While reporting on youth and technology in Philadelphia, one thing we reported on more than anything was education and the city’s school system.
Meet Marcie Hull. She is the technology coordinator and the digital arts teacher at Science Leadership Academy (SLA), a brand-new, one-to-one-laptop Philadelphia magnet school for science, technology, mathematics, and entrepreneurship.
Around the country, educators like Hull are trying whatever they can think of to reform (inner-city) public school systems and boost up standardize test scores.
The one-to-one laptop initiative is one of many recent examples.
Since the new millennium started, Philadelphia has been going through one of the most aggressive and ambitious school reform in the country.
And while reporting in Philly, we spent lots of hours in lots of schools all around the city witnessing this colossal enterprise.
These were mostly inner-city schools, with all the problems of typical inner-city schools: guettoization, extreme poverty, lousy school infrastructure, broken homes, neighborhood rivalry, teen pregnancy, gang activities, violence, drugs etc.
SLA was different: it wasn’t just the curriculum, the building, or the demographics of the student body. It wasn’t even the exceptionally high-and-soaring test scores.
So why in the end this school enjoyed so much more success than many other public schools in Philadelphia?
At first glance, the school appears to be a vivid symbol of what could be achieve with technology.
“But it’s not about technology,” Hull says.
Paradoxically, the idea behind a technological school like SLA is that it is not about technology.
Teachers at SLA built their curriculum around one main pillar: relationships
“The first thing we teach our student,” Hull says, “is the ethic of care. You have to care about somebody.”
It has become the school’s mantra.
And in fact, the most striking thing about the SLA is that it is an exceptionally happy school. There’s no other way to describe it. Everything is happy.
A lot of it has to do with the educators that work there: visionaries, relentless out-of-the-box thinkers, with boundless passion for kids. People like Hull and the philosophy they bring to the classroom and its students.
All were committed to raise student achievement level. All were educators that care.
And in many regards, these educators are changing the way school classroom instruction is done around the country.
A school without walls is how Hull describes it.
This is a video from youngandthewireless.com, a newhouse.syr.edu and news21.com project.