360 Degrees of Success:
Examples of Innovative Classrooms Implementing Technology
Edutopia: Success Stories for Learning in the Digital
The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Foreword by George Lucas
Jossey-Bass, 2002, 294 pages, CD-ROM
In the foreword of this book of collected essays,
George Lucas, the director of the Star Wars films, relays an all-too-familiar
tale of disengagement from school. He briefly describes how he nearly
dropped out of high school because of sheer boredom. Fortunately, schools
have changed quite a bit since the 1950s when Lucas attended. Nevertheless,
Lucas felt compelled to become involved in efforts to make schools more
meaningful and productive for both students and teachers.
After achieving enormous success in filmmaking, Lucas
channeled his interest in education into the George Lucas Educational
Foundation. This organization funds innovative classroom practices and
disseminates the best of those practices to a larger audience. The book
of essays reviewed here represents a culmination of much of their work.
As the title suggests, the essays offer many fascinating
success stories resulting from the creative use of digital technology
and innovative approaches to instruction and learning. It's hard to imagine
an educator, parent, or community member who won't be inspired by the
examples described in this book.
The primary structure of this work is divided into
three major sections: Innovative Classrooms, Involved Communities, and
Skillful Educators. Each section begins with a description of the topic.
These introductory texts are short and to the point, giving the reader
enough information to understand the importance of the topic to the overall
theme of successful learning in the digital age.
Each section is split into sub-sections, which address
a facet of teaching or learning as it relates to the section topic. The
sub-sections describe numerous examples of the successful application
of digital technology. For example, the Project-based Learning sub-section
included in Innovative Classrooms contains nine different essays profiling
classrooms that engage students in rich investigations of a topic.
These essays provide a wealth of ideas for teachers
and administrators to apply to their own schools. For example, many schools
are using laptops in the classroom or have plans to use them in the next
year or two. One profile focuses on an innovative fifth-grade class in
Harlem that uses laptops in an integrated unit on kite-flying. Mixing
hands-on kite construction with computer-based research techniques, students
are engaged in a multidisciplinary study that allows them to learn about
electromagnetism, ratios and proportions, aerodynamics, and computer-modeling.
They eventually build kites and test them to see if they will fly. If
the kites fail to fly, students must evaluate why they didn't and try
again. It's difficult not to glean a whole list of ideas from just that
one profile alone.
Although this book isn't a hands-on guide with checklists
and how-tos for the teacher, it also isn't a theoretical treatise about
technology in education. Its practicality lies in the dozens of examples
provided for each topic area.
An accompanying CD-ROM offers short video documentaries
that contain classroom observations and interviews with teachers and students
regarding some of the projects featured in the book. This becomes a useful
supplement to the examples written about in the book.
This book is meant to inspire teachers who need models
for successful technology integration. Most readers are sure to derive
something from reading it, the least of which may be an understanding
of the wide variety of ways technology can be used as a tool for greater
engagement in learning.
Using Brain Science to Inform Practice
The Brain-Compatible Classroom
by Laura Erlauer
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2003, 167 pages
How is emotion connected to memory? How can teachers
use this connection to increase retention of content? What is the best
time during a class period to present new information? In the practical,
yet inspiring book The Brain-Compatible Classroom, author Laura Elauer
relies on the most current brain-based research to answer these questions
This concise and easy to read book demonstrates how
teachers can apply the latest findings about learning theory and cognition
to their classrooms. Note that the emphasis is placed on implementation;
this compact guidebook published by the Association of Supervision and
Curriculum Development focuses on the practical applications of brain
research for classroom learning rather than on the specifics of the research
itself. Erlauer essentially provides a summary of conclusions made by
educational researchers who have used current scientific findings regarding
the brain and learning.
Erlauer spends just one short chapter reviewing the
structure of the brain and how it works. She uses the remaining chapters
to discuss what she refers to as the "seven brain-compatible fundamentals."
These fundamentals are simply generalities that reflect some of the conclusions
made by educational researchers regarding brain-based learning:
- Emotional Wellness and Safe Environment
- The Body, Movement, and the Brain
- Relevant Content and Student Choices
- Time, Time, and More Time
- Enrichment for the Brain
- Assessment and Feedback
Each chapter explains the fundamental concept and
its various underlying principles. It then proceeds to give real-world
examples of how each underlying principle has been used in the classroom.
Each example is labeled with the targeted grade level, the purpose for
the activity, procedures, and other pertinent information such as the
reasoning behind it and results of its use. Each chapter concludes with
a list of ideas for applying each of the sub-principles in the classroom.
Although the book is based on work derived from scientific
research, the author is not shy about revealing that she is not a researcher,
neurologist, or scientist. She clearly states that she did not conduct
the research or come to the conclusions presented here. Rather, she focuses
on summarizing, organizing, and presenting the conclusions that researchers
have made over the past few years. Her own interpretation of the research
comes in the form of practical instructional strategies that can be applied
in the classroom.
Ms. Erlauer has extensive teaching and administrative
experience in the elementary and middle school grades and is currently
principal of an elementary school. These experiences are the source of
her many personal vignettes that demonstrate how the principles discussed
in the book apply to the classroom. Readers will find an encouraging and
positive voice that will likely inspire them to apply some of the ideas
Erlauer has nurtured an interest in her subject
for a long time. Fortunately for her readers, this interest has taken
her from curious layperson to respected brain-based learning presenter,
educator, and author. Clearly, she is a person for whom these ideas have
become a way of life.