Sunday, November 6, 2011

Music and movies playing in a classroom?

Once we have our opening discussions in class, we play music or a movie in the background.

Here's how.

The class often chooses, or I do, music or movies. Most often we choose to play music in the background while we do group project work. We choose movies during individual project work.

Here's why.

I've always thought it's relaxing for many students. It's a degree of civility in a classroom... treating it less like school and more like a home environment, a learning environment. We started down this path seven years ago now and never looked back. After all, we don't often go home to do work and sit in uncomfortable furniture, under bright fluorescent lights, deprive ourselves of all food and water, have no complimentary music or the like, and then expect we'll do our best... do we? We seem to do this in school though, and all too often I think. I've always felt, if we put some effort into making school look, well, less like 'school,' less like an industrialized environment it'd be more civil... more inspirational. 

Most often folks don't understand why we serve up movies on the classroom. First off, I ask people to focus on their work, and not on the movie. The movies, with low volume, play in the background. We'll spike the volume when we take a break for some great scenes... the Balrog on the bridge... that sort of stuff. Of course, much like a window, there are times you look up when something great is happening, or you just need a break. Bit like real life ; )

Further, we pick movies we can learn from, ones that inspire people. Creative stuff. The ones that bring dreams to life and have great messages. Inspiration... is a good thing.

Third, it threads nicely into discussions and practices on learning to work in a different environment and to manage distractions. Many folks are used to listening to music when they work. Often times this is heavily frowned upon in school. Never really had anyone give me a good reason why. I've often said 'admitting you're easily distracted is the first step to recovery.' Do you need to reposition yourself in the room? Adjust the volume? I think it's safe to say that anyone who's worked out of the school environment has had to learn to deal with distractions and figure out how they work their best.

Fourth, Almost all of the movies we choose carry great appendices... great documentary footage about how they are made. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as an example, in the Extended Editions, carry heaps of material about crafting, problem solving, hard work, creativity, and fun. Far better to play it than just discuss it. It's too cumbersome in length to play and just watch... so, we play it while we work, stopping here and there when something great comes up.

We thread in clips too that we find about films, like this one, a look inside the new shooting of The Hobbit in 3D. New material that comes out revealing creativity, problem solving, skill development, and dedication... craft.

For some, it is distracting out of the gate, no doubt. Many have never experienced a classroom environment like we have here. I'm guessing many though will never experience a work environment like they have in a traditional school model. That statement... could lead to a lot of writing ; )

This speech by Rogier van der Heide, speaks volumes to why it makes sense to change the concept of the classroom, from the colors used, to the lighting.

I'd encourage you, if you've never done it to give it a try. Turn down some bright fluorescent lights, create an environment, and coax folks to learn from the experience. Never know what might turn up. It's worked great here.

What's next? Our work here continues to challenge the concepts of a 'master schedule' and the potential of internships. Many other schools, of course, have headed dow such paths already. Again... discussions for another post.

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