March/April 2002 // Spotlight Site
The George Lucas Educational Foundation
by Stephen Downes
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Stephen Downes "The George Lucas Educational Foundation" The Technology Source, March/April 2002. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

George Lucas is best known for such films as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and American Graffiti. He is also known for innovations in technology, developing THX sound, and establishing the Industrial Light and Magic visual effects studio. But educators are perhaps most familiar with—and thankful for—his work in the use of technology to promote learning.

Lucas's educational philosophy is summarized in a few sentences on the George Lucas Educational Foundation Web site:

Traditional education can be extremely isolating—the curriculum is often abstract and not relevant to real life, teachers and students don't connect with resources and experts outside of the classroom, and schools operate as if they were separate from their communities.

Project-based learning, student teams working cooperatively, students connecting with passionate experts, and broader forms of assessment can dramatically improve student learning. New digital multimedia and telecommunications can support these practices and engage our students. And well-prepared educators are critical. (Lucas, 2002, ?Ǭ? 2-3)

It is with these ends in mind that The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF) has amassed an impressive array of resources directed toward creating and supporting innovative classrooms, skillful educators and involved communities.

These three themes define the structure of the GLEF home page and organize the resource collection contained on the site. Additions to the site rotate month to month through the three themes, with new content highlighted in a box on the lower right. More traditional navigation is available in the left hand column; here you will find information about the Web site and a "Get Started" link tailored to your interests. A site search, as well as free subscriptions to site-sponsored newsletters GLEF Blast (electronic) and Edutopia (print), are also available in the left hand column.

Clicking on any of the "Get Started" links will take you to an introductory page. If you click on Higher Education, for example, items specifically addressed to college and university professors are presented, followed by links to the site's three major themes. Similarly, if you click on the Principals link, items addressed to public school principles are displayed, followed, as always, by links to the site's three major themes.

Following the link to any of the site's three themes brings you to a set of resources and deeper discussion. A teaser introduces the theme. For example, the Innovative Classrooms page is introduced with the following points:

THEN: Students sat quietly in rows and worked by themselves with pencil and paper.

NOW: Students work in groups, use the Web to get the latest content, talk to experts online and in person, and learn from images, sound and text. We spotlight schools and classrooms where learning is active and technology is well integrated.

Following this introduction are three or four new resources and a set of sub-categories expanding on the theme. Readers may delve into Assessment or Project-Based Learning from the Classrooms page, for example.

An unexpected richness emerges at this point. Following the link into the Assessment page, for example, the reader finds a wealth of information: an "at a glance" overview of the topic, a set of examples of what's working in schools, discussion with experts in assessment, student work, and practical steps describing what university professors can do, what principals can do, and what any reader can do to improve assessment in schools.

Each item linked from a subcategory page—an article titled Urban Academy: Where Testing Is Anything But Standard, for example—is written specifically for the GLEF Web site (and may be distributed in GLEF Blast or Edutopia). The articles are clearly written, lavishly illustrated, and often supplemented with video or other multimedia. The stories look at people and places: learning on GLEF is always placed into a context. An inset provides navigation throughout the category, and if you click on the link titled The Big List, a list of all articles on assessment is displayed (you have to look for this link: it's tiny and available only on article pages).

The GLEF Web site is masterfully designed. Despite the absence of a site map, resources are easy to locate and are usually within two or three clicks (once you learn the site structure). The fonts are clear and easy to read, the graphics load quickly, and the videos are of high quality; the content is first rate and authoritative. And the site, following the philosophy of someone who knows more than a little about the blending of technology and content, proposes and endorses a philosophy of education that will, in the end, take us a little closer to the stars.


Lucas, G. (2002). A word from George Lucas. The George Lucas Educational Foundation. Retrieved February 13, 2002, from

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