A lot has changed since last month… New Building. New Classroom. New Studio. New Equipment. New Plan. New Newness.
When I took this position in the spring, I knew there would be a new building and new opportunities, what I didn’t know what what it would feel like to get into the new building. My space when I started this year was interesting to say the least. As I wrote a while back, people would walk by my classroom and say “OHH I didn’t know this room existed” or “I have never seen this room clean.” The first was interesting because the room was a part of the media center that was built in 1983 and as for the cleanliness, I hired several of the local residents to help carry equipment to the new facility. Who knew cable eating chipmunks were so strong!
All kidding aside, I am glad I spent some time in that building because it helped me to understand a little of the culture in the community and how deep the roots of this school run. The school I graduated from had very little school spirit when I was there and the school I started my career in was a career academy so there was no “team” or Alma Mater or anything other than being awesome and pushing kids to be awesome. The biggest sign of how much people love this school is that the high school buildings that are being torn down are being ground into filler for the foundation of the new middle school that will be built on the site. To quote our principal, “It lives on, people, it lives on!”
I wrote a couple of months ago about my director needing my list and how nervous it made me. Well, I got the list approved but “that voice” said to drag my feet on ordering the equipment. As I have aged, I have learned to listen to that voice more and more. I am so glad I did. Once I got into the room and the studio, I realized that I don’t have as much room as I thought. I was blessed to have the option on which computers I wanted. I had the option of using a virtual environment, which if I didn’t have an option, I could have made work, or to purchase iMacs. I decided on the iMacs for several reasons, not the least of which, is marketing. During our open house as well as several times each day, someone walks by my room and says “EWWWWW!!! Look at those macs.” (I know that some students will sign up just to be able to use macs but I have a plan on averting that as well that I can share later). The iMacs take up a good amount of space and I don’t have room in the classroom for a production area as originally planned. It’s ok, we will make it work. We have been blessed with some great technology which also takes up space in the classroom. In the picture to the right, you can see the size of our teaching panel. It’s about 1/3rd the width of my classroom.
My original plan was going to use 5 to 7 kids to produce the news and have a wall of monitors and rack of gear and be an amazing looking set up. In the review of the space once everything was in place, I realized that I need to have one TD and one teleprompter operator in the classroom and that’s it. The other thing that I was surprised with in the new space was that the studio not only had a lot of power in it, it also had internet ports throughout. So this changed my plan a good bit. The original plan was to use traditional coax for the cabling back to the switcher, etc. I decided that due to space I would use NDI technology to get my shots back to the switcher. We will use a mix of a Tricaster Mini and Wirecast depending on the show we are doing and what we are trying today. Another reason I am excited to use NDI is the networking at our school is amazing. When I tell you that I have more wireless speed on my laptop than most businesses have in a wired setting, it is no exaggeration. Also using NDI, I can maximize opportunities with some of the really great things our students do. For example, during the fall, members of the football team go to the elementary and primary schools to open doors for the car line. How great would it be to be able to go live from that for our morning announcements show next fall!! Also, leveraging NDI, I will be able to have our meteorology students be live during their forecasts opposed to prerecording. There are so many opportunities with the NDI technology my head spins when I think about it (Centralized control room for sports…. At the high school level….).
We are starting to wrap up football season with our last game coming this week and playoffs starting next week. I love football season but I adore basketball season so I am excited for several things this year. We are going to be using our automated sports production set up with the NFHS Network for several basketball games this year. I am excited to show off the Pixellot camera to our fans and blow their minds. I have watched as other schools test their setups or use it for volleyball and I am just blown away. If you don’t know what the Pixellot is, it is a small (about the size of a large shoebox) device you mount in the gym or stadium that uses some sort of magic to track the action on the court or field and streams live with the NFHS Network. I don’t use the term magic lightly. It really does boggle my mind. I have watched probably 100s of hours of volleyball this season from schools using the pixellot and I have yet to see it falter. Also, the camera doesn’t just move back and forth, it zooms too. When I talked with the folks at the NFHS network about the camera, I asked what surprises most people about the pixellot and their response “It works.” The pixellot pairs with the Scorebot from Sportzcast and gives the viewer accurate time and score as well as the video image. For the games where I am low on students, we can plug an audio mixer into the base computer and do play by play while the camera and the score controller do the rest. I am beyond excited to give it a whirl and start bringing more coverage for our sub varsity teams while I sit on the couch at home.
To say the last month has been a “heck of a year” is an understatement but I saw a lot of things that made me extremely proud to be in education. A team of teachers rallying around each other to literally move an entire school in a week. Support staff alongside the superintendent with sleeves rolled up moving pallets of books so the media center can be ready for day one. Students and a community embracing each other as they all go through a major change all while smiling and being appreciative. I was excited to be a part of it but I am not going to say I want to do it again because it was tiring….
Next month, we’ll talk about our transition to winter sports, how I am preparing to end the semester and start another where I will not only get new students but I will have a new challenge… teaching another new course.
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.