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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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

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

George Lucas

Filmmaker and Founder, George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Comments (39)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Susan Gauvin's picture
Susan Gauvin
Canadian, parent, homeschooling, raised in public education

...o.k.
mind mapping: http://www.slideshare.net/shhg

How do we focus on the solution and not the "problems". Things in general can get so fragmented focusing on each little problem. Where is the consistant in the all of the variations? The consistant being a basic knowledge (Khan academy a good example), a continuous support, then adding exposure to what is relevant and happening "in the now" to quote Echart Tolle etc...
....allowing the child to communicate and discover what he/she cares about and express it in a safe way that allows feedback, so the child can learn in a non-judgmental way. Watching mentoring...( www.mentoring.org, www.warehouse21.org ) etc...

note: I don't like to see programs that teach children how to be a child. Most of those can be included under the catagory of entertainment, a trip to my daughters school library was an eye opener in that area...even if its "learning with entertainment" ...I will enjoy reading more blogs on this site and their links.

Thankyou.

I was also not engaged at school. The one program I enjoyed was a jazz program that was cancelled after 2 years. Now thinking support, guidance, and exposure to/availability of programs being of most importance.

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

[quote]Where is the consistant in the all of the variations? The consistant being a basic knowledge... [/quote]

You mean "constant," not "consistant" (sic).

[quote]note: I don't like to see programs that teach children how to be a child.[/quote]

Educational programs should LET children BE children, especially at the K-6 level.

[quote]I was also not engaged at school.[/quote]

Whom are you holding responsible for that?

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

[quote]No question we need to break out of the 1880's style of delivering education to our youth.[/quote]

That model worked quite well at helping build America into a world superpower. Since the 60s when certain regular education reforms tried to tinker with a good thing, students no longer learned the basics and American hegemony in the world has rapidly diminished. Many American students seem to know more about African apartheid that they do about their own Constitution. Too many American students can't even speak proper English. Public education has been dumbed down to appease the lowest common denominator. To demand excellence from ALL is considered exclusionary and in certain circles, racist. What's wrong with that picture?

[quote]I hope those whose voices will be heard, George Lucas being a key one on my list, [/quote]

George Lucas should concentrate on making better films, at least the kind that aren't vapid pop corn flicks that appeal to that lowest common denominator.

Riazhaque's picture
Riazhaque
Associate Professor (Emeritus)

I do not know why we are complicating simplicity? There is so much talk and so much philosophy but no action. Here is my question to George Lucas: Would he been able to make star wars by just talking about it or making it by getting down to business and making it like he did.

I particular dislike the idea of partitioning education into the 18th century version vs. the current one. It is the 18th century education which gave us thinkers and Nobel Laureates; the modern one is not producing the likes of Joshua Lederberg even though we are still earning Nobel prizes but not in fundamental but applied areas. Also technology is not going to put skills in our brains and in our hands. Only watching being done and then doing and repeating till we are good at it will do so.

Think of Technology as an aid to learning not a substitute for learning. George must realize that we are loosing knowledge by the tons these days and not adding any to replace it. I have biology majors coming to my center who have not used a microscope and do not know how to and are about to graduate. What kind of teachers would they make, heaven forbid, if they opt to teach?

Medical students are now getting less and less course work and are being told to shadow a physician to copy the physician. That is not how one makes "ORIGINALS", and it is the originals that we always needed and need more and more now.

The established structure of our entire educational system is crumbling. How many know that we now do not teach fundamental subjects such as microbiology or histology to our medical, nursing or pharmacy students. The reason: since they are not going to do the tests why teach them? Let them have the labs do the needed tests but would they know what tests to ask the labs to do?

Buyer beware is the long standing rule. If technology people are set to sell technology, don't blame them that is their task and their livelihood. It is the gullible buyer who is falling for the hype. This does not mean that I am against technology; I just want it to stay in its place and do the good it is capable of doing. Don't sell it to us as the cure all.

Kelly Brannock's picture
Kelly Brannock
School Library Consultant - NC Department of Public Instruction

I have to vigorously agree with Mary Clark who pointed out that helping students to:

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

are the bread and butter of school librarians. Not only are school librarians uniquely qualified to help students become effective users of information, there is a significant body of research that shows a strong relationship between school library spending and student achievement. When it comes to technology, school librarians are typically the early adopters of new technology in schools and provide valuable professional development and technology support to other teachers.

The good news is that school librarians are ready and eager to help students become effective users of information and ideas; they are also prepared to support teachers by modeling the effective use of instructional technology. The bad news is that school librarians are an increasingly endangered species. How ironic that California is touted as a model of effective reform because of its new career academies when California also leads the nation with the worst student to school librarian ratio. Nowhere else is the plight of the disappearing school librarian more evident than in California where the ratio of school librarians to students is 1 to 4,326.* While not as dire as in California, the outlook for school libraries across the nation is similar as budgets for materials (including digital resources) are slashed and school librarian positions eliminated.

The ability to survive and thrive in today's information/technology environment is not a frill or a luxury -- it's an essential skill. Whether it's information access or the adoption of new technologies, school librarians are uniquely positioned to lead in this area and prepare every student for the future.

