What if...? Community Videos

What if we posed regular "What if...?" or "How might we...?" questions to our community and recorded answers to share in assemblies?

Photo of Moss Pike
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Ver. 8/13/2015


Thanks to a number of great ideas on using physical space (e.g., Hannah's idea on inspiring student creativity), I am inspired to reimagine how we share ideas within schools in assemblies and other all-community meetings. I'd love to work with others in building a prototype of the idea by building a team. Let me know if you'd like to come on board!

How It Works

  • What  Record videos of various community members responding to a thematic question posed every week, month, etc. Videos can be recorded and shared on YouTube, Vine, Periscope, etc.
  • Who  Someone in the community (e.g., student council?) takes charge of asking everyone in the community, including students, faculty, staff, and parents, the question. Short answers are given and edited into a single video.
  • Where  Videos are recorded everywhere the community extends. After videos are recorded and edited, they can be shown at community events, e.g. assemblies, parent events, admissions, events, etc.
  • When  Recording can be made any time of the day.
  • Why  Questions that inspire creativity and imagination have the power to reinforce culture in the way explained by James' idea that we "cultivate what we celebrate." Community members can rally around a shared question, and through celebrating the community's collective imagination and ideas, I can see how we can start to build an innovative culture.

How It Works

First, questions are selected by the community, perhaps by a committee (involving students!) or through a community vote. Questions are then posed to the community, recorded, and edited into an easily-shareable movie. Individual videos can be shared on Twitter, Vine, etc. using a school hashtag (as explained by Dea!). Consider some sample questions (also found here in a Google Doc):

        • What if….?

        • I am grateful for...

        • I can….

        • How might we….?

        • _____ makes me happy!

        • Before I graduate I want to….

        • I want to explore….

        • Wouldn’t it be cool if _____?

        • If you weren’t scared, what would you do?

        • What amazes you?

Potential For Impact

As mentioned under "Why" above, sharing creative and imaginative answers to inspiring questions can galvanize the community and create buy-in to a culture that values thinking outside the box.  As the idea becomes more entrenched within the community, we could scale the idea further by inviting people to start working on solutions based on some of the ideas shared, leading to design challenges or even hosting a "What if...?" conference. In time, a culture that celebrates imagination in this way could be much more supportive of innovation.

It would also be rather easy to create contests and award ideas, based on answers to the question. For example, we could give a prize for the "Most Creative," "Biggest Imagination," "Wackiest," "Biggest Risk," etc.

Scaling and Adapting

"What if..?" videos can be scaled and adapted quite easily, depending on budget and time constraints.

  • Cheap/low maintenance: A simple "What if...?" board can be shared in a public place, on which community members write answers to questions on Post-It notes.
  • More time-intensive: Videos are recorded and produced by the community and shared through social media. This version requires students or faculty to have the capability of recording and editing video (easily done with a mobile phone and YouTube). More importantly, someone would need to actively monitor the school's social media pages.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

I do love the idea of sharing great videos, and potentially even giving some of that responsibility to some of the digitally savvy students. I'd also love to make creating great stories easy for everyone. I wonder if developing some kind of template or framework for the video might make capturing compelling stories easier. For instance, the StoryCorp App (https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/discover/storycorps-app-to-the-rescue) is great at helping people conduct compelling interviews by giving users a list of interesting interview questions. I wonder if there is a similar way to give teachers/students step by step instructions in creating interesting stories.

For instance:
1. Show the HMW question (on a post-it, in sidewalk chalk, on a board) in an interesting visual way with interesting fade-in music.
2. Clip to 6-8 people responding to the question. Only let them talk for 15 seconds at a time; you can switch back and forth between them
3. Clip in: "This makes me think about..." and then visually show a follow-up question based on the observations. And/or 2-3 more quick responses.
4. End with a provocation and some inspiring fade out music.
5. Video is 60 seconds max

Clearly, that would have be prototyped and evolved over time as I don't know what the right 'formula'/template would be; maybe you need a few templates?

Photo of Moss Pike

Hi Elysa! I've thought about this idea in the same way, based on the use of a template and guidelines of some sort. We could easily centralize the video, or we could encourage community members to make and share their own on social media (if appropriate). Love the idea of doing something along the lines of the StoryCorp app, too. Dan Ryder has piqued my interest in Periscope and Vine, and I've intended on investigating them for this purpose.

I'm also very interested in the common space between the "What If?" video idea and your "Walk-Waze." If we build imaginative and creative spaces on campus, perhaps we could produce video interactions with them in a number of ways. Something to think about, and I'm eager to chat through more ideas!

Photo of William Cavada

I really like the visual this adds and it connects the viewer to the topic. I will be taking and discussing these ideas with my students. Our videos will play on community access station. Your local Community Access Station is a great option for airing your video.

Photo of Moss Pike

A belated thanks, William! How has the experiment been going for you? Would love to hear more about how the videos are affecting culture in your school. Great idea to take advantage of a community access station, too! Will have to look into our options more and see what we can do.

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