, instead of daring them to be part of a movement to change the world now. We need to ask students to look at the problems, and the challenges they see around them—in their world—and be part of solving them now. When we do that—when we say, “The work that you do, the things that you learn, the things that we will be doing together—is good for you and good for us now,”—we dare kids to be active agents in their world. Then—they can construct everything—how they learn and manifest that learning around those ideas—we will create the modern classrooms, the modern learning spaces that we need.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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