It’s been a year since Ted Dintersmith’s ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ debuted at Sundance.

Since the release Ted has been busy traveling to all 50 states showing the movie, visiting with everyone from students in classrooms, to elected officials and nearly all walks of life in education.

The premise of the film is simple to understand, but difficult to solve — the bargain that diplomas equal employability is broken.

Young people have recognized this broken bargain, and now more than ever are unschooling, hacking their way to careers with code schools, exploring HigherEd options, and making passion-driven decisions when it comes to paving their learning pathway. We are calling this generation, Generation Do-It-Yourself (GenDIY). For GenDIY, the learning models featured in Most Likely to Succeed, including project-based learning and public demonstrations of student work, aren’t just for the silver screen. It’s their reality, where they must grow to become superheroes in their own live action roleplay more commonly understood as real life.

As part of filming, producers traveled throughout the country to explore what’s working in schools and the common thread that they found in successful models were students working on projects with a sense of passion and purpose. Just in case you haven’t seen the movie yet, here is the trailer:

So why exactly is this movie still captivating the field of education a year after the release? Well, unfortunately since the debut not much has changed in how we’ve been preparing young people for the careers of tomorrow, which in many cases arrived yesterday.

Recognizing this are countless communities who are using the movie as a way to generate conversations at the local level. One example was a recent EdTech Seattle screening at Impact Hub Seattle, that included a panel discussion with educators and EdLeaders from across Washington State that examined the movie’s applications to the Puget Sound and the wider education system as a whole. 

Like any quality panel on educational change, it was the voices of the students that took center stage. In this case they were students representing Highline Big Picture High School, a Big Picture Learning secondary school that uses internships and rigorous, interest-based projects to immerse students in work they are passionate about.

Alongside panelists that included Bob Hughes, a member of Washington’s State Board of Education, and Erin Jones the first African American woman to run for state office in Washington, the students used the opportunity remind us of why we in this work (which is in my opinion) to empower students to pursue lives that are driven their own passions and definitions of success.

So, amidst the “college and career ready” culture that’s permeating the education dialogue what’s the the role of educators in this work? “College ready is steeped in what you are passion about. And, if you are really clear about what you are students are passion about that should drive the work that you do,” said Jeff Petty, Director of the Puget Sound Consortium for School Innovation. And how exactly can educators support students in discovering their passions? According to Jon Fox from Jane Addams Middle School, the first comprehensive middle school to open in Seattle in more than 40 years, “students can define success and one step toward this is allowing students to grade themselves.”

A big thanks to Actively Learn for making the event possible. To find a community screening near you check out the Most Likely to Succeed website and follow Ted’s adventures on the road by checking out his blog.

For on Most Likely to Succeed, check out:


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