M+E Connections

Edutopia: Making a George Lucas Vision a Reality

The George Lucas Educational Foundation, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016, was founded by the famed filmmaker with the goal of helping K-12 teachers make education more engaging for students, to help future students avoid the boredom Lucas said he encountered in school growing up.

According to Doug Marrone, head of strategic partnerships for Edutopia, the website and online community portion of the foundation, geared toward the sharing and adoption of successful K-12 education techniques, Lucas’ hopes are a step closer to reality.

Edutopia — originally a print magazine, which went digital in 2010 — in December launched a free channel online and across three major streaming platforms — Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV — that offers up more than 200 original and curated short-form, high-def videos, that offer teachers and parents both practical ideas for the classroom, and inspirational stories about what’s worked for educators in their classrooms.

“We’re excited to be getting George Lucas’ vision out,” Marrone said. “We have top educators contributing, and having the service available to everyone on major platforms has had a huge impact.” In December, the Edutopia web site garnered more than 2.5 million hits, a record for the foundation, and with the expansion to streaming services, Marrone only expects interest to grow even more.

Included among the videos is the “Schools That Work” series, a selection of documentary-style shorts that has the Edutopia traversing the country, to find inspiring stories of schools that have done unique things to improve how students learn. Users of the app or site will also find a selection of playlists that cover core education strategies, including integrated studies, social and emotional learning, project-based learning, student engagement, comprehensive assessment, teacher development, and technology integration.

“Video is one of the primary ways we highlight what’s working in education. It’s an extremely effective format to tell stories and raise awareness,” said Cindy Johanson, executive director of Edutopia. “Some people like to engage on social media, others subscribe to our weekly emails. For those would prefer to stream Edutopia videos on their own time in their own living rooms, now they can. Our strategy is to meet our audience wherever they are on their preferred platforms and devices.”

Marrone said Edutopia stands out because it’s specifically geared toward teachers and parents, and not students. And he hopes the group’s momentum doesn’t stop at Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

“I’d like to see us get into more TV Everywhere platforms, traditional MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributor) and new OTT players,” he said.