Seeing Learning Differently at SLA

I just arrived at Science Leadership Academy, an amazing school in Philadelphia that hosts my favorite education conference, EduCon.  The energy here is powerful.

EduCon aims to see education differently.  Principal Chris Lehmann does a great job describing what EduCon is all about and how the students are involved in planning and executing the conference.  They are given real responsibility and they rise to the occasion.  Parents volunteer as well (some parents checked my coat when I arrived — it’s freezing here).

I’m staying with friends outside the city, so I took the public transportation, SEPTA, in to the city this morning.  I saw several signs inside the subway station that made me think about learning:

drexel online

Can you get the same experience online as you do from a traditional brick-and-mortar school?  I don’t think so — I think that particularly for grades younger than high school, you need to have a sense of community, and students need to see adults modeling behavior that they choose to emulate.  That’s where the term “discipline” comes from —

According to Wikipedia,

In its original sense, discipline is systematic instruction intended to train a person, sometimes literally called a disciple, in a craft, trade or other activity, or to follow a particular code of conduct or “order“.

Okay, let’s move on to the next sign:


Interesting premise, but it’s not thinking globally enough.  Maybe there will be 3.5 million college degrees granted in the US, but worldwide, that has to be a low figure.  I’m pretty sure there are more than a million college graduates in China alone.  I just read an article in the New York Times that talks about how Chinese Graduates Say No Thanks To Factory Jobs.

Here’s a quote:

China now has 11 times as many college students as it did at the time of the Tiananmen Square protests in the spring of 1989

So yes, people need to stand out, but I think the way to do that is not by having a degree, per se, but by showing what you can do in a portfolio of your work.  Testimonials from people who you have worked with (and for) would be useful as well.


In my experience, the resume is an antiquated tool for people to get jobs.  Many jobs are not even posted — finding jobs is all about networking and web presence.

Here’s a poignant quote from an article in Forbes, titled The Death of the Resume: Five Ways To Re-Imagine Recruiting

Forget the resume; today, employers pay more attention to candidates’ web presence, like their top Google search results, their Klout scores, their number of Twitter followers or the number and quality of recommendations they have on LinkedIn.

We’re at a moment when what we’re doing in traditional education — and what Drexel purports to do online — needs significant rethinking.

I’m writing this post here at Science Leadership Academy, a place that does lots of thoughtful work in the area of “seeing learning differently.”


When I walked into the building and headed upstairs to the coat check I saw this student, a senior at SLA:


She’s just hanging out in the window reading a book called Reset.  I asked her if the book is something she’s reading for class or just for fun.  She explained to me that it’s just for fun, but that she took a class last year at SLA that got her interested in the relationship between Iran and Turkey, and so she started reading this book.

That’s the sort of initiative students should be rewarded for.  Once you’ve learned how to read critically — say, by middle school — you should be allowed to find an interest and pursue it.  We should find ways to give students time to read on their own.

I’m often saddened when I ask students what they read, and they tell me they don’t have time to read — they’re doing too much homework.

At Triangle Learning Community middle school (opening in August 2013 in Durham, NC), students will learn, by mid-way through sixth grade, to assign themselves appropriately challenging homework.  The student pictured above surely has other homework competing for her time, but she’s choosing to read her book.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, as part of her preparation for the next day (and doesn’t that sound better than “homework”?) she could say that she wants to to just what she’s doing in the window — read her book so she can learn more about the relationship between Iran and Turkey.

At TLC, students will have time to think more about what they read; in fact, we’ll ask students to blog about what they think of the books they read.  Another student — or even a parent — might decide, based on the student’s blog, to also read the book.

I hope the student in the window has time to think and reflect more on the book she’s reading.  I suspect that at a place like SLA she will have time to do that.  It’s fantastic that she was inspired by her class here at SLA to learn more about Iran and Turkey.

This is such a great place with so many thoughtful educators who are re-imagining learning for today’s world.

I’m excited for the next few days of learning!!!


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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