High school student Courtney Gressman made a powerful public service announcement as part of her social studies class titled “Learning is NATURAL. The Way We Learn Should Be OPTIONAL.” Unlike most high school students, however, her work didn’t stay locked in the walls of the classroom. Gressman explains, “Our class is a very opinionated group of independent, connected learners. We use tools such as social media to gain knowledge, perspective, and to have diverse conversation where anyone can be included.” As such, the first thing she did upon the completion of her PSA was to Tweet it.
The PSA was meant to address the problem and to show students AND adults that there are different ways to learn and teach. One of these ways in my own life is #SandersTHS, my class in which I made the PSA, but I know we could be doing so much more at my school to provide all students with independent learning opportunities so we can truly learn the way we want and need to. We all deserve and want to have more freedom in our education.
Gressman understood that while Tweeting is important, it’s not enough. You must know how to Tweet to a targeted audience. As such she included hashtags like #SandersTHS (made up of her teacher’s name and an abbreviation of her high school name) that would not only allow her to share her work with the school community, but also hashtags that would enable her to connect with the appropriate audiences around the world i.e. #StuVoice#PSA#innovation#iCitizen. She didn’t stop there. She also came up with a list of innovative educators to share her message with by typing phrases into the search bar such as education and education reform and sent personal Tweets to each of them. When they shared her ideas, she replied with a Tweet of gratitude like this one:
How it began
Gressman said the making of her PSA began when she was inspired to study the effects of student debt- specifically on students of lower income backgrounds. However, as she began to research the topic more in-depth, her teacher, who she says is “big on her students being self-directed learners,” shared the Independent Project Article with her. She realized that the subject that interested her wasn't what we pay but more what, how, and why we learn.
“As a student, I have never been truly happy with the way we are being taught in school. Just because I am good at "school" doesn't mean I am enjoying my learning experience or truly becoming prepared for life after school. I have always felt that the way we are taught doesn't truly teach us what we need to prepare for in life. Instead, it teaches us how to abide by the system and feed it more of ourselves because we are never given the opportunity to decide what we want to do in the future before we have to start paying for it. After reading about The Independent Project I saw that there were other kids who feel the same way I do, and I felt that more people should see how us ‘kids’ feel.
I hope my PSA helps others open their eyes to the issues and the solutions.”
Gressman’s expertly-crafted video is a testament to what teens can do if given the chance. She said it took her about three weeks to make the video, but the research and preparing for it took about 5 weeks.
How she did it:
"To make the video I had to clear off a whole whiteboard and then someone with an iPad stood on a table behind me recording. It was hectic because there were others trying to make their PSA's as well and sometimes we would get off track, draw the wrong part, and even come up with new ideas for the drawings. So, it took about 20 takes just to get a perfect recording. After the recording was done, we transferred it over to iMovie, did a bit of speeding up, added a VoiceOver to make the pictures come to life, and then added a background song to make it a bit more powerful and interesting. It was a lot of fun to make!"
Why she did it
Gressman made her video to show decision makers what STUDENTS think is going wrong in our educational system and let them know that it needs to be fixed. She wants them to know there is a solution and that is to provide more opportunities for independence in school. She explains that “if we give students more freedom in what they learn or how they learn it, then they'll actually want to come to school and enjoy it.”
What do you think?
Check out the video here.
If you agree with Gressman’s message, use social media for social justice for students by helping her spread her ideas. Share her work with decision makers you know by Tweeting it to them and placing it on their Facebook page. Ask them how they are serving students like Courtney Gressman and when you do, don’t forget to tag her at @CGressmanTHS.
Courtney Gressman is a sixteen-year-old student at Tarrant High School. She will graduate in 2015. Courtney strives to make a positive difference in the lives of others and help others achieve their goals. She plans to do this by becoming a high school counselor.
Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.
Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.