George Lucas, the famed creator of the biggest franchise in film history, has brought his midas touch to the education world. The George Lucas Education Foundation is a non-profit organization that studies what works well within the American school system. Edutopia is one division of this organization. Edutopia is a community-based website where parents, students, educators and administrators can share their educational experiences. According to the website, the goal is to show people how to adopt best practices. Edutopia tells stories of innovation and continuous learning as well. To this end, Edutopia suggests the following six core strategies for educational innovation and reform.
Comprehensive Assessment. This core strategy calls for schools to shift their focus from rote memorization and traditional tests. Instead, comprehensive assessment tests students’ academic achievement in social and emotional ways. Moreover, it supports different learning styles through portfolios, presentations and innovative testing methods. For example, instead of answering multiple choice questions about Romeo and Juliet, students might perform a scene to display their knowledge of the text. This way, students who excel at emotional and artistic expression but aren’t as good at traditional assessments can show that they understand the concepts.
Integrated Studies. This strategy combines text, video, pictures, and sound to create an interactive learning experience. For example, instead of memorizing multiplication problems, students could play a computer game. Also, the popular musical Hamilton helps AP History students learn facts about the Revolutionary War.
Project-Based Learning. This strategy pushes students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-life problems and experiences. Through this, students improve their organizational, research and communication skills. Project-based learning also fosters a sense of interest and pride in the work they do. An example of this kind of learning would be a project that involves testing the water pollution in the community.
Social and Emotional Learning. This goes hand-in-hand with project-based learning. One of the most important skills students can learn is how to work in a team. Team projects give students a chance to problem solve as a group. Also, it helps students learn to work through their differences. This not only improves students academically, but helps them be better global citizens as well.
Teacher Development. This strategy focuses on ways that teachers can stay up-to-date with the latest trends in education, pedagogy and technology. Staying in tune with students’ interests is also vital. For instance, a math teacher may discover that her students are interested in Minecraft. A good way to develop as a teacher is to learn the game and use it to teach geometry and spacial awareness.
Technology Integration. This final strategy goes hand-in-hand with all of the other strategies. As technology progresses, the importance of teaching technology progress as well. For example, skills such as coding and graphic design are very high in demand. As such, learning the basics of both will give students a leg up in their college and job searches.