On Monday, my colleague and soon to be blogger Rob Mancabelli and I dropped in on Chris Lehmann at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia for a three hour tour and chat. Bottom line is that Chris is building a vibrant community of learners among both teachers and students that has a unique feeling in the world of public schools I’ve seen. (BTW, here’s a Flickr set of some photos I took of the students and the structure.)

And it’s really not about the technology as much as it is about the culture of learning that they are creating. Yes, every student has a laptop. And they have been working with Moodle and Elgg to build class sites and online portfolios. But what’s neat is that the students are taking real ownership over what happens at the school. Without giving too much away since Chris said he was getting ready to blog about this, there has been one issue that has arisen that in most schools would cause all sorts of overreaction from administrators and the like. At SLA, the kids are dealing with it through the use of the Moodle forums, where, amazingly, they have been communicating since months before the school even opened in September. Chris and his teachers chime in too, and the conversation is open and honest, effectively dealing with the situation to date.

The physical space is beautiful and there is lots of room to grow for the 400 or so more students who will be coming in the next three years. And it won’t be hard to fill it up; SLA has received about 2,000 applications for just over 100 spots next year.

As with any new school, it’s hard to predict what the next day will bring. But thus far, SLA looks like it’s doing really well in terms of creating a very special foundation for education in a School 2.0 world.

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