The Shift: Making Mongol Movies

The first Westtown School World History Film Festival has come and gone. Two weeks before Thanksgiving my students were channeling Ken Burns — and serving as witting accomplices in my continuing shift toward student ownership of learning. This year I decided to continue the individualized learning approach I used last year in our unit on the Mongols, but I chose the communication medium beforehand: documentary film. Greedily, I wanted a broader audience for my students’ work, and I wanted an excuse to learn to make this sort of film. Here’s what we learned!

Helping Students Own the Learning Environment

They first learned to own the learning, and now I see a second big change in the way my students perceive learning and school. They are willing to experiment with how to organize themselves and to evaluate if it worked or not. Owning the learning AND owning the learning environment are two separate things. I believe having both perceptions in play is essential for students to maximize the learning potential.