Choosing the subjects was pretty organic: Brown sought out the most interesting people who could talk about a range of topics relevant to 21st-century education.
“To qualify, they had to be … at or near the top of their game. They had to be interesting people–in other words, filmable. And they had to be willing to hang around me and another guy for a couple of days,” Brown said.
“It was a pretty hit-or-miss proposition. A number of people never go back to me,” he added. “I think I was lucky to get Larry Rosenstock, for example.”
The 12 participants have put their stamp on education by addressing any of three broad subject areas, Brown said: the role of technology and new devices, project-based learning, and teacher quality and school equity.
“We need more people of color and women. That’s one of the big glaring omissions on our part. When we do a second round [of films], we will try a lot harder in that respect,” he said.
The look and feel of the film series also is notable, as it marks a real departure from typical education videos.
“The idea is that we didn’t want to go and do your standard educational video, where you sit somebody down on a stool in front of a fern and have them talk for 10 minutes,” Brown said.
There’s a high-production value, like in a modern documentary. The films are shot in black and white. It’s naturalistic. You see Stephen Heppell, for example, walking around London or riding in a taxi. The visuals and locations change. The camera pans and zooms. Brown commissioned the music, which is consistent over all 12 videos.
The style makes the videos interesting to watch. It helps the audience meditate and focus on the message.
“We refer to them as films as oppose to videos, because we shot them in high definition, we are professionals, we use professional equipment, and we go at this with that in mind,” Brown said.
“The black-and-white thing, once we saw it, it seemed to kind of instantly separate them out from other videos that are about education. It wasn’t like we were Woody Allen and we had some kind of reverence for black and white; it was more we thought it drew people in; it drew attention [in a way that] might not [have happened] if they were in color.”
Color does appear in the films where it is editorially appropriate. For example, High Tech High is an extremely colorful, vibrant setting. In the film about that school, the producers introduced color to highlight the building and its artwork.
Color also appears in the film about Randall Fielding, an architect. “Here’s a man who loves color; we felt like we needed to use color at some point,” Brown explained.
“Otherwise, we didn’t use color, because we didn’t want it to detract from what [the subjects] were saying,” he said. “We want people … to think differently about [education] than they did before they saw [these films].”
Brown said he’s hoping to secure funding to produce another 12 videos next year.
“There’s no shortage of people we could focus on,” he explained.
Mobile Learning Institute’s film series, “A 21st Century Education”
Note to readers:
Don’t forget to visit the Measuring 21st-century skills resource center. Graduates who enter the workplace with a solid grasp of 21st-century skills bring value to both the workplace and global marketplace. Go to: Measuring 21st-century skills