The FieldTrip Project

About seventy years ago, adults decided that children would be kept home until age eighteen. Did teens ever buy into the plan? How much do teenagers in the U.S., particularly those who are under-engaged in school, trust adults to know what’s good for them? The vote may still be out, but we do know that peer influence is powerful—especially for teenagers, and communication among teens is expanding with new technologies. The FieldTrip project aimed to learn whether or not a discourse among teenagers, that explores issues they believe impact their ability to engage in school and learning, can produce credible, co-created wisdom that leads to improvements in education achievement.

This short film documents and explains the FieldTrip Films project. FieldTrip Films: Documentary from ircumbc on Vimeo.

The project was piloted for one month in 2007. Seven teenage filmmakers shot seventy-five films on high-end video cell phones and posted, a few per day, on a website to stimulate dialogue among seventy other teenage research participants. Four hundred and fifty voluntary text comments were posted dealing extensively with beliefs and attitudes relating to learning and school. The project website was moderated by supervised UMBC college undergrads. The quality of the journal-like videos was high, partly because the teen filmmakers collaborated with film industry professionals whose expertise was “hidden” in the editing. Even more importantly, the films carried authentic voices because each filmmaker chose and followed his/her own line of inquiry:

  • What if school and life are looked at as a series of relationships?
  • How does school relate to the process of growing up and becoming “mature?” What does maturity mean?
  • Who controls you and your education?
  • How does school relate to American values and the real America?
  • How is school part of community justice issues overall?
  • How can we cope with teachers and others who may label you without knowing you?
  • How do under-achieving students think about school and their futures compared to over-achievers?

The six–thirteen films each teen filmmaker produced revealed a natural arc of revelation—the stuff of good stories.

These excerpts were filmed mainly by student filmmakers using their individual high-quality “cell-cams.” FieldTrip Films: Sample Excerpts from ircumbc on Vimeo.

Research Challenges

A major interest of the IRC is to provide an interdisciplinary hub for the university. This means crossing the cultural and intellectual boundaries that disciplines create. This project required researchers from the IRC with expertise in visual arts to team up with faculty from the Psychology, Information Systems, History, and Economics departments. Further, executing the work required that the separate worlds of the film industry and academia work together. The IRC was turned into a high-volume production facility with three producers, two-story producers, and as many as five editors working night and day for twenty-eight days. Add to that seven teenage filmmakers requiring near-constant assistance to plan, shoot, and turn in footage. In addition to the short films put together from the teenagers’ own cell-cam footage, each filmmaker was asked to invent a narrative scene to be produced by professionals in high-definition digital video using multiple cameras, actors, lighting people, etc. Each of these took a full day to shoot and two to three days to write and edit. The goal of these “pops” was to give another dimension to the site.

Production Notes

This IRC interdisciplinary collaboration is being supported in part by funds from The National Center for Research Resources (one of the National Institutes of Health), the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, UMBC, and InfoCulture, LLC, and in-kind support from Nokia.

Executive Producers: Lee Boot, Capella Fahoome, Dan Bailey, Stacy Arnold
Producer: Capella Fahoome
Director: Lee Boot
UMBC Psychology Researchers: Linda Baker, Susan Sonnenschein
UMBC Information Systems Researchers: David Gurzick, Wayne Lutters, Dongsong Zhang
UMBC History & Economics Researchers: Kriste Lindenmeyer, David Mitch
Teen Filmmakers: Anna Bakker, Sonya Kondratenko, Ryan Mason, Lauren Lee, Jordan Sears-Zeve, Tierra Smith, Julian Spath
Story Production & Editing: Lee Boot, Cucillo Consad, Joe Crocket, Roy Heisler, Joy Kecken
Web Design: Roy Heisler, David Gurzick, Eddie Shieh
IT Support: Steve Brown
Administrative: Shilpa Shah

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