Why School, The Movie

By Will Richardson

why schoolSo here’s the question:

You think our little edu-network could make a movie?

Like, a REAL full-length documentary feature? As in the next (and better) “Waiting for Superman?” One that kids had a big role in producing?

If your interest is piqued, read on …

The Idea

A couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Josh Weisgrau and Doug Herman, co-founders of Rough Cut Media, asking if I’d be up for a conversation around making a feature length documentary of Why School?, the TED book I wrote last September. Floored and humbled, I wrote back something along the lines of “Really? Absolutely. Yes. Definitely. Totally. Anytime. Really?”

Last weekend, we sat down at a Panera just north of Philadelphia and explored the idea in depth and started creating the requisite Google Docs. I think all three of us walked away feeling totally excited about the potential for a project like this, and also totally overwhelmed by what it might take to do it well.

The bottom line? Despite the hugenamity of this, we’re going for it.

But here’s the deal: We decided from the start that we want you, all you nodes in our networks out there who have been thinking and writing and creating and designing and pushing and working hard to deeply understand this profound moment of change in education, we want you to play an important role in making this happen if you choose to.

We don’t want this just to be “our” project as in Doug, Josh and me. If we do this, we want it to be “our” project as in the global community of connected educators that care deeply about what schools must become for our kids to flourish in their futures. Those who believe in some semblance of that third narrative I wrote about recently and that we need desperately to bring to scale a new conversation about schools and classrooms and learning in the modern world.

In other words, we sincerely want and need your help.

The Project

1. This Will be a “Real” Movie

Some details: First, this will be a “real” movie, a la “Waiting for Superman” or “Race to Nowhere.” The bar will be high for professional quality writing, filming, production, marketing … the whole deal. We’re building a budget that we hope to fund on Kickstarter later this spring. We want to enter it in film festivals, hold meet-up screenings around the world, get on PBS (Or NBC). And more.

In other words, we’re dreaming big.

(Note: All monies raised for this project will go either to production expenses or, if there’s anything left over, a scholarship fund for students wanting to pursue a career in video production. No one will reap any profits, in other words.)

2. Kids Will Play a Role

Second … and this honestly may be the best part…kids will play a HUGE role in making this movie. In case you didn’t know, Doug and Josh’s Rough Cut Media was created to bring the skills of multimedia production into schools. The pilot program Doug directs at Science Leadership Academy has already shown that high school students can run a professional video production studio.

Through consulting, professional development, and online classes, Rough Cut’s core mission is to spread the message that students can, and must, be able to communicate professionally using modern media. We’re thinking this is an opportunity to bring those ideas and practices to schools from all over the place who might choose to do some interviewing and filming at remote locations.

As much as we hope this movie tells a new story about learning in schools, we also hope it serves as an amazing example of what our students can accomplish in the way of real, authentic work with technology and guided mentorships.

3. This Won’t be Just Local

Third, this won’t just be a US or North American-centric story. The Web and technology in general are challenging us to learn and relearn schools and classrooms and learning itself all across the world. This truly is a global shift, and we want to try to capture the global story that goes along with that.

4. This Will be Unique

Finally, this won’t be a movie about “Why School?” the book per se as much as it will be about a narrative that we all (hopefully) craft together. No question, we’re thinking the ideas in the book can serve as a foundation for that narrative. But our goal is to produce something that represents the major themes around the profound changes that are required by these connected, constructivist technologies that up until now, at least, haven’t been clearly articulated at scale.

Call us crazy.

There’s more to tell, but for now, we’re interested in what you think. Seriously, you wanna make a movie? And maybe, in the process, start a movement? Would you be willing to contribute your ideas? Your time? Your skills to this?

If you said yes to any of that, or you’re thinking of something else you can contribute, please take a second to fill out this form to express your interest and start the brainstorming process. We’ll be back in touch with next steps.

Thanks for considering it. We think the potential is amazing. Really looking forward to seeing what happens with this.



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