Wednesday night I had the opportunity to view the educational documentary Most Likely to Succeed. I had read the book a couple of years ago, and the movie was thought provoking. It really forces the viewer to think about how education is currently delivered to students. The movie is not yet available for purchases; instead, you purchase a one-time screening license for $350. The reason for this method of distribution, as stated by the executive producer Ted Dintersmith, is to “force” people to view it in groups and have a discussion about the ideas presented in the movie. While I would love to be able to encourage people to buy/rent the movie, I respect the philosophy behind not releasing it. This movie is really meant to be seen in groups!
I am going to push to have a community viewing for the community where I work to truly generate some conversation about how schools need to change. However, I would like some feedback from those elementary teachers and administrators. How do you see this working at the lower levels? I want to be able to provide specific examples of how the ideas that are present at High Tech High can be implemented in grade schools. It is one thing to say that a high school kid won’t learn the same breadth of content in this new paradigm, but how do kids learn the basics at the lower grades while still experiencing this “new” type of education? Is what is presented in the movie really more for middle and high schools? I have started a Google Doc where people can share their thoughts. Hopefully this is something that could help others who have the same types of questions. Please feel free to share the Doc with others.
2 thoughts on “Most Likely to Succeed”
I think you may be asking about the fact that you never really see anyone read or write during the movie. That’s an issue with the selective presentation of how the school works. I would argue that in terms of progressive pedagogy, the projects showcased show little differentiation or choice on the part of the students. Again, I’m talking about the film and not the school itself.
Here were some of my questions:
Why did they all need to make gears (ironic, as the film criticises industrial metaphor of education) to show their historical understanding? Is that really authentic? What happens to the group mates of the person who couldn’t finish their project? Shouldn’t the teacher use their expertise to intervene before they both stay and work on it during the summer?
Isn’t the play basically a re-telling of Malala’s story? Why did the boys not have a chance to stage the play in modern times to explore gender? How much did the other students besides the director of the play benefit from this activity?
It’s hard to buy the logic behind the private screening when in the film Tony Wagner literally says that we now live in an age where knowledge is a freely available commodity. We have already been around the ‘billionaire with ideas about education reform’ block once.
We should always have questions and I appreciate that you are asking some too.
Here is some important research
Students need learning connected to real life experiences and given choices in how they explore that learning and produce a product that shows “I get it.” There are ways in the elementary classroom to do that for every single skill taught. It is not about grades and a teacher checking off a skill has been taught. Look at the overlapping skills students use and show every day. Grades have squelched much creativity and “outside the box” thinking of students. It is also about teachers giving up control, thinking how and what, and sharing their excitement and knowledge with other teachers.
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