In the spring of 2008, the students in T. R. Johnson’s service-learning course on the teaching of writing worked, in their final self-reflective essays, to produce together a training manual that could show future groups of undergraduates how to do what they had just done: tutor middle-school students from a quite different cultural background in the writing process. They hoped to publish this book, but weren’t successful, and so, in the spring of 2009, students in the same course decided, after reading that training manual, to create a video version of the book and post in on the Internet. Students worked in small groups to create short, roughly five-minute video clips, each about a different concept in writing pedagogy and different experiences at the service-learning site; and each clip making smooth transitions into the next. They devoted a number of class-meetings to discussing the most ideal structure for our movie, for the students were deeply motivated by the public dimension of their work. Having read Jonathon Kozol’s book on the extraordinary degree of racial segregation in contemporary American schools, they felt they understood well why that was a problem and, moreover, how the work they themselves were doing could point the way toward a solution. They hoped their video would reach a large audience and motivate other groups at other universities around the country to undertake analogous projects among their own nearby, urban populations. They hoped ultimately that their video would. This was the phrase they began to use, start a revolution. Just a few years after it was posted, the video had well over five hundred views. It didn’t “go viral,” much less start a revolution, as they hoped, but the group was proud to have shared this very memorable experience and what they learned from it with that many people.
The students involved in the production were: