Apple in Education Profiles
The Mac is the hub of an innovative curriculum at this Philadelphia public high school. Here learning is measured chiefly by the quality of work the students create. And nearly all of the school's first graduates are going directly to college.
In 2005, the School District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, decided to create four new small magnet high schools. The goal was not only to address chronic districtwide problems like high dropout rates, but also to develop new educational initiatives.
For Chris Lehmann, a Philadelphia native who had taught English for nine years at a progressive technology integration school in New York City, it was a chance to pitch his own vision for a new kind of school experience. His idea was to combine project-based learning with modern tools like the Mac to help students develop the high-level thinking and skills they would need in today’s world.
When his proposal was accepted, Lehmann became the founding principal of the high school he’d envisioned — the Science Leadership Academy, which has drawn students from all over the city since its first freshman class entered in September 2006. Formed in partnership with The Franklin Institute, a world-renowned science museum, the school features a curriculum in which students learn by creating research projects that try to answer fundamental questions raised in classroom sessions. Learning is measured not just in test results but in how effectively students develop their arguments and present their research.
Facilitating that research is the Mac, which every ninth-grade student receives on entering the school. Because the Mac is so easy to use, even students new to computers are able to create projects that demonstrate their learning. And because using the iLife and iWork suites is so intuitive — with skills transferring easily across applications — students are able to frame their results in polished Keynote, Pages, and iWeb presentations that integrate text, video, and sound; in sophisticated movies edited in iMovie and Final Cut Pro; and in engaging podcasts and soundtracks created using GarageBand. The emphasis on making high-quality presentations encourages students to create projects that reflect the best work they see in the world. And their successes create even higher levels of engagement with the material.
The Mac is also a hub for deeply collaborative learning, a core value of the school and a key component of its curriculum. Students and staff research lessons on the Internet; discuss projects using iChat; post homework assignments to the school’s website; and communicate through SLA Talk, the school’s online bulletin board. The seamless networking capability of the Mac allows students to share content as easily as they create it, and they are encouraged to publish their blogs and podcasts on educational social networking sites.
“We chose the Mac platform because it is such a powerfulcontent creation device.”
— Chris Lehmann, Principal, the Science Leadership Academy
Because of the central importance of the Mac in supporting the school’s curriculum, funding for Mac computers for every administrator, teacher, and student at the Science Leadership Academy is written into the school’s operating budget.
Although most new teachers arrive at the school already familiar with its learning approach, they participate in a weeklong boot camp that covers curriculum and technology. During the school year, faculty members meet for two hours of professional development each week to examine their own practices and share insights from the classroom. Staff development continues on the school’s website, where teachers discuss tools and resources in forums and blogs and post unit plans that are shared across disciplines.
All incoming ninth-grade students — most of whom have little or no experience using a notebook computer — take a mandatory technology infusion workshop, where they learn the basics of operating a Mac and using iMovie, Keynote, and GarageBand. The technology coordinator who teaches the class works closely with ninth-grade teachers to integrate the skills taught in the workshop with the projects students are working on in class. Students adjust quickly to using the computer as their main tool and resource in the classroom and at home.
Once each year, Lehmann and his technology staff decide on a common set of upgraded applications that are loaded onto every Mac. This eliminates incompatibilities among staff and student computers during classroom collaborations and presentations. The Mac computers are so reliable and virus free that students and teachers can handle most of the day-to-day maintenance. But because the Mac is so fundamental to each student’s learning, the school has a full maintenance and repair shop run by a certified technician and trained student assistants.
In the four years since the school's opening, the Science Leadership Academy has received worldwide recognition for its innovative educational approach, which has translated into student achievement. In annual standardized state tests given to every high school junior in Pennsylvania, Science Leadership Academy students have consistently tested above the city and state averages. And 97 percent of the students in the academy’s 2010 graduating class are going directly to college.
Cell Block 501
The Mac and iWork help 11th-grade students explain trigonometry.
At the Science Leadership Academy, proof of learning is always in the work. The learning is very much evident in “Cell Block 501,” a compelling presentation that was researched and produced by a group of highly engaged 11th-grade math students to demonstrate their knowledge of the laws of sines and cosines. The students used iWeb, Keynote, and GarageBand on their Mac notebooks to show their mastery of math concepts by incorporating photographs, animation, and sound. Watch the video
Products they useMacBook
This notebook computer is great for learning both inside and outside the classroom. Learn more about MacBookiLife
Create photo books, movies, podcasts, music, and more with the latest versions of iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iWeb, and iDVD. Learn more about iLifeiWork
The easiest way to create great-looking documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on the Mac. Learn more about iWorkFinal Cut Pro
When students are ready for advanced video editing, they’re ready for Final Cut Pro. Learn more about Final Cut Pro