Video Collage

For full HTML5 functionality, view at

Today the Digital Ethnography Research Team of 2011 is proud to announce the release of the Visions of Students Today: a “video collage” about student life created by students themselves and presented using the wonders of HTML5, allowing us to “cite” books and videos that are being presented in the remix as they are being shown.

Since the call for submissions went out in January we have received hundreds of submissions. The remix in the middle of the screen is in many ways a video of my own experience viewing these videos, shot from my own point of view. You see me sifting through videos, putting them in piles, checking resources, reading and re-reading the lines that have informed and inspired me. It took me 3 months to sift through these materials; you get to race through them in 5 minutes.

But stick around. There is so much more than what can be seen in my little 5 minute remix. Each of my students (“the Diggies”) has been working for months to put together their own vision, and each one is remarkable in its own way.

In the upper left-hand corner, Caitlin Reynolds starts us off with a 5 minute remix of “found footage” demonstrating the industrial age mentality of efficiency and production from which our schools were born. Derek Schneweis then brilliantly demonstrates that this mentality is still with us today, built right into the structures (physical, social, and mental) of our school system.

And what about the students themselves? Lindsey Iman uses statistics from Twenge’s Generation Me to bring us her beautiful and stirring vision of today’s generation, showing us that most students are primarily concerned with “finding themselves” … searching for identity and recognition in a world in which identity and recognition are not givens. Nate Bozarth courageously lets us into the depths of his questioning mind, taking us through his own existential journey. Rebecca Norman follows with a story of her own transformation (sparked by her favorite professor warning her that she was going to end up “a toothless hooker in South America”). And then there is the story of Maria Snyder, a non-traditional student in the full sense of the word (a 30-something lesbian grandmother of “what ethnicity are you anyway?” descent) . Joseph Savage, our class philosopher, reflects on the broader implications of these stories, mining the works of Charles Taylor, Thomas de Zengotita, Brene Brown, and others, and coming to some stirring insights like:

The artificial environment steers us to learn to meet artificial requirements and bureaucratic regulations. It isn’t an option to read or do homework. But we always have options- that’s how we understand the world. So we “read” and “do homework.” We couldn’t get rid of the words so we put them in scare quotes, scaring away all the meaning with irony. Students, mediated and inauthentic and numb and invulnerable, put course requirements in scare quotes and laugh a hollow laugh of an impossibly pyrrhic victory- not as a joke, but as a lifestyle.

There is a wide gulf between the static stale world of traditional education and the visceral emotional worlds of our students, and there is no shortage of revolutionary ideas now being pursued to close this gulf. Haley Marceau explores a couple of the more radical visions, reporting on her own studies of North Star, Unschooling, Big Picture Learning including interviews with Kenny Rodriquez, Ken Dadford, and others. As she reports from her interview with Kenny Rodriguez, “Traditional education needs to die. It needs to go away.” But as Steven Kelly points out while calling forth Dewey, Friere, Illich, Postman, Weingartner, and others: “These revolutionary ideas, they’re not so new.”

Bringing this all together and providing the stirring conclusion is Blake Hallinan’s “Cracks and Fissures,” a slam poem set to video:

in the awkward silence following a teacher’s simple question

answered only by the blank stares of students too afraid to speak,

meet the boy who finds his voice through hiphop and poetry,

lyrical liberation, salvation

a success story not measured with an a, b, c, or d,

but rather with every continued heart beat

let’s go towards a world where we can meet citizens sisters & scholar brothers in the public paradigm

let’s construct libraries among sofas, turns homes into hand built-schools

lets speak a community into existence as we teach vocations with our hands

lets watch the pages of books flutter like birds wings scrawled with incantations of knowledge

let’s play games, exercises patterned entirely on principles & metaphors,

let’s stream podcasts crafted by us, for us, with tools stolen from hands of gods

let’s read blogs, words, written daily, by people like you, like me, that have no other choice but to share what they know with someone, anyone, everyone…

to complain of over-determination gives power to the walls that did not exist before we believed in them

why should we submit to an explanation that denies agency?

look around and see ways to make things work, to subvert imposed expectations.

The Birth of the Project

Last October I started a talk at the Open Video Conference by pointing out that the very issues we were discussing, while of tremendous importance to people’s basic freedoms of expression, were virtually unknown among college-educated youth. A quick survey of my own class of 400 students at Kansas State revealed that fewer than 5% were familiar with terms such as “Fair Use,” “Open Video,” “Royalty-Free Codec,” “Device Freedom,” or even “Net Neutrality.” As we race toward an increasingly digital future, where “code is law”(*) many of the basic freedoms we have become accustomed to while speaking or writing may be stripped away without the public even noticing.

After the talk, Mark Surman of Mozilla approached me, wondering if I might have some ideas about how we might “move the needle” a bit on new media literacy. His challenge left me thinking for some time. I kept searching for the spark that could ignite change, the societal injection that could heal our malaise, the magic beans that would sprout a new media literacy revolution … but none were coming. I came to the conclusion that the only way to create new media literacy is to go the way that all learning goes … the hard way. New media literacy, like all learning, requires an intellectual throw-down in the mind, a challenge of taken-for-granted assumptions, and a transformation of the self from a passive recipient to an active creator of new information, knowledge, and of the world itself.

