Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's Not About the Chromebook...

In December, Science Leadership Academy(SLA) in Philadelphia announced that they were changing the devices students would use for their learning from a Macbook to a Dell Chromebook.
Social Media was abuzz witht the announcement

Today, with great fanfare, they announced the "Center for Excellence in Learning," a partnership between Dell, SLA and the Franklin Institute to serve as a "resource for best practice for other educators," and "scale their model of inquiry-driven, problem based learning across the country."

Initially, the focus for many was on the switch of platforms, from the Macbook to the Chromebook. After all, they have been an award winning, Apple Distinguished School for the past 5 years. Some saw the move to the less expensive, cloud-based Chromebook a "step down," and that they would lose out on powerful applications for creating multimedia presentations, and that principal Chris Lehmann, "sold out" as a cost saving measure, because ultimately use of the more expensive Macbook was not going to be sustainable. 

Our district, and others have been using Chromebooks (Samsung primarily, and now a few HP's and Acer) with great success. It is the preferred tool of choice for teachers, and students have commented that, "It just works!" 
Our only issues have been with durability of some models, but having spent a little time kicking the tires on the Dell model recently, I think it will hold up just fine!
Wordle of the Announcement Text

What makes SLA unique, and a beacon for what education CAN be (and is) are:

To me, the fact that they are a 1:1 school has less to do with their success, than with their educational philosophy and approach. It's not enough to give kids a device, learning in the classroom has to change.

While I get that Dell and Google are marketing the fact that they are now a Chromebook school, to me the most interesting aspect of this announcement is how the Center for Excellence in Learning will impact education in the coming years. Having seen first hand the amazing learning environment that SLA provides, whether it is scalable in today's high stakes testing world, will be interesting to see. I'll be interested to follow #DoMoreEdu to see whether it is a slick marketing campaign, or if it really transforms what learning looks like. Given what I know about Chris and the staff at SLA, I will be rooting them on!

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