So it was pretty humbling to get a chance to meet George Lucas on Friday and to hear him give his take on the future of education for about 45 minutes. And it was a pretty amazing day overall at Big Rock/Skywalker Ranch, sitting with some very passionate educators and fellow GLEF advisors from around the country to share ideas and experiences. It’s all got my brain buzzing.
But without question, what’s rolling in my brain as I write this on this long flight home are a few of the things that Lucas started the day off with. First and foremost, this quote:
“The system falls apart around innovation. This is going to happen because there is a disease out there called digital technology. It is going to change education. All we can do is run out in front of it and guide people along.”
No question, it was an interesting metaphor to use. And the more I keep turning it in my brain, the more I wonder how much of what we do right now is going to inevitably die off because of ways technology will attack the system. And if it will take the 20-plus years that he seemed to suggest before we get, finally, to a “much more sophisticated, global learning environment” than the one we have now. What was also interesting, however, was to understand how he sees that happening, basically one teacher, one school, one district at aÂ time, convincing them all that “there is a new way of doing things.”
It’s a huge mountain, one that can only be climbed by educating the educators, the central role that he sees for the GLEF and it’s magazine Edutopia. He said;
“We build the swords for the crusaders. The sword is information and knowledge. That’s all we can do to change the world…Our mandate is to figure out how to scale up the the good work that schools are doing.”
There’s much more, obviously, but rather than try to weave it into some sense-making post, let me just share a few of the other major points that he made:
On the speed of change: “Education is the dragging force on innovation. The reason is well intentioned and that is we want everyone to be educated.”
On preservice preparation for new teachers: “Universities a at the core of the problem; there’s nothing more conservative than schools of education.”
On shifting the “why”: “We need to get kids asking ‘why does that happen?’ as opposed to ‘why am I learning this?'”
And finally, a few strung together quotes about the future: “We have a long way to go…the steamroller is coming, and we can hear it now. We were way ahead of it before, but now it’s closing in on us…This change is way bigger than all of us. Technology is going to change it. This will happen. The change will happen.”
(Photo of George Lucas by Bunkfordbraun.)
Sharon Peters says
Thanks for sharing, Will – think I will be posting those quotes conspicuously on my office workspace and white spaces at school. Great to hear such things from visionaries’ visionary! You keep us fueled….
Great idea on posting the quotes. I think I will post them on my wiki and in random high traffic areas in the school.
As long as we make it about the learning and not the tech, then we’re good. What I mean by that is, I prefer that we have chalk, pencil, and paper and great learning instead of the wizardry of new technology and the kids aren’t learning. Of course, if we “civil engineers” can build a great intermediary between both, then we’ll be golden, but right now many varieties of all of these exist, but sparingly is that golden bridge I mentioned around. Good and thought provoking post.
Todd Williamson says
Jealous doesn’t even begin to cover the way I’m feeling toward you now. I’m glad to know you’re aboard a project like Edutopia. My brain is still spinning after the discussion in Durham last weekend. I’m looking forward to being that one teacher in my one school!
William Kist says
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Will! I’m sorry to hear that Lucas was so negative about schools of education. If anything, my experience has been that professors are often out in front of what our pre-service teachers are able to do once they get out into the field. They come back and tell us, “I wish we could do some of this stuff out in the ‘real world,’ but we can’t.”
If there are any obstacles to these new ways of teaching coming from colleges of education, I don’t see it as an issue of an excessive amount of conservatism, but just an ignorance and/or fear on the part of faculty to work with these new tools, and I think you find even more of that in the K-12 world.
But, hey, the fingerpointing isn’t nearly as important as the main very valuable points that Lucas and GLEF have been making for years about improving K-12 schools.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment, Bill. Just as an observation, it didn’t feel like finger pointing as much as just assessing the realities of this all. I found him very uplifting and positive in general, inspirational really. I’m sure that I’m not even close to doing his words justice here.
Jon Becker says
I’m not the first to say/write this, but…
Change takes us from A to B. We know what A is (for the most part), but what is B? Just using the language of your post, you suggest that B might be a â€œmuch more sophisticated, global learning environment.” But, what does that mean? What does that look like? Yogi Berra famously said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”
Relatedly, I don’t completely buy the idea of change happening “one teacher, one school, one district at a time.” How long have we been at that business? I guess I’m in a skeptical place right now, but I’m more inclined to believe that we need to unlearn all that we know about schooling and then build/create new learning environments, perhaps outside of the current educational system. With all due respect to Mr. Lucas and his wonderful films, I’m thinking more of the Field of Dreams approach: if you build it, they will come.
