Using Videos in Dialogue Settings

Video can serve as a dynamic jumping off point for rich dialogue. Use this general format to spark conversation after viewing one of the videos listed here.

One of the best ways to get a conversation going about school redesign and the shift toward student-centered learning is to play a short video clip, typically no longer than five minutes in length. Video, however, rarely stands alone.

Tips for Using Video

Here is a basic format for using video in your community conversation:

  • Establish the larger context.  Without giving away the substance or lesson of the video, introduce the topic at hand.
  • Pose one or two focusing questions for people to consider while they watch the video. Alternatively, you can use a text-based protocol adapted to use with videos. A number are described in this Protocol Guide assembled by the School Reform Initiative.
  • Play the video (having tested your technology, especially the volume, beforehand!)
  • Repeat the focusing questions.  Ask people to respond to them in pairs or small groups.  (Or simply follow the directions of the text-based protocol you selected.)
  • Ask a representative from each small group report out to the larger group.  Alternatively, you may want to facilitate a panel discussion among community experts, followed by Q&A  (Or simply follow the directions of the text-based protocol you selected).
  • Summarize the key points that were made and synthesize what lessons can be drawn.

Videos to Spark Conversation

We have pulled together a list of thought-provoking videos that you can use as successful conversation triggers in a variety of settings. They can be the focus of school-based and/or community-wide screenings, or shown in professional development settings. They are organized in three categories: General Educational Change, Impact of Changing Technology, and Documentaries.

General Educational Change:

The following are general videos about educational change that have been presented in full or excerpted:

Changing Education Paradigms  (11:41)
Sir Ken Robinson
How do we make change happen in education and how do we make it last? This very popular video about how education needs to keep pace with a changing world can easily be excerpted.

The Myth of Average  (18:00)
Todd Rose at TedX Sonoma County
In this video, high school dropout turned Harvard faculty talks about how a simple new way of thinking helps nurture individual potential. Though long, this video can easily be excerpted.

Seven Skills Students Need For Their Future  (29:11)
Dr. Tony Wagner, co-director of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group has identified what he calls a “global achievement gap,” which is the leap between what even our best schools are teaching, and the must-have skills of the future.

Play, Passion, Purpose (14:49)
In this TedX presentation, Dr. Tony Wager says that the education system is obsolete and needs reinventing in an era in which knowledge is a commodity.  What’s important is the skill and will to use and apply knowledge well. A 4:19 excerpt is also available.

Transformation (3:38)


Introduction to Student-Centered Learning  (3:43)
This is a short video about the central principles of student-centered learning and its emphasis on creativity and authentic experiences.

Learning on Purpose: Transforming a Good School into a Great School (7:32)
Wall-to-wall career academies and a transition program for ninth graders have helped create an environment at this Texas high school in which rigorous, relevant education is the norm for all students.

Impact of Changing Technology on Education:

These four videos introduce the 21st century technology changes and their impact on education:


Learning to Change; Changing to Learn  (5:37)
This video introduces reasons why schools need to change.

Learning to Change: Changing to Learn: Student Voices  (4:26)
This video was produced by the students at High Tech High in San Diego about how technology is integral to their lives and learning.

21st Century Skills: What Do We Do?   (3:22)
This short video reviews a way schools can adapt to better address 21st Century skill needs.

Transformed by Technology: High Tech High Overview  (4:10)
High Tech High is often cited for its innovative curriculum.


The last decade has seen a proliferation of education-related feature length documentaries. Many of them, however, have a highly episodic bent and unwittingly reinforce “the blame game” that is so prevalent in the public conversation about education. The following videos are more contextual, revealing the collective and systemic nature of education and the often-invisible situational factors that lead to thriving students and communities:

In Charge:  Student-Led Conferences at Pittsfield Middle High School (13:00)
Julie Mallozzi ( produced this mini-documentary for the Pittsfield Middle High School in New Hampshire. It can be used at school-based and community-wide screenings, perhaps with a panel discussion or dialogue protocol.

Students at the Center:  Extended Learning Opportunities at Pittsfield Middle High School  (15:04)
Also produced by Julie Mallozzi, this mini-documentary explores the benefits of community-based learning in a rural setting, and profiles several students’ experiences working in such diverse places as a police department, a radio station, and an elementary school.

Brooklyn Castle  (feature length)
This documentary tells the stories of five members of the chess team at an inner city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other in the country. It is an especially powerful example of the growth mindset in action.

A Year at Mission Hill (series of 10 short videos)
This is a 10-part video series chronicling a year in the life of one of America’s most successful public schools. Each episode is between 5 and 10-minutes long and can serve as a jumping-off point for conversations about the state of public education as it is – and as it ought to be.

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