New Kid in School: I'm Movin' Out

As I sit here in this meeting, Billy Joel’s declaration continues to plow through my head… It seems such a waste of time - If that's what it's all about - Mama if that's movin' up - Then I'm movin' out - I'm movin' out….

It has less to do with this meeting and more to do with the impending week of fall break where I will spend countless hours setting up a new studio, control area, classroom, etc all with the hopes of using these new things to create a new level of inspiration in the students. Oh yeah…. The meeting. It’s the first planning meeting for the school wide lip dub where we are tasked with giving exposure to each of the buildings on campus while we move what I have lovingly named “Lobby Dog” into his new home.

I can see you roll your eyes… “poor guy - gets a new everything and somehow finds a way to complain about it.” Don’t hear me wrong - I am not complaining. I am beyond excited. So excited that I am nervous. I know that I am not going to sleep for several weeks as I think of new and exciting ways to do things in our new space.

My space in the new school is interesting. The program was a late addition to the plan so my room and studio are connected but separated at the same time. My NewKid01 350classroom/lecture space/production room are a typical classroom with a long rectangular shape while my studio sits perpendicular to my classroom and is up small set of stairs. There is a window between the classroom and the studio that I will use as a way to make sure that both sides of the room act the way they should when I am in the other section.

Several weeks ago my CTAE director asked me question that was easy to answer but tough to swallow. Our system for years has used a “thin client” setup for computer access. Long story short, the computers in the classrooms aren’t so much computers are connections. They connect to any of the servers that we have access to. For example, there’s the “student” server, the “staff server, and the “adobe server” and I am sure there are others that I don’t know about. The system works great if you are typing documents on Google Drive but when it comes to exporting a video from Premiere Pro or After Effects, as long as only one person is working at a time, it works great (There is some embellishment there but not too much!) I had to choose between continuing to use the thin client or take a major portion of our startup budget to buy “real” computers…. Over $40,000 later, we will have real computers. We went with Apple products. I sometimes feel like a hypocrite because I tell my students “you don’t have to spend a ton of money on a piece of eaten fruit…. Buy a cost effective PC and a decent camera setup for the same price”.... But I am trying to build a new program. I know what moves the needle for students. For some, the masticated fruit will get them at at least look in my classroom longer than if I had another option.

I am crazy excited about our studio. We are going with a full BlackMagic Design studio - cameras and all! We will most likely use add wirecast as our video server and encoder. I have wrestled with a ton of options for serving videos and graphics but I have not found one that will allow me to do what wirecast does. I recently had a conversation about where to post videos and wirecast allows me to stream to multiple sites at once. This will be a huge time saver for me. Right now, we are recording to the Tricaster (we aren’t ready to go fully live yet) then I upload to Youtube and pull that down to post to Facebook and our NFHS Network page.

NFHS 2 3color 200Speaking of the NFHS Network, I am stoked to get our new Pixellot mounted in the gym in the next couple of weeks. With basketball season around the corner, I have to find a way to be home every now and then. The pixelot will allow me to stream games without having to do anything...seriously, I am going to send the schedule to the network, they make it happen. I’ll be able to stream JV games, wrestling matches and more… and not leave the house.

One my of new challenges this year was teaching an animation course. I have to say that I am shocked how well this class is going. We tried to get into Photoshop but had issues with the thin clients so I dropped back and punted us right into After Effects. I am so glad I did. It threw my entire plan out the window but it has been so rewarding. In finding ways to get them experience and teaching the different tools, I came up with the idea to have them find someone “famous” and make a cartoon of them. This was AWESOME! I had one student who took the bull by the horns and owned the project.

I am working on storytelling with the animation students now. I have been blessed in that I have always had a knack for creativity NewKid03 200and storytellings so I have always struggled with teaching others to do those things. As I prepped for the lessons, I remembered that Khan Academy has a partnership with Pixar. The lessons are much more than just storytelling but that’s what I am using them for right now. This has been not only great for the students to learn how to breakdown a character and story but has also been a way to get to know my students more and them me.

Next month, I will tell you about the move, how homecoming went including my pending adventures with the lip dub committee and the ceiling tile committee as well as share some pics and stories about the 1 week turn from a classroom with nothing to a fully functional lecture and studio space. Did I mention how awesome this place is? What other school has the School Resource Officer’s dog in the faculty composite!!!


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Tom White is the digital media instructor at Morgan County High School in Madison, GA. Currently teaching TV production and animation pathways, Tom's programs have received state and national honors including the 2016 NFHS Network School Broadcast Program Of The Year. 
Prior to teaching, Tom was a marketing, promotions, and online content director for a major radio corporation in Atlanta. Tom studied exercise science at High Point University prior to his radio career. Despite his winding career path, his mother still thinks he is special.