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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Education: The Single Most Important Job

George Lucas

Filmmaker and Founder, George Lucas Educational Foundation

I was bored in school.

It's true. I didn't feel like the school system was designed for my learning style. It wasn't until college where I could pursue my passion, making films, that I found my way.

Recently on Edutopia.org, we published observations from 8th graders about what they believe creates an engaging learning experience. Their answers were straight-forward and definitive: project-based learning, technology, and an enthusiastic teacher. I couldn't agree more.

Today, with the power of the Internet, we are experiencing a force that is revolutionizing education and offering opportunities to reach and engage diverse learners like me. When technology is deployed effectively, it can free up teachers from standing in front of the class and presenting information. We can "flip" the classroom with lectures occurring at home via the Internet and rigorous project-based learning taking place in cooperative groups at school. In this environment, teachers can be guides and coaches to the students. What is more powerful in education than a student who is guided by an adult who truly cares -- someone who knows your name, who encourages you, and is committed to your success in life?

By learning about and replicating strategies that work in education, we have the potential to transform our schools. By creating strong cultures of creativity and curiosity, we can engage students as active participants in their own education, rather than passive recipients of facts and formulas. In a world where information is at our fingertips, our greatest challenge is help students learn how to find information, assess its accuracy and apply it to solve problems. All around our country and the world, there are teachers and schools succeeding at the task, many featured on Edutopia. Here is a recent video which shows a once failing middle school in Charlotte, North Carolina, that invested in research-based teaching strategies and is now on the rise.

There is no other job more important than education. It is the foundation of our democracy. By seizing on what's working, and recreating those successes from one classroom to the next, we can make it better for everyone.

George Lucas

Filmmaker and Founder, George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Mindy Keller- Kyriakides's picture
Mindy Keller- Kyriakides
High school english teacher and blogger.

George, your post reminds me of so many of my students who desperately needed the creative push in lessons. I tried my best, but I'm sure some of the lessons fell absolutely flat, particularly for the spatial and kinesthetic learners. What's neat is that by reminding teachers that they may, indeed, have a "George Lucas" in their class, they can perhaps take a few more risks with their lesson planning. There's nothing inherently creative about test-prep, but teaching it creatively is another story. Thanks for all you're doing, here! : ) @mindykellerkyri

Dr. Hassan El Kalla's picture

This is one of the best articles I've read about education as a whole. I would like to let you know that we're going to use some of the wisdom and advice offered in this article to change the face of education in Egypt, the cradle of civilizations.

Chairman, Futures Educational Systems

John West's picture

I hope To see the day when we teach children to seek education instead of cram it down their throats. This can probably only happen when we finally realize all people don't have to know all things. Everyone should study the fields that interest them. For instance, my doctor doesn't have to know how to repair his car. There are other people who were interested in repairing autos who can do it for him. I believe we as a society can use a childs own interests to learn the things that child needs to know. I'm glad there seems to be at least a few others who agree with me.

Selena Trotter's picture

As a new teacher, I had really great hopes for Project Based Learning and using technology. Then, as I got into a city school where the newest technology was the overhead projector, and almost no administrative support, I struggled to get my feet on the ground. Gradually I found ways to use technology (students could use their cell phones to text answers to polls), and small activities that were my meager attempt at PBL. One resource that I see in other areas that work with students at risk of dropping out, are community leaders volunteering with schools to create dynamic programs. One example is Berkeley middle schools and their gardening projects. Our school had very little access to these sorts of models, but I believe the community can have a great impact if allocating their time wisely. I believe many teachers want to do these things when they see how it can transform their students, but initiating anything on their own for their schools can be daunting when our biggest priority is making sure our students are healthy and engaged. If on a large scale, like across an entire city, business leaders, politicians, professors and scientists or anyone who wants to help schools succeed, can pool their energy into amazing opportunities for learning with students, than we could see more movement in actual learning. An initiative like this, that can make it easier for students, who normally do not have access to the best schools, to work with technology and project based learning would be so beneficial to many teachers. I can come up with history and economic projects, but creating an interdisciplinary project using the modern technology is beyond what I can do in my classroom.

Carole Kamerman's picture

As I read the first four sentences of your article...I felt as though I was reading something written by my son. As a teacher myself, I was totally agonizing over the first 13 years of my son's education and how he was unable to relate to the cookie cutter curriculum and teaching styles provided to him. I was at a lose as far as how to help him see the importance of his education and how it would affect his future. I looked introspectively into my own classroom experiences as a classroom teacher and had to ask myself..."Are you leaving your students behind as you attempt to provide them with an education?" I took a good hard look at how I was providing learning opportunities and discovered that I was doing some things right...trying to tie curriculum requirements to real life situations for my students, etc. but there was so much more I could do. It's not what you teach is how you teach! I learned a lot from my son and as he and I have discussions reflecting back on those years, he is surprised at how inciteful I am when thinking about all of those non-productive years for him. Oh...I failed to mention...He is now in his final year of Chiropractic School at Palmer in Davenport, IA. He has a passion for learning and sharing his learning that I am in total awe of...He can't learn enough fast enough...He is driven and motivated. He has found his passion...

