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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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Päivi's picture

George, I also agree that the following three factors: project-based learning, technology, and an enthusiastic teacher, are the key in effective learning.

It is equally important to incorporate research-based learning strategies. Based on the scientific approach I would add one element to your list: collaboration. It is mutual engagement of participants in a coordinated effort to solve problem together. (Ref. to my colleague's lesson: http://www.slideshare.net/larux/3-luento-tieto-ja-viestinttekniikan-peda...).

David bigpicture1's picture
David bigpicture1
Multimedia professional - teaching through CTE.

Yes George, you're title and article is spot on, about education as the single most important job.

The human experience is nothing, if not for our mentors and teachers using the power of passion in sharing knowledge. My experience with uninspired learning in public school was like yours. In College, teachers' passion and knowledge resonated with me, unlocking the doors to learning I never could have imagined existed.

Now, when I teach Career Technical Education courses in high schools, I rely on passion and enthusiasm to generate excitement about learning. From over 20 years of producing multimedia content, I've developed web-based, E-learning sites to support blended learning. Using my own resources for creating sites to share knowledge, stories and experiences related to multimedia production, science and technology.

Hopefully more teachers will use this opportunity for presenting their own content online. These sites do require some investment of time, however, I've learned by producing my own E-learning sites creates greater rapport with students and establishes you as an expert authority, which is passionate about sharing knowledge. Once you've developed the digital content, it's easy to customize, enhance or update for class presentation. You can also place links in your site to other educational sites, such as Edutopia.org. For examples, please see my E-learning sites at: www.ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com or www.BigPictureOne.wordpress.com

The Internet has been a great revolutionizing resource for learning, presenting many dynamic opportunities along with some difficult challenges. My perspective is: discretion and self-discipline are key for using digital media in the classroom (or anywhere else for that matter), otherwise it can become a tsunami of overwhelming distractions.

With limited budgets facing secondary and post secondary education, we'll continue to see a greater reliance on web-based learning. From a practical time management aspect for students reviewing course work at their own pace, E-learning technology has many practical advantages of supporting a teacher's efforts for creating successful learning experiences.

Video production is perhaps one of the greatest project-based learning experiences available in public school, yet school administration support is absent due to academic pressures. Hopefully, soon, we can hear your passionate thoughts on video production as a valued project-based learning experience.

Thank you again, for all the inspiration you and Edutopia give towards teaching and the learning experience.

Lillie Marshall's picture
Lillie Marshall
Grade 7-12 ELA & Humanities Teacher and Global Education Blogger in Boston

Mr. Lucas,

Mr. Lucas, thanks so much for taking the time to write this piece. Thank you for celebrating how important our work is as educators, and for encouraging innovation in education!

- Lillie Marshall, Boston Public Schools
www.TeachingTraveling.com
www.AroundTheWorldL.com

Jeffrey Pflaum's picture
Blogger 2014

Thanks Mr. Lucas for your article, and thanks for giving me a voice on Edutopia as a guest blogger. You said a lot in a short piece and I would like to respond to many of your points:

Technology will move education forward, for sure, but it's what you put into the "machine" that counts--the software. If they can create fantastic video games for kids, education can do the same by developing original, dynamic, progressive software/curricula.

And yes, your future vision of technology freeing up educators will re-create teachers as "coaches."
That is the way I see education in the short and long run.

Internet learning (at home) and project-based learning in cooperative groups all need the development of Emotional Intelligence (intra- and interpersonal communication skills, cooperation, collaboration, commitment, creativity, and conflict resolution). EI should be part of the curricula in education for the above to work in the schools.

Not all educators hear or feel the "calling" to educate and care for their students; sadly, this is a fact of life in education today. As an elementary school teacher for many years, I realized that teaching on this level is one of the hardest jobs out there. Beyond undergraduate/graduate education courses, in-service courses, professional development, and teaching experience, there is so much you have to know, and, you have to be a great communicator, because without this skill, all the previously mentioned factors become meaningless.

Replication is key to all innovative programs. It depends on the teacher in front of the class to do the "replicating." It doesn't always work. Howard Gardner said after completing "Multiple Intelligences": "It will only be as good as the teachers implementing it." Teacher education programs in colleges and universities across the country "need improvement."

Also, the thought comes to mind about the study done in the 80s titled "Becoming a Nation of Readers," where many great questions about reading instruction were posed, and now, in 2012, there are still few answers to the issues raised.

For kids to find information, to access its accuracy and apply it to solving problems, will require what I call the "prerequisite fundamental skills for learning and learning how to learn" such as: concentration, recall, reflection, visualization, creativity, critical and creative thinking, problem-solving, "common sense," and contemplation. Education should take an example from sports learning or coaching a sport such as basketball or tennis. For example, in basketball, the coach teaches the "fundamentals" of the game (passing, dribbling, shooting, plays, offense, and defense) through "drills" instruction. After practicing these fundamentals, he has a scrimmage to see if the players are learning and how they are using the skills in a game. The same can be done in education/teaching, where the kids are given instruction in the "fundamentals" and then apply them to the common core subjects. Without students having these basic skills for learning and learning how to learn, how will they be able to "compute" and integrate information found on the Internet?