The best I can do … the best any of us can do … is try to inspire one another and share what we know from our own journey, hence the call for students everywhere to share their own visions, and the collection of those key texts and ideas that have inspired me.

How we did it

HTML5 adds a “video” element, allowing video to be shown on a website without the use of Flash. Leveraging the new possibilities, an event framework called Popcorn.js has been developed, creating a simple API for synchronizing interactive content with video events.

Our lead developer, Garrett Pennington, used Popcorn.js to create the basic framework, and then provided me with two data files where I could enter the thumbnails to be used, their links, where they should be placed, and a timecode for when they should appear. If you are interested in doing something like this yourself, feel free to download any of the source code from our own project, and visit Popcorn.js for more code and ideas.

Special Thanks

We are grateful for all of the submissions. Some professors also need to be thanked for encouraging their students to contribute. We received multiple submissions from courses taught by Stephanie Jo Kent at Umass Amherst, Antonio Vantaggiato at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in Puerto Rico, the Social Media Computing class at De La Salle University in the Philippines and from another class at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

As soon as the vision for the project came to my mind I knew I would want to team up with some of the talent at K-State’s very own Office of Mediated Education, (home of Axio, a Blackboard alternative). They did not disappoint. Under Scott Finkeldei’s leadership, Kate Erdozain provided a visionary design while Garrett Pennington took the lead on the project and delivered far beyond expectations, continuously brainstorming and implementing new features.

None of this would have been possible without the global collaboration that is bringing together the popcorn.js library that was essential to this project. Brett Gaylor is an inspiring leader of the project, and all video creators should be sure to check out the amazing potential of creating Open Video with some Popcorn and Butter.

And finally, a special thanks to the MacArthur Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation for financial support, and to National Geographic for providing the “collaboratory” space in which we work.


Associate professor of cultural anthropology. Ed Traceur. Hacker. Car-free.

You may also like...

13 Responses

  1. monika hardy says:

    huge bravo guys.. love how this turned out. you have been such an inspiration to us through the years..

    would love for some of your brilliant eyes on these ideas:

    Blake might especially like this city as floor plan:

  2. Heidi Siwak says:

    Another creative and thought provoking production. I love that in order to fully express your ideas tools had to be invented. The tool has become as important as the idea. This really intrigued me. As a teacher at the elementary level, we use tools, but don’t create them. Now I’m wondering if it would be possible to do this with students as young as my own.

  3. David Truss says:

    It will take hours to really appreciate the work that is put into this… I love that it takes a step beyond the original ‘vision of students today’ and lets students be individual creators of their own story, and those created products become part of the whole.

    It fits well with the idea that ‘everything is a remix’… which I just found via Stephen Downes this morning:

  4. Great Video Thanks for posting for us to see.

  5. Carla Arena says:

    Wow! This is fantastic. It is a step forward in relation to the other version. I used to enjoy that one, but this is simply amazing! Wonderful team work.

  6. Excellent work! Diversity, sincerity, clarity, creativity… This work comes To Me very thoroughly with so good design.
    Let’s hope that the contributions are an enormous quantity and the learnings multiply for thousands!

  7. Hi Professor Wesch,

    Fantastic project, I really love it. I’m a not so techy storyteller exploring popcorns potentials. You mentioned having the source code available for download. Do you have a link or other means of accessing it.

    Cheers and congratulations.

  8. A truly impressive job at pushing the envelope of collaboration. Each voice adds to the overall impression — though part of the overall impression that I got was that there’s no way I could ever take in all of these voices…which is probably intended.
    I’m a 7th grade English teacher and writer; I’ll be sharing this inspiring, honest look with my students and colleagues.
    I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution of your work!

  9. Meridith says:

    What an incredible video! You have given us a lot to think about. I loved how you gave so many students a voice. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Kevin Coleman says:

    This is absolutely wonderful as you all are making so many connections and putting together so many pieces. As a beginning teacher, I must remember that the universe is dynamic, and I must always keep in tune with the youth. Right now we are working on a vision for a new grade school in downtown Wichita – these issues/topics hit very close to home. Lindsey, your video is amazing. I’m so happy I had the opportunity to speak with you; I am very proud of you and your work! Well done!

    All the Best,
    Kevin Coleman

  11. kinoman says:

    I love that it takes a step beyond the original ‘vision of students today’ and lets students be individual creators of their own story

  12. Emmalea Hamilton says:

    Hello Mr.Wesch,
    I am a student in grade 11 and I am currently taking a class that teaches us all about different forms of media and how the use of technology is increasing. We were asked to leave a comment on one of your stories, and this one really interested me.
    We use a lot of your work in this class and we’ve talked a lot about the media literacy. We’ve had to try and define a lot of the new terms used in media such as ‘context collapsed’ and ‘user generated content’, but the terms mentioned in this article I haven’t even heard of yet. My teacher keeps telling us how she has to re-write our media course each year, due to the fact that the media/technology is continuing to change.
    I find it really interesting how quickly the media changes and how were able to react, and adapt even quicker to these changes. Teenagers are evidently the ones who adapt easiest because they’re constantly using the new forms of technology therefore they have a better understanding of the new forms of media.

    Thanks for sharing the video!

  13. Jamie Goltz says:

    Im from a grade 11 media class and we look at Weschs work often and in this video I admire how the identity of a college student is shown in their own perspective it is like how McLuhan would say “the media is the message”.