“Is School Enough?” PBS Documentary

Source: PBS website, Sep 2013

Is School Enough? documents vivid examples of where new modes of learning and engagement are taking hold and flourishing. Featuring nationally recognized educators and researchers, Stephen Brown’s powerful stories show that when students have the opportunity to explore real interests and problems, they step up and perform at the highest level. This new approach reaches motivated students as well as kids that educators call “the bright and bored,” helping these learners tune in rather than drop out.

Is School Enough? introduces parents, educators, and everyone passionate about learning to:

  1. Students in Maine who work with veterinary experts and digital apps to prepare a new home for a retired circus elephant.
  2. Young people worldwide who use the online Harry Potter Alliance to launch meaningful social justice initiatives.
  3. A curious and creative teen who crafts her own educational experience based on her passion for natural healing and yoga.
  4. A young man in Oakland who produces state-of-the-art music videos to engage his community—and himself.

Through the voices of these inspired students and America’s foremost education thought leaders, Is School Enough? provides insight into an essential new understanding of what education can be in the 21st century. Is School Enough? is the second in a series of programs about kids, digital media and education. The first program, Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century explores students claiming digital media as a means of connecting, communicating, creating, and learning, while interpreting its importance and providing a window into 21st-century education.

Related Reading: KQED Mindshift, Sep 2013

“The number one problem with school is they’re not facing up to the problem of relevance,” Wesch said. In a connected world, the teacher’s job is to help students discover a relevant problem to engage with and connect them to the many resource communities and mentors that have become accessible through the internet. “Once you do that you can sort of just take the shackles off and let them run because they start feeling their way through this knowledge machine that’s all around them,” Wesch said.

“Connected learning suggests that there should be a learning ecology, and that what we do outside of school should be connected in very strong ways to what we do inside of school,” said Jenkins. “School has to respond to the informal learning that’s taking place at home and in the community.”

The stories in “Is School Enough?” suggest that traditional school often doesn’t give students enough of an explanation for why they are learning. “In America, in urban public schools in particular, our kids are being asked to learn things in a bubble,” said Rozas, the English High School teacher in Boston.

Without that sense of a meaningful mission, students lose perspective of why they’re in school. The main gist of the documentary: By broadening the definition of learning, allowing more than standards to rule the classroom, students might learn skills that will stick with them for a lifetime.

“It’s going to take a shift in culture and that shift is not easy,” Kahne said. “If we show them the ways that the things they learn about in school can help them engage with things in their broader life, we’re going to find higher levels of engagement and deeper learning.”

 

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