My start of year programme has always been very subject specific in Media Studies. We’ve close read a short film, introduced key concepts, and explored the idea that a image is a representation of thing, not a thing itself through looking at Magritte. In the last couple of years as my philosophy has changed and matured, I’ve begun looking more and more at the big picture of learning in the opening lessons – but I took this even further this year and the results were fascinating.
I set up the opening periods as a opportunity to re-vision education and critically review our systems and structures. I started my provoking discussion through a couple of texts. First we listened to a section of a Film Analysis with Luke podcast where he took a break from discussion Inglorious Basterds and ranted about his problems with his education. He lamented that he was a disengaged student most of the time because most of what he was learning didn’t matter to him. He argued that pop culture should be taught in schools over classic texts like The Scarlet Letter and Shakespeare. I followed this by introducing Ken Robinson:
Many ideas stuck as students responded to the idea that education had a particular view of the mind that favoured being smart over non-academic skills and abilities. They responded to the way school was critiqued as being suppressing environment where listening to the teacher was the expected behaviour despite the amount of simulation that surrounds every student. They really responded to the question: “why is there an assumption that the most improtant thing kids have in common is how old they are?” Following this we listened to John Green’s TED talk:
He talks about how school didn’t work for him – how it was a set of arbitrary hurdles that had not meaning for him. But he balances this with a insightful discussion about learning communities that exist outside of school and how brilliant learning can be if you connect with a community that is passionate about knowledge. School – in a traditional structure – isn’t the only way we can learn.
After these clips and the discussions which often devolved into tennis balls being hit across the classroom as points were debated with rigor and passion, the students re-visioned school. Their ideas were recorded by each other on this padlet:
The ideas themselves were fascinating to hear, but what was truly striking was the passion and depth of thinking that was conveyed in the discussion about them. Our next step is to start framing our class of 2016 into something that aligns with what they think education should look like. I want to respect their views and do my best to embrace their thinking because I believe there are some suggestions here that are workable and have value.
However, the most significant takeaway from this journey is how powerful equipping students with the power to choose and have a say in their learning. Student agency is just such a beautiful thing.