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

George Lucas

Filmmaker and Founder, George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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 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

George Lucas

Filmmaker and Founder, George Lucas Educational Foundation

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Rob Currin's picture
Rob Currin
High School English Teacher, Coach, Student

"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."

I am a classroom teacher and this response comes directly from the front lines. Using Wikispaces is one way that I attempted to address the goals that George outlined above. Today my students are researching various topics related to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Using laptops, small groups of students are out finding credible information to share with their classmates. One group is finding information on Censorship in America while another group is researching the television viewing habits of Americans. Students are creating content and gaining expertise that they can then share with their classmates. Fortunately, my district is very up to date and keen on using these technologies. Activities such as this one spare the very industrial transmission theory.

Here is the link to what students came up with:
-Keep in mind that this is a work in progress.

Another very powerful capability that comes with utilizing technology in education deals with gaining cultural perspective. About a year ago, I started the Global Poetry Project. The aim of this project is to combine writing and technology to bridge cultural gaps. I know that all of this sounds quite idealistic but these technologies are making some great things. Feel free to join the Global Poetry Project.

Great blog. Very insightful and inspiring.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi George and Everyone,
I think you raise some really important points regarding technology and learning. I would, however, add one thing to the discussion - and that is a recognition that we need to be constantly debating the purpose of education. Personally, I believe the social element - creating active, informed citizens, capable of addressing injustice -is something that is often overlooked, as many schools focus solely on good test results - whatever they may look like.

This is disappointing because I think that technology - well implemented - allows for involvement in society in much more profound ways than were possible in the post.

Riazhaque's picture
Associate Professor (Emeritus)

I feel we are getting ahead of the game. Technology is wonderful but useful to those who have a strong knowledge base. Without that essential requirement technology is like the reading glasses to a person who cannot read. He will look good even quite intellectual wearing them but he will still need others to read for him.

I believe that we must not put building a strong conceptual and skills background on the back burner while push technology. Computer sales people would love it like the encyclopedia people who sold them door to door with very little affect on the average person who kept them in the home for show and rarely used them because they had no questions to ask. I know this to be a fact from a survey I conducted around 1968 asking the disadvantaged youth from Chicago enrolled in the Neighborhood youth program, if they had an encyclopedia at home. Many of them had two sets but rarely looked through them. Some could not even say whether they had the Americana or the Britannica.

Basic knowledge obtained systematically is the key to intellectual and analytical growth. Practically every Nobel Laureate in Biology or its allied fields had their beginning as bacteriologists. Now that we are phasing out such basic courses because the faculty is more involved in research than teaching, I am getting undergraduate biology majors from major universities who come to me for summer incentive who do not know how to use even a light microscope because they were just shown the specimens under the scope that someone else focused. Hardly anyone now knows about the dark field microscope or the phase contrast microscope (this later one was developed by Zernick in 1935 who was awarded the Nobel prize for it). With this microscope you can see live organisms without the need of any staining. It is a treat to see bacteria moving and dividing right before your eyes.

My message thus is: bring technology but not at the expense of the basic concepts and skills necessary to become a thinking analytical person. If we do not do that we will not have any more Joshua Lederbergs or Linus Paulings. The future degree holders, even PhDs will merely work for companies doing their production work and not their R&D. This is already happening as the emphasis is on improving the production and the quality control side.

Under those circumstances, President Obama's program designated race to the top will remain a wishful thinking because only knowledgeable thinking people rise to the top. Rest remain mediocre to say the least.

What I am proposing is a short cut to learning via integrating knowledge not by skipping knowledge. See: When we integrate knowledge it shrinks becoming readily learn-able with retention. Science for instance gets reduced to mere 150 concepts and skills which if learned first make the rest of science a joy to pursue. Science also has to be taught with all the tools and instruments scientists use to do science and not the way it is written in the
books. See story at:
The following links will give you excellent background of what has gone wrong with education and how to fix it. See:
And finally on the lighter side see education is suffering from the inverted funnel syndrome at:

The only short cut to knowing is to strive to know everything. Otherwise your knowledge will be like the Swiss cheese full of holes!'s picture
Parent advocate for school choice

You are right to ask these questions. Why, indeed, is public education "locked in a time capsule"? Most other institutions that impact our daily lives have adopted new technologies and processes pretty rapidly. As readers of Edutopia can see, there is no dearth of innovation in schools. But even widely validated innovations tend to spread painfully slowly in education, if they spread at all. Most of us know that transformative changes are often disruptive and challenging to execute. Could it be that the geographically defined school district monopolies that dominate public education find that it is just too much trouble to change? How many of us would have the energy and persistence to tackle big changes, if we knew our "customers" had no other choices, and that we would get paid no matter what? In most public school districts, the revenue rolls in as long as the students walk through the doors, and most of those students, particularly in struggling schools, have no other choice.

