Highlander Way Middle School

IMGP1886While listening to our local radio station a few weeks ago, we heard about a school next town over that was doing their "Academy Awards". 

This certainly sparked our interest that a local school had such an event going on and we didnt know about it!  A few phone calls later, we ended up speaking with Carole Colburn at Highlander Way Middle School in Howell, MI. Here's what we found out:

SVN: Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?

CC:  I actually have a degree in English/Journalism and was involved with radio back in my high school days. Then I became interested in theater and speech andIMGP1913 was active in drama and being in plays. Over the last 10-12 years my passion has been technology and mostly 21st century learning.

SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?

CC: This is what is considered an “Encore” class here at HWMS. Students take 2 encore classes each nine weeks. We really do not have funding for the program other than what we can piece together. I have written some grants and bought cameras with my own money as well as getting a few new ones this year through school funding.

SVN: Did you have equipment available?

CC: For the Lights, Camera, Screen Education class, we have several cameras (mentioned above, tripods and one dolly.) I typically have 35 students in a class and with seven cameras we make production teams of 5. That is actually one too many students on a team…but we make it work.

For the Media Production class, we do have a TV studio with cameras, control room with various types of equipment. All of the equipment is about 20 years old or older. The biggest issue we have with the equipment is consistency and reliability that it will work on any given day. ARGH! ?

SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes?  How is it broken down?  Is it a multi-year program?

IMGP1886As I mentioned above…the Lights, Camera, Screen Education class is a nine week course. No pre-requisite is necessary and has been taught at the 8th grade level for the last couple of years. Next year I will teach this class only at the 7th grade level. Students really only have one opportunity to take this class.

The Broadcast Media Productions class is a little different. I just began teaching this class this year (during second quarter.) I originally had students who were placed in the class randomly. Over the last three quarters, I have weeded out and added to the class, the students who are genuinely interested in the program. I will have these same students next year for the entire year. They are responsible for taping our daily morning news show, “The Hawk News”.

SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions:  How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?

CC: Lights, Camera, Screen Education: I use the Lights, Camera, Screen Education model from the American Film Institute. Again, each class typically has between 32-35 students. I teach two sections every nine weeks. So, I typically see approximately 260-280 students each year for this class. In the nine weeks, we start immediately with what is called “The Door Scene” and that is a very short, purposely quick opportunity to get the cameras in the hands of the students. We work on this project only for a couple of weeks and through it they learn about camera angles, framing, lighting, scripting, story-boarding and story-telling and editing.

The main film project is a larger project that students work on in teams. This year I gave the students a main theme under which their movie topic must fall. TheIMGP1950 theme was “Disability Awareness.” I am a big believer in making real-world connections with whatever I teach and my goal with this theme was to help students make the connection between what they do and how they behave towards people (students) with disabilities and how those who live with disabilities face their challenges on a daily basis. The students picked their topic and then produced a Power Point slide show “pitch” presentation in which they had to convince me that they understood the topic, had enough information and a clear goal before they could continue with the movie idea. Once they had done so, they began the script writing process. Then, they filmed, edited and produced a 4-6 minute cohesive movie complete with video effects, transition, music and title clips.

SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast?  Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?

CC: This is a different class altogether. I teach one section (24 students) of Broadcast Media Productions. Students work in teams of eight. Each team is responsible for taping a show every three days. The show runs during homeroom the next day. This class just began this year and students will remain in the class for next year. One of my goals is to take this class to the next level. I want students to be able to produce at least one longer length (sort of a60 minutes style) news program each quarter and also to be able to branch out in terms of reporting.

SVN: What jobs do the kids do?  Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?

IMGP1990CC: Students in each class take on the various roles and although a few students do sort of stay in certain roles (for any number of reasons) typically they do get to experience all of the roles.

SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?

CC: Students do an audition with me for the on-air roles. However, that being said, I don’t have a lot of wiggle room in terms of having just one or two students in these positions.

SVN: Do they write the content? 

CC: Students absolutely write content. They are required to write it all, including one feature story per week.

SVN: How long does the show run? 

CC: The show runs each morning (right now, but this could change) during homeroom and runs approximately 4-5 minutes.

SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?

CC: No, I have not submitted anything to anyone. Perhaps next year, this is a goal we can have.

CC: As for the movies that my Lights, Camera, Screen Education class students produce it would be great to submit to SchoolTube. I do post several of the movies to my own school website at: www.howellschools.com/webpages/ccolburn

SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide?  Local cable access?  On your school/district web-site?

CC: No. Not yet…but who knows…

SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?

CC: I wish. 

SVN: Have any quick start tips!

CC: I do not have any tips for readers regarding the Broadcast Media class as I am too new at doing this myself. I would suggest to any teacher that incorporating digital video is a great way to engage students. Have them bring in their own cameras if need be. As long as you have a PC with Movie Maker or a MAC with iMovie (and those programs come loaded as part of the operating system) and cables to upload the footage, your students can make movies!