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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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Comments (39)

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Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Hello Katie, Thanks for your

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Hello Katie,

Thanks for your comment. You're completely right. Homeschooling does allow differentiation to unique learning styles that many education environments currently do not support. Edutopia really supports any type of education that's innovative (including homeschooling).

In fact, for twenty years homeschoolers have been using our resources to help them with differentiation and many other things. If you haven't checked out our popular Learning Styles Quiz, I'd suggest using it to gauge your learning style as well as your child's. It's very fun and informative. We also recently covered a school in South Carolina that's doing some innovative things with personalized learning.

We're also open to creating a group within our community for homeschoolers like yourself. Right now many use the welcome lounge but I think it'd be great to create a space for homeschoolers to directly connect with others. If you'd be interested in being active in that group, please do let me know.

Thanks again for your feedback,
Elana

Quote:

george,

Why not support homeschoolers too? I too DETESTED school, and always learned best on my own. So many of us who homeschool live on one income and have to purchase and plan our own curriculum's---but this also allows us to specialize the learning for our children and their interests and unique learning styles. The catch here is that we also pay our taxes that support that local public school----but we get no help in purchasing our curriculum, maintaining or purchasing computers etc. Why not help fund Independent Homeschoolers as well? The public schools of this nation use HUGE amounts of money per student with dismal results across the board. Homeschoolers can do amazing things with very little money----and it sure would be nice if someone of your stature took notice and supported us at it!

George's Blog

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Dear Mr. George Lucas,

I liked your blog, especially the part about integrating technology into education. I particpated in a program called Freedom to Learn in Michigan that helped districts integrate wireless laptops and access points into the class room, and I have written a book on technology & education. The problem I see right now however is that there seems to be a nationwide attack on education and teachers right now with ground zero being in Wisconsin. With no funding many school districts will not be able to afford the technology you talk about, and any student viewing what is happening to teachers/educators right now could not be blamed for thinking twice about considering education as a career, many states are now cutting college/university education even though many countries consider the U.S. University education system to be the best in the world. Please blog again on this subject and I would like to hear what your vision is because right now people say the right things about education (k-12 & college) but when it comes to the budget to pay for things like technology, except for a few districts, their actions are lacking; While at the same time other countries for example China (an entire school district in Shanghai China) are doing things such as switching from traditional books to e-books and in general upgrading their education system. Great blog!

Sincerely

Mr. Winston Shines
www.mbmtinternationale.com
http://mbmconsulting.blogspot.com

Middle School Library Media Tech

It's All Happening in the School Library!

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+3

Every day, school librarians address the issues you've raised. We're teaching digital and information literacy, helping students find the best sources of information, teaching them how to think critically about those sources, and introducing new ways to creatively use and share that information. (We've seen too many "copy and paste" Powerpoints!) School librarians are often the ones pushing new technology tools into the classrooms, too.

If a 21st century education is Edutopia's goal, you should be supporting 21st century library media centers in every school. Many of us struggle to obtain funding, yet we are often the primary source of information about new technology and uses for classroom teachers and administrative staff.

A technology-rich library is truly the information center of a school, which provides ALL students in the school instruction in and access to the best sources and uses of digital information.

A profound, and different, method for teaching/learning

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The Michel Thomas system for teaching languages, and by extension, other subjects, is unknown in North America but is being experimented with and used in schools in Great Britain. This is a resource that should not be ignored nor dismissed even though its basis is quite different from what is taught in university programs designed to train teachers. Michel Thomas, was a pedagogue trained in France but who developed his approach to teaching over fifty years in the United States. Outside of his private and corporate students, from time to time he taught the most recalcitrant public school children in Los Angeles. The outcome of those "experiments" was that formerly "unteachable" students learned a foreign language they could use and in doing so realized they were actually eager to learn more. Isn't that the very basis of successful teaching: to unlock the desire to learn that exists in every child but that may have been frustrated and quashed by teaching methods that do not take into account an individual's style of learning? Michel Thomas always began his classes by telling the student, or students, "If you don't understand any part of what I am telling you, it's not your fault; it's mine for not presenting it to you correctly." The amount of learning that went on after that brief introduction was quite extraordinary. Perhaps people in the ed biz should take a look at Michel Thomas's methods. It's easy enough to find a set of his language CDs. They're published in the U.S. by McGraw-Hill. Oh, there's no paperwork, no note taking, no memorization. The only constraint is setting aside enough time to learn. Spanish, anyone?

