George Lucas Educational Foundation

George Lucas: Teaching "Communication"

An interview with the founder and chairman of The George Lucas Educational Foundation on the new visual language of learning and teaching.
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George Lucas: Teaching "Communication" (Transcript)

George Lucas: The issue we’re discussing here in terms of multimedia literacy is that we stress so hard learning English and learning English grammar and then we shove music and art and most schools don’t even get into cinema. We move those over into some sort of artistic which means sort of therapeutic or fun thing. It’s not approached as a very valid form of communication. Kids know this. When you take a five year old, they can speak, they can use words, they don’t know how to write very well and they may not know much grammar, but they know how to speak, they also know music, they may not know the grammar of music, they know cinema because they spend a huge amount of time in front of the television so they know visual communication, they know the moving image. They intuitively know a lot of the rules, but nobody’s actually taught them anything, anymore than they’ve taught them anything about grammar in English. So we go through school and then later on we start to learn the grammar of English, you have punctuation, capital letters, you’ll run on sentences, what a verb is.

But nobody teaches anybody about what screen direction is, what perspective is, what color is, what a diagonal line means. Those are rules; those are grammatical rules that appear in an art class. If you’ve taken art class, the first thing you’ll do is get into graphics and you start learning well a jagged line means this and a blue color means this or red color means that. So if you’re trying to convince somebody that what you want to do is excite them, then you use red or yellow. If you’re doing it with music then you use a fast rhythm, not a slow rhythm. You don’t have to teach them necessarily how to read music and you don’t need to have to teach them how to be an artist, but you do have to teach them how to use the grammar of the language. Somehow we’ve gotten to the point where the words have gotten way up here and these other forms of communications, which all started out equal and at the beginning, much more equal before we had words.

Somehow in the educational system they’ll need to be balanced out. So the kids could communicate using all of the forms of communication, not just put it into little categories and say you really need to learn how to use a verb; that’s much more important than learning perspective or learning screen direction. But it’s not really, especially in this day and age where the power of multimedia is coming to the children. It used to be like with cinema, only the very elite professionals worked in this medium. But now anybody can work in it.

Moderator: Are we talking about a new way of teaching?

George Lucas: It is a different way of teaching in that I think English classes should broaden themselves and my personal thing I think we should rename English to be-- I mean I know in some schools we call it language arts, but I think it should be renamed communication. It’s a communication class and you learn the English language, learn how to write, you learn grammar, but you also learn graphics.

If you take graphics out of the art department, take cinema and put it into the schools, take music out of the music department. If you want to learn how to play an instrument, if you want to learn how to be a composer, then you can go to the music department. If you want to learn how to do beautiful renditions of paintings and follow the great artists then you go into art class. But if you really want to just learn how to communicate, then what is the basic grammar of communication then that should be taught basically in the communications class, it shouldn’t be taught in some esoteric arty thing, it should be taught as a very practical tool that you use to sell and influence people and to get your point across and to communicate to other people.

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  • Miwa Yokoyama


  • Duncan Sinclair
  • Jason Watkins
  • Miwa Yokoyama

Comments (24) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Jesus Rodriguez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe the point is that many more teachers should develop or have as a pre-requisite, an understanding of the visual and audio communication channels since they currently over-emphasize have teaching based on written communication. Art teachers do not own the visual and audio channels, rather they are currently on isolated islands as being experts in relaying thoughts by these.

Dale Kelly's picture

Comments from any one person tend to be an evaluation of strengths and weaknesses as perceived by that person. The true potential of new forms of educating will come when we find a way to successfully communicate, in an engaging way, the material we want the student to learn.

One of the great strengths of electronic media is the potential to create a refined and effective lesson through collaboration and then share the product with a very large number of classrooms.

A short example would be to:
1. Decide what material needs to be learned.
2. Find the best teachers and most successful methods for teaching the material.
3. Produce a video that enhances the teachers' ability to present the lessons.
4. Share the produced video with classroom teachers who are charged with teaching those same lessons.
5. Have the classroom teachers work with their individual students to the point of mastery of the material.
6. Move up to the next level.

It is easy to see in Mr. Lucas' video that educators are very sensitive to change. This is usually because they are so often being told they have to try something different. The example presented here would be the teachers helping themselves. I think Mr. Lucas is right, students are much more in tune with the new media. We need to bring better electronic lessons into the classroom to assist and bring relief to teachers and help insure that all of the material is covered. These could not replace the personal interaction, understanding and constant evaluation teachers provide.

Of course much more needs to be said, but the best way to evaluate this idea is to invest in a model program. The first step is to recognize the strength of teachers and of electronic media and merge them at the highest professional level.

