Video Pen Pals

Students correspond by producing short videos that provide a glimpse into their everyday lives and experiences.

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Who:  Students could correspond through these first-person video diaries within a single classroom or school, or across greater distances. Correspondence between students and school faculty might also be fruitful.

What:  Participants' video correspondence could potentially be organized around a theme (like civic engagement), or around the project of identifying the common threads in their otherwise seemingly disparate experiences. Students could document snapshots of their everyday lives using a "show don't tell" approach. Perhaps their video correspondence could serve as a precursor/scaffold to a greater collaborative effort of some kind.

When:  I imagine the time commitment would be fairly flexible. Videos would be only a few minutes and students could create them once a week or once a month depending on interest, resources, implementation context, etc. 

Where:  I think this could work as a school activity, but it may be more effective and easier to implement in a more informal learning environment .

Why:  While correspondence may be limited to partnerships (though not necessarily), I think this style of communication has the potential to increase students' (and perhaps also teachers') capacity for empathy--and consequently their ability to effectively collaborate--in a more generalizable way. It could help them see beneath the surface of their assumptions about others, and to recognize commonalities among differences. I think it could also enhance collaboration by helping to empower introverted or shy kids who might otherwise be reluctant to share their stories and give a voice to their ideas in more conventional face-to-face formats.

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Photo of Erin
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This would be so fun! I think there's definitely potential for empathy-building to happen here. How might you, as a teacher, design this so empathy is the goal? What sorts of questions might your students ask their pen pal so that they gain empathy for someone across the world from them? What kinds of experiences would it be important for them to share?

Photo of Elana
Team

Thanks so much, Erin! I guess in my mind the videos would sort of function like digital autobiographical personas (if that makes any sense?), so students would be encouraged to use visual storytelling to show (not tell) someone else their daily routines, motivations, pain-points, etc. related to a given theme. I think, in terms of scaffolding empathy-building between students, it would be really useful to prompt them to compare and contrast their experiences and perspectives, and to attempt to identify common themes. Maybe they try to collaboratively construct a single coherent video diary that portrays these themes using footage from both sets of video diaries? Although that may be a little too abstract for younger students. (I used to teach elementary grades.)

I'm currently working on a project with the goal of exploring how teams of kids can co-design solutions for problems in their school communities in a way that addresses their own diversity of needs and perspectives as "users" within that community, so I may have some more specific ideas in a week or two!

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I really like this idea of "show not tell." I wonder how they could also be scaffolded to respond to their pen pal's video journal in a way that builds more empathy. I'm thinking something like Project Zero's visible thinking routines? But more focused on perspectives and voices?http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/03_ThinkingRoutines/03a_ThinkingRoutines.html

Your project sounds amazing! Considering the different needs of various users is such an amazing way of building empathy - you should post this as a separate idea!

Photo of Elana
Team

So funny. I'm about to do some research on Project Zero's visible thinking routines for a work project--just learned about it for the first time in a meeting yesterday.

And the other "project" I mentioned is actually my master's thesis. I'm super new to the Teacher's Guild community and have never done an Open IDEO challenge, so I guess I'm not sure if it would be appropriate to post it under ideate/collaborate (given the fact that I've already done a great deal of work on it on my own). But I would certainly love the opportunity to receive feedback from other teachers and ed. designers!

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I say post it, Elana . I think the feedback you could get from others could be really valuable. :)

Photo of Elana
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Thanks for the encouragement! Done!

Photo of Michael
Team

So cool!!! Love this idea! I think this idea has such added value to he entire school community. The number of times I talk to a specials area teacher who has no idea about something going on in one of my students lives, it's staggering. Your idea could be a bridge between home, the classroom, specials, admin, etc. I wonder if you have seen Responsive Classroom Connects with Community idea? Might be able to work together on an idea or see how your ideas could compliment one another. Excited to see where this idea goes. Happy to help however I can!

Photo of Elana
Team

Thanks, Michael! I was thinking about it more as a student-to-student empathy-building approach initially, but I love the idea of using these video diaries to help teachers better understand their students--especially for teachers who only get to see their students once a week. So much more compelling and meaningful than digging through a student file or trying to schedule a chat with each classroom teacher or parent. Even when I was a classroom teacher, I felt like there were things going on in my kids' lives that I didn't know about, and I was always reluctant to pry. This would be a way for kids to decide how and what to share of their lives--kind of like the student responses to that I Wish My Teacher Knew prompt (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/31/well/family/what-kids-wish-their-teachers-knew.html). And I pretty much love all things Responsive Classroom, so yes, I think our ideas could definitely come together in a fruitful way!

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Awesome! I see you are in New York. I teach at Riverdale on the edge of the Bronx. We are planning a Teachers Guild brainstorm session next week at Scarsdale High School. Are you interested? I'd love to work on this idea further with you.

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Team

Sounds great. I'm definitely interested, but as a non-motorist, I'm not sure I can manage the trek from Brooklyn out to Scarsdale during the week (possibly during the weekend though). Is remote participation an option? Please keep me posted and I'll see if I can swing it!