Educational Psychologist and Consultant at Lori Day Consulting

Technology is Here to Stay, but...

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What is more important than educational technology in the Information Age? Obviously, it's crucial. But...

There IS a downside. It affects boys more than girls, but many students of both genders suffer. Technology changes the way kids think for better AND for worse. Screen time and video games may contribute to the increase in ADHD and subsequent school "boredom" among students. Reading on the internet encourages skimming, not deep comprehension. And, it is often debated whether texting and emailing are contributing to decreased writing skills.

I constantly wonder how we can help ALL kids be successful in this new technology-rich world. It does play to the strengths of our right-brained, visual learners, and that's a good thing because school has traditionally heavily favored the left-brain, verbal learning style. However, we are seeing a reduction in boys in the college admissions process, and there is much buzz about how boys are failing in America. How much of this has to do with technology addiction and/or the negative effects of technology on the acquisition of reading and writing skills? How do we integrate this wonderful technology in the classroom without eroding other necessary cognitive skills?

Lori Day
www.loridayconsulting.com

Creating education technology to help students learn.

Start Simple and Expand

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+1

Big change can happen in small increments over time.

I work with teachers and students to create online flashcards. Teachers create a weekly vocab list and share it with their students. Students can in turn study these flashcards on their phones and our software tracks what they know and don't know, helping them study more efficiently.

Better flashcards are the first, simple step. Eventually, with the data we collect from the flashcard usage, we aim to deliver personalized learning to each student. But we're starting simple.

Here's a sample of teacher and student feedback: http://company.studyblue.com/blog/

Homeschool teacher of 2.

george, Why not support

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+1

george,

Why not support homeschoolers too? I too DETESTED school, and always learned best on my own. So many of us who homeschool live on one income and have to purchase and plan our own curriculum's---but this also allows us to specialize the learning for our children and their interests and unique learning styles. The catch here is that we also pay our taxes that support that local public school----but we get no help in purchasing our curriculum, maintaining or purchasing computers etc. Why not help fund Independent Homeschoolers as well? The public schools of this nation use HUGE amounts of money per student with dismal results across the board. Homeschoolers can do amazing things with very little money----and it sure would be nice if someone of your stature took notice and supported us at it!

Business school professor, facilitating learning from Casco, Maine

Need for System Change

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Today as in the past education is more about training people to remember things for the test than it is about developing people for life as self-responsible human beings. No matter how much we cram into a person’s memory and no matter what the traditional metrics show, we are left with people who haven’t learned how to learn.

I wholeheartedly agree, people do need to know how to: a) find information, rigorously analyze the quality of the information and creatively and effectively use information.

However let us not confuse proficiency with efficiency. Those in authority must understand that the system currently is perfectly designed to deliver what it is delivering—otherwise we wouldn’t be consistently getting what we are getting. Adding technology to the system will be a change in the system but not a change of the system.

When seeking to change the system we must not overlook the fundamental need we all have for learning and the influence that developing a joy in learning has upon the unfolding of the potential that lies within each of us. This at base speaks to the very human need for learning. That is to say people must be unceasing learners and therefore they must learn how to learn at the higher levels of learning. If we are all capable of doing this, then no future challenge will be unmet!

Online reading & math enrichment for K-5.

The potential for true

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The potential for true differentiated learning through the use of technology in the classroom is perhaps the biggest prize. While we have had a lot of progress in introducing delivery mechanisms into classrooms, a lot more effort is required on the content that gets delivered through that technology. When a computer named Maxwell can beat humans at Jeopardy you know that we have the technological capacity to deliver a much more interactive, personalized learning experience to kids.

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