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Chris Lehmann's Ed-Tech Advice: Brothers, Not Networks

In relating his closing message here at the annual ISTE conference, Chris Lehmann remembered the words of one of his students during a panel discussion earlier in the week.

"I'm so tired of networks," the student said. "I don't need networks. I need brothers."

And so Lehmann, principal and founder of the Science Leadership Academy here in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, drove home his message that technology should go beyond data-informed instruction, career-readiness, and Web-browsing for all, and forward the true aspiration he said any school should hold: to create "the scholars, the activists, the parents, the voters, the workers, the citizens we need," and to be a second family for students.

"If you take away nothing else, make sure you realize that these tools ... serve nothing else than to help us become better teachers," Lehmann said.

He also implored the crowd, likely a couple thousand strong, to stop fighting battles that are no longer relevant—i.e. for the right to integrate digital tools into the classroom.

"No one is arguing we shouldn't use technology in education anymore," Lehmann said. "The question is how [we should use it]. But the war has been won. ... Even the secretary of education himself has said we must innovate ourselves out of this crisis."

Lehmann launched the Science Leadership Academy in 2006 based on the scientific principles of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection. Most of the school's curriculum is project based, with an emphasis on science, technology, mathematics, and entrepreneurship. It is officially a public school, created as a partnership between the oft-embattled, 154,000-student School District of Philadelphia, and the Franklin Learning Institute.

Before Lehmann's closing keynote address began, a five-member poetry slam team from the school performed a free-form piece expressing frustration with the city school system, as well as their hopes to change the harsh realities many of the city's students face. It wound to a close with one poet speaking her dreams of teaching, of reaching out to her students, of promising, as she said in the final line, "Every day I will tell them they are beautiful."

By using technology as a cultivator of human potential, Lehmann said, educators would be doing just that.

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