Will Richardson says
Hey Jon…not sure I agreed with that either, and he kind of danced around the question of what the new administration might do regarding systemic change. And I do think he would agree with the Field of Dreams idea, but that they’ll come one at a time, not en masse.
Tom Hoffman says
Based on this post, I have no idea what GL (or you) are talking about.
Will Richardson says
Apologies, as usual, Tom.
Gary Stager says
Will Richardson says
And, as usual, apologies to you too, Gary.
Anne Collier says
I learned a bit about Lucas as a student, some more about how he handles mashups of his Star Wars material, and a lot about connected students in gen’l from MIT prof Henry Jenkins’s Convergence Culture. Pretty fascinating. They are today’s information “hunter-gatherers,” Jenkins illustrated. It seems they do not need information, they need information *filters* (the ones between their ears), help in developing critical thinking (about social influencing coming in and behavior going out as well as information). An educational system that doesn’t offer that kind of instruction must be becoming less and less relevant, right? Thanks for the glimpses into your day at the ranch, Will. Beautiful countryside there – love driving through Nicasio to Point Reyes. Breathtaking part of the world.
Bill Genereux says
I just returned from (and blogged about) a conference of science educators in Kansas. While visiting with these teachers, I get the distinct impression that many would be innovators if their efforts were encouraged and recognized. At best, they are ignored and at worst they are punished for going against the status-quo.
George Lucas’ prediction about the coming change is in agreement with what Don Tapscott recently wrote in “Grown Up Digital.” Tapscott predicts that technology will allow us to customize education to individual students, rather than continue to use the one-size-fits-all approach that has failed so miserably for so many.
No, this is not about the technology, it is about what the technology offers us. Technology permits us to have a global conversation among educators that has never before been possible, and soon it will allow us to design individualized education plans that will permit each student to learn in the way that best suits an individual’s personality and abilities.
dean groom says
Individual learning is what is happening and we have the tools. I agree, one teacher at a time, but it’s a 2^ increase not 1+1. Fantastic post as ever. The foundation is doing great things and the quality of their writing and focus is always moving
Mark Walker says
Will – thanks for the post – one teacher at a time is magnified when they share their reflections around student learning and their own instructional practice hopefully using the technology we speak of.
One teacher this year at my school has created a class blog to share student work and upcoming events with the parents from his class. He is posting a vodcast of his prep students understanding about the writing process they are learning. When he shares his work with other teachers it inspires them to try…
We all have anchors of our past practices that we need trusted and respected colleagues to challenge us.
Finally Dean Groom’s words about the holy grail being personalised learning and the power of technology to support this rings true. I would add that de-privatising our practices as teachers so that they can be talked about magnifies this change.
I have found since I started my own blog that several of my colleagues have joined in the digital age – it can happen: http://www.mwalker.com.au.
I am liking some of the words that i am reading, especially visionary, and do we often refer to students as visionaries, we need to give them the tools and validation to see themselves as such. Also doesn’t the web remove the one teacher at a time model? Great thoughts to unpack, i am not sure that GL will try for the secretary of education job anytime soon.
Scott Meech says
I tend to agree with what you presented as George’s ideas as they have me thinking as well. The only difficulty I have with his “predictions” is that this comes from the same person who thought Jar Jar Binks would be a strong character!
Raphael Tombasco says
Amen to that. Furthermore, in regards to Lucas’ statement on digital technology being a “disease”… Well, if it is a disease, then I feel that Lucas must be the first victim (i.e. Jar Jar, the entire prequel trilogy for Star Wars, and of course, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull… *shudder*). There has to be some restraint in using these technologies and we must not allow for them to control our work and our vision. If we do, we run the risk of using/creating vapid content that looks good but has little merit in any academic or developmental sense.
Denise Olsen says
Sadly, while I registered for this webinar, I was unable to attend (I’m looking forward to the recording). I wonder if forming partnerships with businesses will help drive this process. We have all read studies which indicate that businesses feel that today’s students are not prepared for the work force. We also know that the world has become a global community. I would think that businesses would have a vested interest in helping educators to develop global learning communities and to develop new ways of teaching students so that they are prepared for the workforce.
