Student Provocateurs: Enhancing Public Debate and Awareness of Local Environmental Issues by Involving Students with Film

Statement of Problem


Statement of Problem
Students live in a digital age, yet feel isolated and apathetic. Why has the promise of the digitally connected community failed to engage students?  How can video, the cornerstone of digital media, be used to engage students in learning and in life?  We know that engagement and personal motivation combine to create meaningful learning environments. (Dadds and Hart, 2001) A genuine interest indicates personal identification with a course of action (Dewey, 1913)

Part of the answer lies in developing digital literacy. Digital media, specifically video, needs to be prominent in the successful education of students. The world is saturated with digital media. By age two, 90% of children regularly watch television, DVD’s or videos (Zimmerman, et al, 2007), Over 70% of K-3 students use computers in their free time. Nearly 80% of 3-6 students use computers to play games, while 6-12 students are using computers to create personal websites on MySpace, read the news, and blog. (Hurley, 2006) There is no denying the penetration of media into children's lives, while school activities and assignments lag behind in incorporating digital resources and teaching digital literacy.

But developing digitally savvy consumers is not enough. Young people are increasingly apathetic. Voters in the 18 to 24 age group have the lowest voting-day turnout with only 36% in the 2000 presidential elections and 47% in 2004. National averages were 60% in 2000 and 64% in 2007. (Fleischer, 2005) But there is hope. A significant increase in voting was noted from 2000 to 2004 for the 18 to 24 age group.  This increased participation is attributed to the success of Internet campaigning on sites such as MySpace, YouTube, and Second Life, and Internet organizations such as (Green and Gerber, 2004) Using their media to communicate made a difference in their participation in our democracy.

Is it possible to have an educational future in which students are participating in and adding to the dialogue on important issues, building their digital literacy, and strengthening their communication and collaboration skills. The alternative - having school be viewed by students as obsolete and irrelevant, boycotted by some, disrupted by others is far from desirable. Students have a powerful connection to media as “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001) they prefer to communicate ideas through the digital mediums. (Digital Youth Research, 2007). What if they learned to use video to get other people to think about the things they care about? Would that get them involved? This project explores that possibility.

Action Research Key Question
Will students engage with social issues when they have film as a medium to provoke others?