Plugging in the classroom

For over a decade, Milton Chen was the executive director of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. The foundation’s flagship website, Edutopia.org, represents Lucas’ vision for classrooms of the future. And just as Lucas trumpeted CGI in Hollywood, Edutopia passionately advocates for new technologies in the classroom.

Chen’s new book, “Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools,” highlights the technologies and theories Chen views as transformative possibilities for a better, more equitable education system in the U.S.

“In every urban district in every state there are these severe inequalities. That is historic. It’s based on the way in which schools are funded, and the ability of suburban schools to build a much greater economic base,” says Chen. “But I think part of the hope for this new age of learning is that technologies can help reduce those inequalities.”

Before taking the lead at GLEF, Chen was a pioneer in educational television, working as a research specialist for “Sesame Street.” He compares much of the current backlash against new classroom technologies to the debate over educational television he witnessed in the ’70s and ’80s. “The idea that you could use television to teach was really foreign to many educators. They often said, ‘How could you possibly use the medium to impart information to people?’ because there were no examples of it working. But ‘Sesame Street’ changed our view of how early kids can learn. Suddenly, kids were coming to school already knowing their letters and numbers.”


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