The Look Book

Film making is, in principle, a creative group project.  And, while most students respond really positively to creative opportunities, we consistently notice that student production teams have difficulty developing and sharing a unified vision.  We have production teams work on screenplays, shot plans, AV scripts and storyboards to try to address this. Every year, we tweak the production process, trying to make it more shared, more externalized so that the vision for the end product is communicated.

We tried something new this year in our project ADAPTATION: The Look Book.  Our thinking was this: if students negotiated imagery with one another, they would have to clarify a shared vision before they started more complex pre-production work.  Creating The Look Book forced them to decide how they wanted their film to look and feel. Through the process of locating, identifying and picking pictures, they developed a shared frame of reference that they could return to.  Below are several examples of Look Books for the ADAPTATION project.

Re-visioning Accountability

One of the things we struggle with every year is the artificiality of accountability in a school setting. In MAX, we work very hard to replicate and imitate the dynamics of a professional work environment. We break students into production teams, we design communication systems and production assignments that are similar to those students will encounter in university and the working world. And every year, students return from college, employment, and internship settings and tell us that the work we had them do was valuable preparation. But we struggle with the artificiality of it.  Somehow, we suspect, we would have an even greater impact on our students if their work was held to a more authentic and real-world form of assessment.

Our observations were made very clear this year when we had the opportunity to meet with Alan November, an Education and Technology consultant and Harvard lecturer who was brought to the district as a speaker this year.  Mr. November gave a motivating speech at our district’s opening event, and was then brought to the school for a roundtable discussion with interested teachers and administrators.  Of course, we were excited to have the opportunity to speak directly with him, ask questions, and gain insight.

And so, we asked: How can we make work more meaningful for our students?

Time and time again, November implied that in a sense, we can’t make it more meaningful.   What we can do, and what we now realize we must do, is change the locus of their work.  We need to create experiences for our students so that the accountability we have asked them to feel towards us as their teachers is shifted to real clients and audiences for whom they create work.  As much as possible, students need to see us as collaborators who can help them learn the skills and knowledge they need in order to do great work for their clients and reach audiences.

So, as the 2016-17 school year takes off, we have begun to re-envision how we will create accountability for our students.  We are committed to shifting their work out of the school and toward the community.

Semester 1: CAP–Civic Action Project

Media Academy students spent the bulk of semester 1 studying government and social organization.  We looked at the structure of the US government and how all the parts of our government work together.  We also looked at what happens to individuals in the absence of strong democratic values by studying 1984 by George Orwell, as well as other dystopian novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Blindness, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

As we began to ready ourselves for the culminating semester project–CAP–we moved beyond our understanding of government as an institution, and started looking at how individuals interact with our government, guide it, and leverage it to make change.  We studied methods and pathways for civic action around us, as well as examining the work of medical advocate Paul Farmer in the text Mountains Beyond Mountains.

During this time, students created a series of short video projects, and mastered the video production skills they would need to successfully navigate a larger scale production.  These skills include not only the mastery of equipment and software, but also the knowledge required for equitable distribution of work by a video production team.  A fundamental value of MAX is direct teaching around the communication and workplace skills necessary for collaboration and strong teams.  Looking back–we did a lot of work!

Finally, we moved into the CAP itself, and the demands of this project!  And now, we are wrapping up post-production!

Coming soon: a detailed description of CAP, as well as links to student work!