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Edutopia — George Lucas’s Vision for the Future of Education

Sat, 01 Jul 2017 19:25:00
5 / 5 (2 Votes)
Article by:
Danielle Owen
Students attending Kendall College of Art and Design — part of the school’s network of partners — work on a design-thinking challenge. Photo via Edutopia.com.
Edutopia — a division of the George Lucas Educational Foundation — is a nonprofit web community focused on improving K-12 education by sharing evidence-based, practical approaches to teaching and learning.
   
The foundation’s primary goal is to help educators implement strategies to enhance student engagement. Their aim is to encourage a focus on important — but often ignored — classroom topics that include critical thinking and social/emotional learning.
  
A desire to incorporate new technology and to utilize it to enhance learning was a driving factor for George Lucas in starting the foundation. And it remains a significant part of Edutopia’s efforts today.
   
So what is Edutopia?
   
According to the website at www.edutopia.org/,  the organization is “… a world of creativity, inspiration and ambition informed by real-world evidence and experience. It’s a world where students become lifelong learners and develop 21st-century skills. It’s a world where innovation is the rule, not the exception.”
 
In 2010, Edutopia blossomed into the online community and resource center for educators around the world that it is today. They quickly amassed a large following and have since seen exponential growth.
  
Edutopia is a comprehensive online resource that shares and celebrates evidence-based approaches; ones that have been proven effective in real world classrooms.
   
Anyone interested can visit the Edutopia website and browse through a massive collection of content. Search by grade, subject, or by a wide range of topics, ranging from ‘Social Media’ to ‘Coding in the Classroom.’
  
Resources are available on the website for teachers of all levels, administrators, parents, students, or anyone interested in the trajectory of educational practices.
 
Lively, productive conversations and helpful debates are sparked across the community discussion boards, and the articles published by Edutopia are largely shared across the web thousands of times over. 
   
The team behind Edutopia has developed several core strategies which they believe are vital to the global improvement of education.
   
According to the website, these strategies include: Comprehensive Assessment, Integrated Studies, Project-based Learning, Social and Emotional Learning, Teacher Development and Technology Integration.
   
Jennifer Perkins, a 4th Grade teacher in Napa, California, starts her classroom days with Community Circles: a morning routine focused on the communication and listening skills key to healthy relationships. She uses questions and prompts she discovered through Community Circle articles on Edutopia’s website.
  
“I like that the articles provide resources/ideas to implement into the classroom to enhance what you are already doing. I find it to be a helpful resource,” Perkins said.
 
Blair Kurland, a first-year fifth grade teacher in Tolleson, Arizona, also uses Edutopia to guide her teaching.
  
“I have really enjoyed articles that have been posted about education in different countries. There are some amazing ideas that the United States should really be aware of for the public school system.” Kurland said.
  
Edutopia works in conjunction with a sister branch of the George Lucas Educational Foundation: Lucas Education Research.
  
Lucas Education Research provides the evidence base that Edutopia relies on to share proven and effective methods of education — noted on the site as work that is “currently focused on the study of a model for rigorous Project-Based Learning (PBL).”
   
The nonprofit foundation, brainchild of George Lucas, is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.
  
According to the website, Lucas started the foundation in 1991 in hopes of improving upon what he found to be a boring educational upbringing that left him disengaged and unmotivated to learn.
  
Throughout the 1990’s, the foundation originally focused efforts upon filmmaking in order to disseminate information across the country about what was working best in education.
  
In 1998, a VHS documentary “Learn & Live” was released — which profiled different school programs that were seeing successes in teaching.
  
A major focus of the project was to help educators best teach in the face of a rapidly evolving technological society. The film was supplemented with a resource book that included essays from experts on the evolution of learning.
   
Today, videos are still an important part of the foundation’s efforts to spread beneficial information to the public.
   
The Videos section is prominently featured on the website, where a wealth of short, informative videos is available.
  
Virmared Santiago, a high school teacher in Miami, Florida, who has been utilizing Edutopia for about six years, particularly enjoys the videos.
  
“I love how, through very short videos, you have a grasp of the central idea of the articles. I adore that I can bookmark them and that I have easy access to a very ample inventory of topics,” said Santiago.
 
While Edutopia itself is not a grant-making organization, they do compile a list of them on a section of the website, aptly titled “The Big List of Educational Grants and Resources.” These provide a weekly, comprehensive list of currently available educational grants alongside with contests, awards and other free resources for teachers.
  
Today, 856,000 people follow Edutopia on Twitter, and over 1 million persons have “liked” Edutopia’s Facebook page, where the foundation regularly shares articles, discussions and videos from a diverse online community.

 
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