27 May 2011

Fifty Students, One Question

Thanks to Catherine Cronin, NUI-Galway, for bringing this beautiful film to my attention

Whenever I talk to teachers and administrators about their schools, I try to ask them to find out what their students are seeing. Give your kids Flip Cams or Phones, I suggest, and let them show you how they see their spaces, what they like and what they don't like. Schools, I believe, should exist for their students (I know that this is not actually true, schools exist for all sorts of other purposes, and people 'in charge' tend to suggest that just about everybody except kids are the "customers" in education), and so, for me, understanding how students see and understand their school environment, along with what they'd like to do differently, is vitally important.

So before your school year ends, I have this suggestion. Hand some kids video cameras (of whatever type) and have them create their own version of the new big YouTube idea, Fifty People, One Question. Call it, Fifty Students, One Question, and make the only rule that the question be about the school environment.

A Brooklyn version

"What's your favorite place in the school?" "What's the one thing you'd change about this school?" "What's the one thing about your school which makes you most uncomfortable?" "Which is your favorite classroom?" "What do you think about as you come into the school each day?" Whatever. But don't give your students a checklist of questions to pick from. That will limit them. Let each group struggle to find their own question, and then have them go out into the corridors, the playgrounds, the cafeterias, and ask. Let every age, every grade, every type of student participate, both in creating and responding.

I guarantee that you will learn important things about your school. I'll guarantee that after this you won't approach your school environment in quite the same way.

a high school project

Once done, put the video online, and come back here and post the link in the comments section, and I'll assemble a site collecting these together, and we'll all learn from each other.

and Perth, Western Australia

- Ira Socol


Tom said...

I love the idea of students doing this.

I've been playing with it off and on for a while. I started asking adults "What do you wish you learned in school?" and got some really interesting answers.

I did a mini-version right before a presentation I did at the Univ. of Mary Washington based around the question "What kind of students do you want in your classrooms?" http://www.vimeo.com/23629856

Catherine Cronin said...

Love your suggestion, Ira, for bringing this wonderful idea forward... would be great to see what students do with the idea. Your suggestion is spot on: take a camera and go!

Thanks for the hat tip, too, and for pointing me to the Brooklyn version - I find each of the films very moving in their simplicity. Also, here is a more recent link for me: http://catherinecronin.wordpress.com/

Mike Nantais said...

These are powerful,videos, Ira, and a wonderful idea. I am thinking I can use this idea in so many ways. Thanks.