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

You may be surprised to read this, Mr. Lucas, that I wasn't always enamored with school, either, even when I got to university and like you, used the experience of being enrolled in a undergrad and graduate communications curriculum to self-express with my own aesthetic value system in place.

School isn't supposed to be about "you." Such a suggestion while an adolescent was often met with a swift whack on the back of the head and a stern reminder to "get with the program!" It's not supposed to be about "you," they said. They were right.

I had many excellent teachers in the 60s and 70s and a lot of bad ones, too. What made the former so excellent was the fact that they were FASCINATING people to learn from. The led by example and you wanted to learn. You'd gladly follow them most anywhere. Bad teachers were (and still are) usually DULLARDS who were/are the human version of Sominex. No amount of "21st Century Innovation" will improve them.

I'll make some comparisons that reinforce my point.

Teaching with all the trappings of "21st Century Innovation" is like a big budget special effects extravaganza that looks great and sounds great, but closer inspection reveals nothing of lasting value beneath the glitzy surface.

Teaching with the basics, stripping the lesson of artifice and gimmickry, focusing on the personality of the teacher and their delivery of content, assessment of content, and its impact on students' perceptions and beliefs ... that's the equivalent to the raw power of a John Cassavetes film. Think of "A Woman Under the Influence" or "Husbands."

Because the latter is more honest and real, its longevity is assured. It's like a lesson that never grows stale, because the teacher who delivers it believes that it's the best lesson on the topic.

I've said this before, Mr. Lucas, but our society rarely produces the type of teacher envisioned by the latter scenario. You can't be literate and worldly wise pecking away at the keyboard of a device all your life or playing video games during spare time moments. "Sage on the Stage" has been discredited because quite frankly, we don't educate young people to be sages anymore. Sages are resolute, self-assured, and comfortable being smarter than most of their contemporaries.

To make another comparison I know you'll appreciate .. it's considering the directing methods of iconoclastic mavericks like Francis Coppola or David Lynch, who consider catering to trends and popular tastes a bane to an artist's existence, then comparing that to the audience-friendly method of pop culture darling Steven Spielberg, a risk-averse approach that also serves feel-good bromides to cheering audiences munching on their carb-laden snacks and swilling their sugary drinks.

"21st Century Innovation" is simply pop culture/fast food education for kids with compromised attention spans and teachers with limited experience and skills.

Nina Smith's picture
Nina Smith
Mentor, Teaching Consultant

In addition to all good strategies mentioned in the blogpost and the comments, simply focusing on learning instead of teaching makes a tremendous change in the quality of education.
Choosing to focus on learning and deciding to build a student centered learning environment is a guaranteed recipe for making students become active participants in their own learning. Here is a simplified how to: http://notesfromnina.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/how-to-build-student-cente...

Piet Bothma's picture
Piet Bothma
Dean: Faculty of Science and Engineering, Midrand Graduate Institute

Every individual is unique and has a different social personality, a different way they associate with people, a different way in creating relationships. This is also true for each person in the way they learn; each person has a unique learning personality. Education and training systems through out the world does not take the uniqueness of learner's learning personality in consideration and tend to label learners as failures when they do not achieve in the school system which focuses on academic achievements rather than developing the learner's natural talents. Inventors like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford never completed school education. Through a support system these achievers created an environment which complements the development of their natural talents.

I have just completed a book (ready to Publish)"Education for a Productive Lifestyle" which gives an overview of various learning personalities and provides the reader with a basis on how learning could be maximized by integrating the learning process with the learner's natural talent. There is also emphasis placed on how the learner's learning personality and natural talents are complementary to one another. When educators and learners understand the relationship between the learner's natural talent and their learning personality and apply basic learning tools such as motivation, educational relationships, discipline, educational methodologies and media in developing an effective and efficient learning strategy. They will maximize learning and ensure achievement of their maximum potential for each individual during the learning activities.

In Education for a Productive Lifestyle I use my experiences where I was labeled as a failure during my schooling, research findings and experiences to provide the reader with an overview of how basic building blocks for successful learning can be applied to maximize individual learners from all walks of life. These principles, tools and practices were used with great success in various educational settings by the author when he was labeled as a failure by the Educational System.

This book does not just provide the reader with the basic knowledge and theory on applied educational practices but it also provide the reader with the basic tools and framework to develop a unique learning strategy which will ensure each learner actively engage with the learning activities to maximize their learning and enhances their love to learn. This can be achieved by improving the learners emotional intelligence and the integration of their natural talent and their learning personality.

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