I see charter schools that are adopting a variety of exciting new technologies and processes to improve student learning -- technologies that make better use of the student's time AND the teacher's time. But as long as districts can exclude those options by just saying no, I think we will continue to see very slow deployment of genuinely innovative organizational approaches, as well as new technology.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Hi Keith,

You raise a great point. It reminds me of an #edchat I participated in where hundreds of educators around the world debated the purpose of education. Students should be taught with the end game of giving them the knowledge, perspective, and drive to be a well-rounded citizen, one who cares about and can intelligently defend the society in which they live. This point was echoed in #edchat and in fact, we actually had an educator write about this topic: The Elusive Hunt for the Goal of Education (

Thanks for sharing,

[quote]Hi George and Everyone,

I think you raise some really important points regarding technology and learning. I would, however, add one thing to the discussion - and that is a recognition that we need to be constantly debating the purpose of education. Personally, I believe the social element - creating active, informed citizens, capable of addressing injustice -is something that is often overlooked, as many schools focus solely on good test results - whatever they may look like.

This is disappointing because I think that technology - well implemented - allows for involvement in society in much more profound ways than were possible in the post.[/quote]

SP's picture

Great post! Totally agree that memorizing facts is largely useless. Einstein pointed that out many decades ago. I also agree that project based learning is extremely important especially these are the skills that people will need in so many capacities later in life. I built a website called to help students learn how to manage projects and it provides them PM tools online for free!

Bob Calder's picture
Bob Calder
Internet and Society

Perhaps it is our social system that is capsulized. Schools perform what is asked of them well but we don't appreciate how difficult it is to achieve the different goals simultaneously. The big losers are kids at the bottom that get left behind as the saying goes, because those that advocate for the brightest just don't leave much on the plate when they're done. (Read SchoolFinance101 for plenty on this.)

If you follow Larry Cuban, you are aware of his reasonable skepticism and my attempts to provide reasonable technology perspective. What we need desperately is a way toward separating political speech from the evidence-based speech. I was fortunate enough to hear Gavin Schmidt a little over a week ago. Gavin talked about the dialog that surrounds global warming and the characteristic "scientification" of denialist speech. It represents a place where scientific jargon is put in a bag with political arguments and used for horse trading, rejecting evidence based thinking.

There is a fair amount of good research going on. Now we need to pay attention to it because education is a complex system and technology is only one dependent variable that isn't any more or less important than several others. Come to AAAS 2012 in Vancouver. Meet the people that pushed MA and MN to top ten status in Math and wonder as I do why it isn't part of the national dialog. For now, take a look at the NSDL reorganization that puts disciplines in their own sites with computational science as a support framework. Probably the best right now is because it has great interactive content, a community, a textbook, and moodle modules. Readers may contact me at thisisentirelybogus @ for a more comprehensive list of what NSDL has done from my probably inaccurate notes.

Nate Herrick's picture
Nate Herrick
English Adjunct, General Studies Advisor and Communications

An Edutopia home school group would be great!

As a father of three and a home school dad, I also teach part time as a professor at a local community college.

I second someone's earlier comment concerning public education's monopoly being the root of its tech-stagnancy. After spending years in public education, I have seen it first hand. Computers are too often dusty paperweights or just decorative symbols of learning.

One of the founders of Atari, from what I understand, tried to introduce teaching-technology into the classroom years ago and was met with a stonewall of imperial obstruction.

Allowing competition: charters, online classrooms and home schooling will benefit both the student and the public education system. I am happy to see Edutopia make this supportive statement in regard to home schooling.

I can't help but wonder if way out on the outer rim, with Toshi Station's poor educational environment and lack of resources, that just maybe, Aunt Beru home schooled Luke.

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

First of all Mr. Lucas, I am a dual certified teacher and holder of master's degrees in special education and communications. I spent ten years teaching film at the university level, so I know quite a bit about you and the history the film. My expertise in education goes without saying. Here's my analysis: the reason why you didn't like school, by your own admission years ago, is because you were the living model for ubernerd Terry the Toad in American Grafitti. You felt socially alienated, which is why you identified more with the greasers of Modesto instead of the more upwardly mobile academic crowd. I've seen all your films, even those back to USC with THX 1138EB. That film was devoid of feeling. You clearly relate to machines more than you do to people. Only a director uncomfortable or unfamiliar with actors would direct them with "faster, more intense." You know what Kubrick said about machinery-- you can't trust it.

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.

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