Were you able to see the library while you were there? From the pictures I’ve seen it looks amazing!
Also, thanks for PEARLS today–hope you got home safely.
Kent Manning says
George Lucas has inspired me for years. Thank you for your thoughts about his talk.
Here are two of my favourite G.L. clips. The first is a 5 minute “vision” about changing the name of the traditional language arts class. And the second is a short interview clip about Mr. Lucas’ school experience.
This video really inspired me. It said a lot of things that I have always felt, but I never said out loud.
I’m sure the notion is out there, but I think this idea of renaming or rearranging ELA classes is amazing. Creating two types of this class. Reading/Writing/Communication skills would be one class while Literature would be a different subject altogether.
What Lucas says is so true…students need to learn the grammar of the environment that they are living in. Which we ALL know is so much more than words.
Clarence Fisher says
More and more lately I’m beginning to wonder if we really are going to have any choice in this matter. Not to be negative at all, but I’m wondering when we are going to get it. A financial crash and an environmental disaster are on our doorsteps. What will it take for us to seriously think about change? What will it take for us to realize that things are not working? I’m more and more enheartened by small things. Of stories of success in single classrooms and schools. Of sustainable development projects that people are working on in their own places. Of stories that come out of places where people have leveraged technology and creativity to solve a local problem of some kind and then shared that with everyone else, creating a bank of success stories that we can all draw upon for inspiration. I’m thinking more these days of involving kids in real work, solving real problems that they can see the results of. Spending less time preparing them for the world and more time involving them in it. Sorry for the wandering comment that may be off the mark of your post, but I’m caught right now as my own thinking evolves.
Terry Elliott says
Informal learning, learning brokers, personal learning environments–who in any institutional setting is working toward establishing a parallel track for rural schools using these affordances from the net to get off the bricks and mortar merry-go-round?
Not George Lucas. No, not Edutopia. Yeah, their coolness factor is pretty high, but I want somebody to help me help a little school system in the middle of a very poor state. I am pretty sure I am on my own in this. People here don’t see the necessity of change and people there (GLEF) don’t even know we exist.
Heady times in my little universe in an educational galaxy far, far away.
Bill Gaskins says
My galaxy seems defeated with such lack of enthusiatic and canned change through managing and data decision based on one test score each year. If a change can happen, I do believe technology will be the innovation that makes it happen. I do believe I see a pin hole of light seeping through the cracks.
Gary S. Stager says
I won’t tell Mr. Lucas how to spend his money, but we know how to educate children today, but fail to do it.
Instead of speaking in platitudes and publishing articles about festive sweaters for teachers, imagine if someone of Mr. Lucas’ stature and means ran unequivocal commercials demanding the end of destructive standardized testing?
Scott Meech says
Gary Stager’s point is very important. We need real leadership on in a major way.
Suzanne Farah says
Will, I agree with your opinion that they “will come” 1 by 1, not en masse (Although, I do love the Field of Dreams metaphor). Again, I agree with the idea of one classroom, one school being the inspiration for the masses. As bad as some of his (Georg Lucas) quotes may have made us, future/current educators, feel we have to agree that the current educational process in public schools is dysfunctional. Clarence poses a valid questions: When ARE we going to get it? Good question, I can’t wait to see the outcome unfold.
Nicole Wood says
Being a graduate student in a college program that I don’t feel is traditional at all I am hopeful that the technological age will become part of the everyday classroom. Our students are net users, and much of their lives, unlike mine was as a child, is on the computer. I have learned a lot in my semester here, and always find your posts Will to keep the fuel tank full. I agree that it is going to take time for us to catch up to what technology has already laid down. I feel it’s possible though. How long it will take is another question. Maybe with our new president who is backing change we as educators will finally catch up with the rest of the world. Until then, it almost has to be one at time.
Sydney Welch says
First, to agree to what so many others have said, the quotes for George Lucas are great, and show what changes needs to happen. If that change needs to happen one teacher at a time, then at least it will start the motion of creating a better educational system. As George Lucas said, we will become the “guides” in the technological revolution in schools.
As a future teacher, I am inspired by this idea of change and how so many are working to reform the field of education for the better.
