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Join the Movement to Transform Learning: A Guest Blog by George Lucas

| George Lucas

I didn't enjoy school very much. Occasionally, I had a teacher who would inspire me. But as an adult, as I began working with computer technology to tell stories through film, I began to wonder, "Why couldn't we use these new technologies to help improve the learning process?"

Twenty years ago when we started The George Lucas Educational Foundation, we could see that digital technology was going to completely revolutionize the educational system, whether it liked it or not. Yet, in light of extraordinary advancements in how we use technology to communicate and learn, our schools and districts have been frustratingly slow to adapt.

Unfortunately, much of our system of education is locked in a time capsule that dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when learning became an exercise in pumping as much information into kids as possible. At the end of this education assembly line comes a diploma -- if the student can spit back the facts correctly. But in an era, where technology can deliver most of the world's information on-demand and knowledge is changing so rapidly, the model doesn't work. Why spend $150 on textbooks that students use for only fifteen weeks with information that soon becomes obsolete?

What we need today and in the future are citizens who can wield the tools of technology to solve complex problems. Which means we need students who can:

  • find information
  • rigorously analyze the quality and accuracy of information
  • creatively and effectively use information to accomplish a goal.

The good news is that in pockets across our country, schools and districts are unleashing contemporary technology -- combined with classic methods of inquiry-based learning that date back to Plato and Socrates -- to transform the learning process into a rigorous and more relevant experience.

Consider a few powerful examples. In Portland, Maine, middle and high school students have a 1-to-1 laptop program, strong school leadership, and project-based learning curricula that result in higher academic achievement. In Columbia, South Carolina, an elementary school uses computers to personalize student learning based on individual needs and abilities. And, here in the state of California, scores of high schools have restructured to offer career academies with rigorous curricula, enabling students to connect their learning to the "real world" and potential careers.

Are there enough of these schools and districts? No. Will the work of fixing our schools and re-inventing the learning process be long and arduous? Of course. But as we move on from debating what we ought to do and get busy building a better way, let's remember that the solutions --and the tools and people who are implementing them--are not far away. In fact, they are nearer than you think.

Through our Web presence at Edutopia.org and on popular social networks, our Foundation shines a spotlight on the most exciting classrooms where these innovations are taking place. By learning not only what but how these inspiring teachers and students are redefining learning, we hope others will consider how their work can promote change in their own schools.

Our Foundation staff is eager to know about your successes in improving schools especially through the power of technology integration. Together we can bring positive change to education. We encourage you to share your ideas below and join the effort to transform learning.

--George Lucas, Filmmaker and Founder of The George Lucas Educational Foundation

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Technology/Curriculum district coordinator; higher ed instructor

We still need a technology support system

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No question we need to break out of the 1880's style of delivering education to our youth. I worry if those changes are possible, however, noting that the federal government is now pulling out what little "rug" was under our attempts to use technology in the classroom by turning off the technology funding. Yes, schools can leverage other funds to purchase technology systems, but the one source most public schools had for the necessary support staff to help them make good purchase decisions and hope to keep those systems running is gone. Our technology systems will become useless door stops unless we have in place the people and funds to ensure when a teacher wants to make magic happen in the classroom, engage students in innovative and higher-learning activities that allow them to connect and collaborate, the equipment is there and working and the training and support is at hand.

I hope those whose voices will be heard, George Lucas being a key one on my list, will join the grass roots folks who are trying to let our federal representatives know just how devastating zeroing out all technology funds will be. Not only will schools be unable to keep up with the fast pace of technology changes, what we currently have will be of no use without working networks systems, technology support staff, and training to effectively integrate technology with classroom curriculum.

Please make your voice heard before it is too late!

8th grade Pre-Algebra and Algebra teacher from Tucson, Arizona

Pie in the Sky

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I dream of a classroom where all of my students have a laptop and wireless access to the internet. I dream of a classroom where each student progresses in math at their own rate with weekly or daily check-ins with me - depending on their need for monitoring. I dream of a math classroom where students work collaboratively on lessons and then move on to independent study to go as far as they are able! I dream that we go back to an innovative, student centered, and differentiated classroom. Much like the tutoring system before the industrial revolution - with students choosing study areas relevent to content to excel in!

It's a Gigantic Dream!

I am aproud public school

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I am aproud public school teacher who uses every available technological resource. I would love to have 1:1!

Life Skills Support Teacher

Quote: Your life must be so

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Quote:

Your life must be so depressing if you never enjoy what you do for work. You spend 1/3 of your life at work. Why would you spend it doing something that doesn't excite you?

Please cite where I said I never enjoy my work. You must learn to discern between meaningful fulfillment and having "fun" in the sense of the shallow and superficial post-modern age.

