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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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8 EduWins of 2013

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

We're always hearing about how education is so messed up -- so often, the conversation focuses on all the negatives. But there are also plenty of "EduWins," too -- awesome ideas, videos, people, programs, practices, products, Tweeters, teachers, and technologies that are making a difference and changing the lives of real students on a global scale.

Indeed, as technology continues to quietly revolutionize learning, and models like project-based learning become more broadly accepted, and neuroscience deepens our understanding of how our miraculous brains actually work, it is no surprise that so much is changing in education. And -- as with any change -- there is the good and the bad.

So we asked our intrepid team of bloggers to reflect on this year's biggest eduwins, and here are their thoughts. Surely there are others! Please add your own in the comments area below.

  • Andrew Miller
    Game-Based Learning Goes Mainstream

    Games are increasingly becoming accepted as legitimate ways to learn content. Even President Obama says, "Games can make education relevant for young people!" -- Andrew Miller

  • Terry Heick
    Technology Integrated with Purpose

    In 2013, one thing that was great for education was the slight re-balancing of technology trends. Though the growth is still exciting and explosive, there has been a shift away from technology-for-technology's-sake, to technology-for-learning. Even some Luddites making their voices heard. It was also nice to see the growth of non-Apple ecologies, specifically Google and Microsoft." -- Terry Heick

  • Rebecca Alber
    Students Speaking Up and Taking Ownership of Their Learning

    THIS brilliant TEDx video by a 13-year-old. Happiness and learning -- yay! -- Rebecca Alber


  • Maurice Elias
    Large-Scale Commitment to Social-Emotional Learning

    The awesome idea, to me, is the NoVo Foundation's commitment to bring social-emotional and character development programs to scale. They have provided many evidence-based programs from all over the United States with technical assistance and funding to greatly extend their reach. They have also provided support, through CASEL, to a number of large school districts to bring in SEL systematically into their schools. It's awesome to match commitment with resources -- including funding -- and capacity building in a multiyear, large-scale commitment that also creates a community of learners so that everyone will get better at this. We may look back at 2013 as the year in which we moved past the tipping point, toward our schools become more emotionally intelligent and turning around our academic achievement and opportunity gaps. -- Maurice Elias

  • Suzie Boss
    President Obama Groks PBL

    In May, President Obama visited Manor New Tech, a project-based high school near Austin, Texas (featured in Edutopia). After the President spent nearly an hour hearing from students about their projects, he said, "Every day this school is proving that every child has the potential to learn the real-world skills they need to succeed in college and beyond. You're doing things a little differently around here than a lot of high schools, and it's working." (White House video) Huzzah for the awesome Manor team! -- Suzie Boss

  • Anne O'Brien
    New Funding Formula Benefits Disadvantaged Schools

    Governor Jerry Brown overhauls California's school funding formula, providing schools that serve low-income and English language learners with more money. Why is it awesome? In the U.S., school funding is often based largely on property taxes. Schools in wealthier districts with higher property values have more money for schools. So while we know that disadvantaged students need more resources to help them overcome the challenges they face in succeeding in school, we actually tend to provide them with fewer resources. Governor Brown's plan recognizes that discrepancy, helping develop a more equitable funding system. -- Anne O'Brien

  • Elena Aguilar
    Powerful Spoken Word Video on Student Agency

    My favorite video, "I will not let an exam result decide my fate." Powerful spoken word. Moved me to tears, many times. -- Elena Aguilar


  • Judy Willis MD
    New Research: The Bilingual Brain and Increased Executive Function

    Neuroimaging and cognitive neuroscience have found that there is an increased executive function activation that’s associated with growing up bilingual. Researchers suggest that an explanation for their findings could be the intense workout of the brain’s executive function networks required for communication a duel-language environment -- the brain's machinery for interpreting each language appears to run simultaneously. For a bilingual brain to understand (and later produce) speech, it would require constant choices and intentional effort. This has strong implications for immigrating families in terms of retaining home use of their native languages. Implications also extend to the potential benefits of other very early interventions to influence the development of the neural networks of executive functions in all children. -– Judy Willis MD

A great list, but surely there were others. What were some of your favorite EduWins this year?


Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
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