Heather A. Houzenga's picture
Heather A. Houzenga
I teach everything to think critically...all balled up in one

When I started teaching, I made sure that vocabulary was a huge part of my art classroom environment, and related it across life. Kindergarten students learn about patterns in mandelas and flowers; first graders make sculptures from split logs; second graders a clay, scaled puzzle of Van Gogh and the list goes on. Now, As an art teacher in the elementary school, looking at loosing my job after five years, due to budget cuts, I feel a huge gap will be stretched even further in my student's learning. I have to agree with Mr. Lucas because I understand that our children are more interested in learning in a visual way, and that is due to our ever-changing visual world. But, when we eliminate this form of communication from the equation, their math and reading comprehension plummets. I also teach 9th grade English and find myself, more and more, wondering why learning what a verb is and why it's more important than scale, portraits or graphing, patterns in nature, classifying materials, or the history of our cultures (which is ALL based upon art - architecture, textiles, culinary, transportation, etc); what about the rhythm of how a story moves, or the way light moves through a spectrum, or the beat of a poem? aren't these all important to link everything in education together? Two thumbs way up George, but how do we change the minds of our government, our states, our school boards to realize the importance of critical thinking creatively and to save the most important, those that can not be tested on paper?

Ron Sease MAT's picture

Teachers who are doing exactly as you are suggesting and are being canned, laid off or forced into early retirement,like I was. I learned about your Foundation and agree the curriculum needs to change and that is why kids aren't being educated. I am seeking a career in such a Foundation as yours because it shows there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Ron Sease, Indusrtrial Arts Teacher

Ron Sease MAT's picture

Mr. Lucas,
It is true that all educational systems in America needs complete overhaul lest none of our children will ever be able to read past a 6th grade level. Those of us that are innovative in the classroom have been fired, laid off, or forced into retirement so we no longer upset the status-qo, (No Child Left Behind or as we call it "No Child Left With a Mind.")I am seeking a career with an establishment such as yours so we can raise the bar and get kids out of the classroom and into the sun.I would like to change, for example, Industrial Arts into Film Production.It would work well in New Mexico.

JAnne's picture
Special education, science-math teacher, instructional coach

I could not agree with you more, Mr. Lucas. After 33 years in education, I can safely say that No Child Left Behind has been stunningly unsuccessful in its mission, and we need more influential voices like yours reminding the education community that there is much more to learning than the very limited scope of the high-stakes test that continues to drive day-to-day instruction in most of our nation's classrooms. Edutopia offers me electronic respite when I feel discouraged and real hope for a more meaningful education for all students.

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

... that a director never known for his ability to properly communicate with actors on the set of a film would be preaching to others about the importance of communication?

Folks, let's not equate wealth with wisdom.

PeaceLRose's picture
teach peace education character development program

As a teacher in a spiritual center I have been gifted extrodinary insight to the human spirit and how early character education , teaching life lessons, virtues and values to help youth identify themselves with their higher power within and how to succeed in life, bypassing all the negative influences and keeping them focused on thier goals of happiness, succeess, importance, and so on. I'm currently writing a handbook on the collection of lessons I've taught several years at the center. My original dream was to have a Peace School, which I still may open , but in the mean time my book will soon be finished and in the hands of other teachers empowering self discovery by finding buried treasures within to succeed in life. The book will have a drawing of the school and plans for my vision... May The Force Be With You... and me. Linda Rose

JE Buckingham's picture
JE Buckingham
High school World Language teacher at New Tech High in Napa, CA.

Dale, I believe that what you have described is PBL or PrBL, which are the mainstays of the New Technology Network. In theory, the NTN has almost got it right. Of course, whenever there are humans involved, there are always errors, but at least there are others in education who seem to be on the same track that we are on: you, Lucas, others and I. After innovation come mistakes; after the mistakes comes the learning; after the learning comes the future. That is why we continue to innovate, to err, and to learn: to be able to touch the future and then pass it on. Keep the faith and continue to breathe. We shall overcome!

Emilia olvera's picture
Emilia olvera
V.I. Houston Texas

Hi thanks for sharing this information so interesting.
I studied Psychology in my Country and U.S. study computing.
After giving computer classes.
It was a very important time to see how I could share what I know.
Although for each dificil was very early times.

I did a lot of research and finally I get permission to teach computing to VI students were incredible achievements with CTRL-K for the blind.
Achievements were very interesting.
Well after fears of others came and said that professionals ought not be for VI students should only learn braille.
The fact that I'm very excited of Technology.
And i wold like to see changes in the Education

Hola gracias por compartir esta informacion tan interesante.
Yo estudie Psicologia en mi Pais y en EU estudie computacion.
Despues trabaje dando clases de computacion. Fue un tiempo muy importante al ver como podia compartir lo que yo sabia.
Aunque para cada uno esra muy dificl las primeras veces.

Hice muchas investigaciones y finalmente me fue pemitido ensenar computacion a los VI students fueron logros increibles con las CTRL K para los invidentes.
Fueron logros muy interesantes.
Bueno despues vinieron temores de otros profesionales y dijeron que eso no debia ser por que los estudiantes VI deben solo aprender braille.
La verdad me emociona mucho eso de la Technology.

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