I have been developing projects in creativity, creative-thinking, EI, character education, values clarification, poetry reading/writing, concentration, "Aesop's Fables," and vocabulary expansion and appreciation for thirty-four years with African-American and Latino kids in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY (NYCDOE), with extreme positive success. I have found that: CREATIVITY WORKS (surprise, surprise). It shows children possibilities, not to mention the way the mind and imagination work. Sadly, the creative world, inside worlds, and "internal education," have been forgotten in our addictive, test-obsessed culture. I believe what I did as a teacher-developer-researcher-experimentalist in the classroom from the late 60s to the 2000s might not happen again in today's micromanaged schools.

Mr. Lucas, you wouldn't have been bored in my class.

Best regards,

Jeffrey Pflaum
Edutopia Guest Blogger
"MUSIC WRITING" (4/2/12)

"Professor" Paul O. Briones's picture
"Professor" Paul O. Briones
Host and Co-Creator of Virtual Science University

I was like you, Mr. Lucas, when I was in high school! I was bored 90 percent of the time! It was my Biology class that did hands on activities and the end result, I became a Biology Teacher! It was not until my Junior Year in college that I found myself and I knew I wanted to teach Biology to impact young people to enter Medical School or the Allied Health Careers. I have done exactly that in the last thirty years with about a dozen of my ex-biology students now being practicing Medical Physicians. I have taught Biology for thirty years but not in the traditional way! I did as much hands on activities as I could when I was teaching in the regular classroom. Now I am teaching online. I agree that the lessons should be flip flopped. In the previous two years, I went to my Alma Mater in West Texas and did exactly the flip flop. I would get my students to hear the lectures online at home and when they came to school, I had a hands on activity or project to do. Their scores on their Exit Science TAKS Test soared and had the highest percentage of Senior Students Re-Testers passing. This approach works! To learn more, visit my blog at:
http://www.virtualscienceuniversity.com/blog.aspx?id=b72dc711-2f26-4bb6-...

Kelley Hazen's picture
Kelley Hazen
Teacher/Lecturer/Citizen www.manadoob.com

" It is customary for adults to forget how hard and dull school is. The learning by memory all the basic things one must know is the most incredible and unending effort. Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don't believe that watch an illiterate adult try to do it. School is not so easy and it is not for the most part very fun, but then, if you are very lucky, you may find a teacher. Three real teachers in a lifetime is the very best of luck. I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

My three had these things in common. They all loved what they were doing. They did not tell - they catalyzed a burning desire to know. Under their influence, the horizons sprung wide and fear went away and the unknown became knowable. But most important of all, the truth, that dangerous stuff, became beautiful and precious."

When our greatest minds and our greatest creators remind us that we have the power and the responsibility to give back and to guide, we are unstoppable.

Mix it up, shake it up. With passion and with invention, we can inspire our students to create a future of limitless possibilities. It is our duty.

It speaks volumes that 'social & emotional learning' is a part of Edutopia's strategies that work - because it does - it changes lives, for student & for teacher, AND it can change the World in which those lives are lived. In fact in these crazy times, it may be the only way.
www.manadoob.com

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

I believe it's important to point out, Kelley, that the unintended result of your advocacy (and its historical precedent) has created a few generations of self-absorbed, overly-entitled, and instant gratification-obsessed individuals who believe they were "special." You have too many young people operating under the misbelief that their limited accomplishments place them on the same level or moral plane with their elders who have indeed "paid their dues" in life. Hence, they become insufferable by appearing blissfully ignorant of their own shortcomings.

Too little self-esteem isn't good, but too much is MUCH worse. A person with too little self-esteem is essentially a burden to themselves, but the person with too much of it is a real pain in the butt for everyone else.

Jason Drucker's picture

Educators need to have experience developing their own skills and traits. Sadly, we are apparently more focused on preparing them for standards and benchmarks. In doing so we are not creating highly individualized educators, but rather an assembly line by-product. Colleges and universities must embrace the differences of student's going into teaching and stray away from the "cookie cutter approach." Hopefully in doing so we can model this same trend in our students.

Dr. Rob Garcia's picture
Dr. Rob Garcia
Former High School Engineering Teacher now Author and EdD

Educators,
I'm Rob Garcia, a former high school Engineering teacher in San Diego. I left my defense contractor job to write a great book for teens. For the month of October, I am GIVING AWAY FREE an E-Book of it to all Edutopia readers that email me at robleegarcia@yahoo.com and request it. Teen Juggernaut is fully illustrated and has chapters on self esteem, dealing with bullying, the importance of math and how it can get you into a high tech career, fitness, and how to choose a college. I have already sent to over 7 countries all over the world and many states. I'm doing this to promote the book and to reward all of you that strive to make a young person's life better.

This book is VERY pro engineering and math, and also lists several ways to get to college on reduced or free tuition. I have used a lot of Project Based Learning methodologies as well.

I'm getting kickbacks from school accounts due to size, so Yahoo or Gmail accounts work better. Thanks and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Rob

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