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Prior to the computer, this was the typewriter, before this it was cursive writing, before that printing, etc... Even writing is itself a technology. At every stage in history there have been people who have chosen the quick and easy path, what would you blame for that in the past?

The aforementioned tools were not shamelessly marketed by a low rent and low IQ pop culture that crams consumerism down the throats of a gullible and unthinking public.

Quote:

Your earlier assertion that you have a Masters degree, and are therefore an authority in this area is a logical fallacy by the way. We are interesting in reading your opinions, and your ideas, not how many letters you have after your name.

Actually, I have two Master's degrees and two state issued teaching certifications in elementary ed and special ed. I have also taught at the college level for a number of years. I think it's far preferable to inform the public of my academic credentials as opposed to admitting to the world that I'm a geeknerdork. By the way, I once made a film that erringly ridicules that whole ridiculous subculture. It's on my website if you care to watch. The title is based on one of George Lucas's more insipid stage directions to his actors on the set of the first Star Wars.

Learning Specialist: Technology for Stratford Hall

Your life must be so

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M. A. Hauck,

Quote:

Life isn't supposed to be about FAST, EASY, and FUN. When you grow up in a working class immigrant culture, you learn that life is something far more important than what those superficialities represent.

Your life must be so depressing if you never enjoy what you do for work. You spend 1/3 of your life at work. Why would you spend it doing something that doesn't excite you?

I agree that too often that people fall prey to the quick and easy solution, but it is an error to assume that this is the fault of the technology they are using. We have always used a technology of some kind to communicate our ideas, and represent our thoughts. Prior to the computer, this was the typewriter, before this it was cursive writing, before that printing, etc... Even writing is itself a technology. At every stage in history there have been people who have chosen the quick and easy path, what would you blame for that in the past? Their pens wrote too quickly?

I blame our curriculum for some of these issues. Rather than trying to teach absolutely every critical thing that kids need, we should spend more time digging deeply into a smaller number of facts, and yes some of that time should be spent offline, alone, exploring the idea by oneself.

Your earlier assertion that you have a Masters degree, and are therefore an authority in this area is a logical fallacy by the way. We are interesting in reading your opinions, and your ideas, not how many letters you have after your name.

Life Skills Support Teacher

Quote: I ended up thinking I

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I ended up thinking I couldn't paint because I couldn't control the materials. Heck I still can't make paint do what I want with a cheap brush.

What I want my kids to learn is that they CAN create and they SHOULD create as well as how to create and when to create appropriately.

I'm glad you put it this way, because this thinking is part of a grave problem I assign to this FAST, EASY, and FUN culture we live in, a culture I have little patience or regard for. I'll try to explain why.

The path to meaningful achievement must include personal suffering and hardship. To be a great artist (or a great student) requires great personal sacrifices. The problem is, too many in today's society, most notably kids, have neither the patience nor the fortitude to achieve in any meaningful way. If it doesn't arrive instantly, they want no part of it. This trendy tech that people are slobbering over provides too many shortcuts. Shortcuts create lazy and half-assed results. This is why I abhor multitasking, which in my estimation, is someone performing several tasks at once in an incomplete and imprecise manner, instead of focusing on one task until precision is 100% assured. I detest imprecision. Unfortunately, being an f-up is excused in today's dumbed down world. I also do not suffer from a compromised attention span like many of my contemporaries. I allot the necessary amount of time to do something right, whether it's teaching a lesson or creating a project. I have to please myself first before pleasing others in that regard.

Kids need to be taught to slow down and do things right. They need to be taught that the easiest path is not always the best. They need to be taught that aspects of modern society's digital obsession are seductive as well as corruptive. Just because you can have something doesn't mean that you have to have it. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you have to do it. There's a lot to be said to deny one's self the indulgences that so many others can't resist. I am of the belief that overindulgence, greed, and selfishness has lead to the near ruination of our society. As a parent and a mentor, I am committed to teaching kids a different philosophy of life that's more spiritual, less materialistic, and back to basics. I do not subscribe to this submissive attitude that pop culture can't be avoided. Yes it can, it just takes the will to say NO. We live in a culture inhabited by too many retro-adolescents, too many Peter Pans refusing to grow up. Work should be like play. Ugh.

Life isn't supposed to be about FAST, EASY, and FUN. When you grow up in a working class immigrant culture, you learn that life is something far more important than what those superficialities represent.

Internet and Society

Is paint better than display?

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I'm both a studio artist and a digital design teacher in website design. I think you are seeing equivalences that don't exist. Self expression uses the appropriate path to communication, so denying a child the opportunity to use the medium the child wants to use is pretty cruel.