Kari Redmond says
Thank you for sharing your experience listening to George Lucas. As a pre-service teacher, I have been fortunate enough to be part of a liberal program at SUNY Cortland.
We are, essentially, gearing ourselves for battle- to evoke change in a stagnant “industry”, and trying to learn creative ways to do this while keeping our (future) jobs! I believe whole-heartedly with the one person at a time approach, but it is with our ever-growing network of people who share beliefs about what education should look like- and how to use technology in the classroom for 21st century students-that we can really make a difference. We may only be one person in our school, but with the knowledge that my classmates are also dispersed throughout the area fighting the same fight, my faith grows.
So I like to think that perhaps there are other schools like ours out there who are also creating graduates that are not afraid to be that “one person” who is promoting technology, promoting growth in thinking, and making change!
Erica Brazee says
I’m glad to say that my experience in pre-service coursework is much different than what GL stated. My professors encourage myself and others to not get pulled into the same old routine, to not be afraid to push for using technology in classrooms, and most importantly, they tell us that just using technology isn’t enough- it’s how and why we are using it that matters.
Technology has already started to change education; it affects our students’ learning. Our students can learn outside of the classroom walls now, and are less engaged with what we are presenting them with in school. Education needs to change to keep up with our students and the world. We need to show them new technologies and how to use them effectively and safely, and not be afraid of using them. Closing our eyes to the WWW and all it has to offer isn’t going to make it go away.
Allison P says
I like what Mr. Becker says about giving us a point B to imagine as we try to change the world. George Lucas has proven himself to be an incredible film maker with a mind capable to envisioning new worlds. I’d like to see the new world that he pictures for education. What do these classrooms look like? What do the teachers say? Are there teachers? Or just Yoda?
Disagree with the statement which connected schools of education to conservatism. As a student in one of these schools, I have yet to see a conservative method. I believe the disconnect is in the movement from the theory discussed in graduate school to the pedagogy practiced in the classroom. Perhaps Lucas could conceive some sort of preservation or motivation device for keeping the progressive work alive.
Gary Stager and Terry Elliot bot make some great points here. It is obvious that the one thing that needs to happen in our school systems is change, and this change needs to reach even those who are in Mr. Elliot’s terms “in their own galaxy.” I have been there, my school was small, underfunded, and lacked the new technologies that helped many of my current colleagues to be far past me in their levels of comprehension of this digital age.
What I think is the most important thing in all of this is that we see those schools in need more like those who are technologically advanced. Put them on the same level, give them equal budgets and more adequate supplies, and instruct instructors who are unable to attend professional conferences and workshops due to a lack of funding.
I love the idea of celebrities attempting to demolish standardized testing, this would be one step in the right direction, they could also use some of their resources to end inequality in schools.
As a pre-service teacher, I have to take issue with the notion that â€œUniversities are at the core of the problem; thereâ€™s nothing more conservative than schools of education.â€ Maybe that’s the case in a lot of schools but all I know is there is an drastic difference between what I am being taught regarding the progressive use of technology and what I see in real classrooms I observe in. There’s a disconnect there but I know I am being prepared to use technology.
Trouble is, I grew up in star wars pjs. I had ewoks all over my lower cheeks for the better part of my chubb-years. It’s because of this that I hate to hear what ole GL says about my job.
He’s not coming into my school and convincing my school board that networking verbs like facebooking are symptomatic of a techno-disease, and that we have to run in the way of them. (And mean it in a positive, enlightening way.)
Yoda was supposed to be wise, but now everyone uses his lingo as the sign of hilarious remoteness.
â€œWe build the swords for the crusaders. The sword is information and knowledge. Thatâ€™s all we can do to change the worldâ€¦Our mandate is to figure out how to scale up the the good work that schools are doing.â€
Wow! That’s better dialogue than anything in his last three Star Wars movies. Perhaps society would be better off if George switched from making movies and started building schools.
Terry Elliott says
“We build the swords for the crusaders. The sword is information and knowledge.”
No, information is not a sword. Every time we turn life into a metaphor for war, you know what we get? Death and destruction. Words matter, language matters, metaphors matter. I will not crusade. I ain’t gonna war no more neither.
I think George Lucas is like so many others who haven’t lived and died in the classroom–ignorant of the complexity and a damned fool for simple answers. Swords my ass! Let’s dance instead.