Students these days travel back in time when they go to school.
They turn off their cell phones and ipods and most of the time turn off their interests. We at Desert Wind Middle School try to embrace the new technology. Rather than telling them to put things away, we show them how to use them properly. Our broadcast club teaches students in a real world atmosphere by using deadlines and working collaboratively.
Our mission statement at Desert Wind Middle School is to inspire, educate, empower, and challenge. We believe that our “Studio T” broadcast club does all that and more.
SVN: Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
WL: I have always had an interest in sound engineering and technology. I never had any formal training in video broadcasting but I learn from watching online tuitorials and reading any information I can find. Two years ago my principal and I started bouncing around ideas for getting the announcments to the students in a better way. We looked into using ustream and a few other websites. Last year Brad Chamberlain joined our school and had done live news broadcasts at one of his previous schools using Windows Media Encoder. We joined forces and asked the students who would be interested and had an overwhelming response. From then on “Studio T” (Tigers) was born. We grew through trial and error and evolved into this amazing club.
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
WL: We started with no money, just equipment that we had lying around both of our houses that we didn't use anymore. We do fundraisers throughout the year. We are looking into getting local businesses to sponser a day or a weeks worth of broadcasts and in return we would film little advertisements that would run before our show starts.
SVN: Did you have equipment available?
WL: We had a few spare computers that were not being used in the school that we borrowed. Everything else was either donated or brought in by myself or Mr. Chamberlain. We also have a computer lab with 30+ computers that the students use during this time to edit and search for their videos.
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
WL: We have about 40 students in the class. We break them into different groups. Some groups just focus on creating commericals for upcomming events, while others are working on the broadcasts.
The club runs year round and we do interviews 2-3 times a year to add new members. The students shuffle jobs throughout the year and have to know how to do everything.
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
WL: Our Class runs 40 minutes every day. If the students have a show that day they come in as soon as they get to school and start setting up the encoder which is usually around 8:30. We have a white board where we write down everything for the show that day in order including: all the commercials, dress code video, id check, silly videos, interviews, technical difficulty loop, introduction, and credits. Whoever is running the encoder checks that all the files work and does a test run. We have an audio engineer that runs the soundboard and makes sure the mics are on and ready and that the volume is good. We also have a camera man that checks to make sure the camera is working properly. We have someone on another computer that pulls up pictures or videos that we display from a projecter onto a screen behind our anchors. Then anchors come in and add the birthdays for the day and the lunch menu and then run through the script a few times. We have a simple teleprompter software in which the anchors can control the speed of the script.
When school starts at 9am the rest of our class goes to the computer lab and either myself or Mr. Chamberlain will go and make sure they are ready for their shows or their videos, and the other will stay with the group that is broadcasting. We have a bell that rings at 9:30 which tells all the teachers to log on. We start running a loop and wait until we have a decent amount of clients. Then the encoder/directer starts the pledge loop and it continues to roll over with the dress code video, the commercials, and funny videos until it goes live. When the anchors are done with the show the encoder clicks on the credits loop and then it ends.
We also film short videos and comercials for upcomming events like school dances or fundraisers. We download funny youtube videos to edit and we show them to the school before our show begins.
SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
WL: There are on average 7-8 students per group. We have 4 groups so each group broadcasts once a week with one group going twice. This year we are adding more groups that will specifically work on commericals or our upcomming website. We film our monthly recognition assemblies and show highlights on the daily broadcasts. We also film sporting events and take the highlights and put them into our show as well. We are looking into broadcasting our sporting events live this year. Last year we broadcasted our annual 8th grade vs. teachers basketball game into the classrooms because our gym cannot hold all of our students at one time.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
WL: Yes, they audtion with myself and the other advisor for the positions. We let 6th 7th and 8th graders audtion and usually have 3 per group. That way if someone is absent when they are scheduled to go on they can still have 2 people go on air.
SVN: Do they write the content?
WL: Absolutely! While we may give them ideas or have certain videos that teachers or administration want to see made, the students take those basic ideas and come up with the storyboards and scripts all by themselves. For our news broadcast the anchors all use google wave to write the scripts. That way they can be working on the document at the same time and if there are any last minute announcements, I can then access all their work at any time and add them in or give them tips on what to say.
SVN: How long does the show run?
WL: Our show lasts about 10-15 minutes depending on the amount of commercials we air and the interviews. We also have the pledge, dress code check, and random funny videos in there as well.
SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
WL: We did not last year but this year we are looking into producing shorts and broadcasts for competitions and film festivals here in Arizona and nationwide.
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
WL: As of right now we have 50 connections that are able to watch district wide since we encode it out. We usually have around 36 clients which is every classroom in our school. Our district has a shared drive where we store a weeks worth of saved broadcasts for people to see if they missed the show. We also put some of our videos on our school youtube channel.
SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
WL: 1 Dell computer with firewire
Windows media encoder
Windows movie maker
1 Dell computer for backgrounds
1 computer for the anchors with simple teleprompter software
1 old computer which we use as a server so the students can save all their files and videos.
1 white background screen.
1 analog audio mixer
2 lav mics from Radio Shack
1 dv camera with stand
SVN: Have any quick start tips!
WL: Using google aps like gmail, wave, and gchat were a great help and not to mention free. We have all of our members get a gmail acount when they first join.
It never hurts to ask. We have received tons of help and support by just asking around. Forums, websites, parents, teachers, principals, even district employees have helped us out just because we asked nicely.
Finally, start with what you have and don't give up!. Our camera that we use for the show has no screen, but the firewire works and so does the lens. We make use of what we have to make it all work.