George evidently didn't like parts of his schooling. Probably none of us loved every minute of it. I was rejected for enrichment because I wasn't identified as being talented. When I saw the other kids returning to the classroom with their drawings (1958-9) I was really sad. But the worst was having to paint with horrible watercolors, cheap brushes, and fake watercolor paper. I ended up thinking I couldn't paint because I couldn't control the materials. Heck I still can't make paint do what I want with a cheap brush.

What I want my kids to learn is that they CAN create and they SHOULD create as well as how to create and when to create appropriately.

Life Skills Support Teacher

Traditional means are more than adequate and far less costly

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if a child wants to self-express, they buy a journal for a few dollars and write their poetry. Plus, it helps their handwriting skills (fine motor). If they want to self express, they can buy a canvas, some paints, and a few brushes inexpensively and create beautiful work, certainly more beautiful than something they make on a screen. If I read the word "empowerment" one more time I'm going to be ill, because it has become so over used. I know of a tech educator from New York who cannot begin any conversation about her job without including the phrase "harness the power of these tools." These individuals have become the tools, the tools of corporate America. They sound like salesmen. And really, who likes salesmen? I certainly don't. They are bothersome and annoying people. I can't stand to hear or read teachers making pitches for anything that doesn't have to do with bona fide educational theory. I have yet to find one article on this website that deals with Response to Intervention or Positive Behavior Support. How about Applied Behavior Analysis? That's what teachers should be discussing. Identifying and remediating at-risk learners should be of paramount concern. But corporate America and its evil twin Madison Avenue doesn't push the aforementioned, so the lemmings in the education profession don't do the dance. The values and attitudes have veered to the superficial. Some teachers think it's hip to talk "geekspeak (gag)." Why am I the only one realizing this?

Life Skills Support Teacher

Mechanical Crack?

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A report out of the UK today details how habitual users of social media and attendant devices suffer actual withdrawal symptoms when separated from them for a period of time.

Is this the mark of an advanced society? Is this the proper way to develop the next generation of kids? Set them up for an addiction that only serves the bottom line of corporate America who wants us to "buy more, be happy"?

Does anyone but me find the irony here? In the big screen version of THX 1138 released 40 years ago, which took plenty of potshots at corporate America, included the actual line I just quoted in the last paragraph.

Mr. Lucas saw the corruption in 1970, but today, as part of the corporate establishment, that trepidation becomes irrelevant as Big Education has been subverted by the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook, et al.

I can use google to search and use my apple computer or microsoft apps, but I could take them or leave them if I had to. I don't salivate over new products, either. I can't base my life on this stuff, like so many of my contemporaries do.

I know of a teacher who fancies herself as an "innovative educator" who proudly lists her tweeting output to be 13,000+. I know for a fact that this output does not make her a better teacher. it's all about her putting on a show for self-aggrandizement's sake, to have her ego stroked by a string of equally socially needy cohorts.

The sad part is, there are hundred of teachers like her infesting the internet. I'm sorry, but the only way to foster bona fide vis-a-vis contact is to get your butt out of the chair, out of the house, and into the real world with flesh and blood people, not little squiggles on a screen. Just because someone is in Australia and you live in Pennsylvania doesn't make the conversation any more meaningful, either. I could get just as much talking to my teaching associate in the next room or reading a peer reviewed journal. Again, it's all about show and superficiality.

Sometimes, it makes me embarrassed to admit I'm in the same profession.

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

Technology and digital citizenship

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M.A. Hauck wrote:

So the education field is now being hijacked by another generation of socially awkward individuals who relate better to flickering screen interaction than actual vis-a-vis communication. They can't live without burying their noses into little gadgets to transmit a glut of meaningless conversations to assauge the need for instant gratification. It's a pity that you and others believe throwing money at a false evolutionary trend to create another generation of self-absorbed, socially awkward, and attention span challenged citizens who value play more than simple hard work.

If the socially awkward and insecure geeks feel they should inherent the earth, then we are all doomed.

Thank you for sharing your opinions. It's important for us to debate various points of view, especially as we're amid such a tectonic shift with technology and society, and by extension, education.

Technology may be creating self-absorbed awkward and insecure geeks, as you suggest. But it's not going away anytime soon. So it's not a question of whether students are going to be using technology, it's how will they be using it. Will schools give students the the tools to discern meaningful information from the "glut of meaningless conversations," or will they be forced to find their own way? Or, should we leave it up to the technology companies themselves to lead the way with their commitment to innovation (and profit)?

Obviously tech alone won't fix anything. It must be coupled with meaningful, interpersonal instruction. But -- given the opportunities for communication, differentiation, and self-expression that technology offers -- we believe that technology has the capacity to empower those socially awkward and insecure geeks to become productive, hard working and compassionate members of society.

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