*National Center for Education Statistics, cited at http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/aaslissues/toolkits/schoollibrary...

Thiago Fernandes's picture

Although I am a currently unemployed teacher in Brasil, what I value most in discussing Education is the opinions I gathered as a student both here and in the US. It's simply undeniable that Education has been stuck in the past, and carried the mindset of the industrial age along with it. As a result, Education today is simply a system meant to create standardized professionals. Of course, this isn't the purpose of Education at all, creating workers is not Education. Schools are not factories that manufacture cogs for the gigantic cross-continental economy machine.
As a society we lost sight of what is important in Education, and that is learning. Not teaching, instructing, practicing literacy or numeracy, but learning. The idea that a student is simply the "consumer" or the "recipient" of Education is antiquated and ludicrous. Students are by far the most important part of Education. Not, as the factory model would assume, pieces of clay or plastic to be molded to the country's necessities and the societal agendas.

It's initiatives like Edutopia, in its concept, that are helping Education transform into something good. So I applaud George Lucas' vision and I intent to follow in his footsteps and that of other people deeply concerned with Education who are not being held back by its calcified and antiquated values. Quite the contrary, they are attempting to change it, even if its disruptive. Transformative change is always disruptive, but we need to grow up as a civilization and accept disruption. Often it is necessary. Education can simply not be allowed to go on alienating kids and driving them by the millions out of their talents and passions.

Nacho's picture

I agree with Thiago Fernandes when he says that "Transformative change is always disruptive", specially for the status quo and the reaction of the system is that you are thrown OUT OF THE SYSTEM and the system continues without big disturbances...I still believe in the power of paper and pencil to draw, design, write, compose, make a thesis, a sinthesis, interpret, analize, etc. But I also believe that, at some point in the educational path, we have to introduce our youngsters to the technology where (cyberspace) and with (computers, ipods, videocameras,GPS, etc) which they can do all that creative work, without "killing trees to make paper and pencils out of them" and show them with simple examples from everyday life that modern technological tools can give us an edge in those creative mental processes allowing us to push the limits of our own creativity, count with an external memory to support our already overloaded, abused memorization process and memorization capacity, help us with word spelling, processing and grammar, calculate the result of various forms of equations and numbers, etc and, most of all, free the mind and the brain from the energy and time consuming memorization routines and other machine like processes to give us more brain and mental space and capacity for more creative (cerebral cortex intelligent-logical-rational-emotional oriented) mental work; the already mentioned old fashion pencil and paper work at schools. I am sure some trees won't mind!

Regards,

Nacho (N=Z)

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

[quote]which they can do all that creative work, without "killing trees to make paper and pencils out of them" [/quote]

Right now, closets in schools and offices all across America are filled with the "must have" gadgets of the last 10 years that no longer pass muster. Not enough people are addressing the reality of how to safely dispose of all that hardware (which harbor potentially toxic heavy metals) in ways that are as critical as conserving forestry.

Progress always arrives at great cost.

Ronald Randall's picture
Ronald Randall
President of Data Services firm planning new "School Operating System"

The technology of iPads (et al) connected to the web for an exploding marketplace of vibrant, motivating educational media is way, way ahead of the administrative capacity of schools to use it.

The problem of mixing the social imperative of group activities and age-appropriate groupings with highly-varied, individualized progression through a curriculum of learning modules is huge and largely unaddressed.

Traditional classroom teaching forms of organization within schools are obsolete, as they frustrate both the fastest and the slowest learners (as well as the teachers). Needed instead is organization around the idea of individual learners progressing though a well-mapped and customizable curriculum of learning objectives.

Organizing around learning instead of teaching, however, is very, very difficult.

My firm has developed a simulator defining the problem of dynamically grouping learners into socially-important group activities while allowing them to progress through a curriculum at their own pace and style. We are also developing a mapping of web-available educational media against the Common Core Standards now adopted by most states in a format allowing extension and customization by school districts and others.

By this post, I invite George Lucas (whose production company should be a pioneer in educational media pieced into the Core Curriculum Standards) and others to contact me to discuss constructive action to improve the absorptive capacity of schools for the new technology.

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

[quote]

Traditional classroom teaching forms of organization within schools are obsolete, as they frustrate both the fastest and the slowest learners (as well as the teachers). [/quote]

The reality is, Mr. Randall, they are only "obsolete" within the context of the purported effectiveness of your product. I don't believe you really know the "real" classrooms at all, which are the K-12s, where real teaching commences (not "lecturing," as is the case in universities). You sound like the typical business/corporate type who believes they can apply their MBA knowledge to our very different profession. This is why I reject what you represent. Real teachers don't think like business/corporate types. Real teachers don't think in terms of what they can sell. They don't view students as potential customers, either, whose existence represents some target demographic. In my estimation, the entire business/corporate world is based on every false value and disingenuous motive imaginable. I only need to consider the collapse of the American free market as proof. Ironic how people are trying to impose a failed economic model onto a profession perceived to be "failing." Let teachers with the M.Eds decide their own fates and assign your efforts elsewhere. Business people screw up the education field every time they intrude upon it. Education is NOT a business, it's an art form. If you aren't an artist, please stay out!

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