As a TV Broadcasting or Film Teacher, how can you provide a valuable service to your community and give your students an authentic experience?

One way is to offer to create Public Service Announcements or PSA’s for non-profit or government agencies in your area.

PSA01At my school we follow the Project Based Learning (PBL) model for delivering our curriculum, which fits perfectly with a TV Broadcasting or Film program. A leading proponent of Project Based Learning is the Buck Institute for Education. Some of their “best practices” when integrating PBL into a program include:

• Content significant to your academic subject area
• 21st century competencies are taught and assessed
• Students work in collaborative teams
• Students collaborate with people beyond the classroom
• The project motivates students to learn new content or gain skills because they find the project relevant and meaningful
• Students have opportunities to express “voice and choice”
• Students are given feedback on work-in-progress
• Students are taught to critique other’s work-in-progress
• Students exhibit their work to an outside audience

I believe all of these PBL “best practices” fit perfectly into a project where students create PSA’s for a local non-profit. Your students are PSA02potentially creating a piece of work where they will have to learn how to use a camera, microphones, graphics and editing software at a high level. Students will also know how to contact a potential client, come up with a concept, write a script, create a storyboard and present their finished project to a client. Those are their “need-to-knows” in the PBL model, or the concepts or the skills the students will need to know to complete the project.

There are a multitude of agencies that could use a PSA to get their message out to the public. In St. Charles Parish (County) where my school is located, we have built up a relationship with the United Way of St. Charles. We approached them about making PSA’s for their partner agencies, or the agencies that they provide funding. These agencies are generally very welcoming to working with my students. This gives us our outside “enemy”, or client, for the students. In the PBL model this puts the teacher on the side of the students. You are now on their side as a kind of coach/facilitator to help them create this product.

As a PBL Teacher, our job is to put the students on the right path and keep them focused on the end product and this is done through the “driving question.” The driving question is sort of a guiding statement for the project. It should be challenging to students and open-ended where there is no single right answer. The driving question should also be linked to what you want your students to learn while creating the project.

A driving question for the PSA Project might be, “How do we tell the story of a United Way Partner Agency in St. Charles Parish and produce Public Service Announcements that will meet the client’s needs?” Using this question, the only requirements are that the students produce a PSA for a United Way Agency in St. Charles Parish. It doesn’t say what agency they have to choose or how they need produce it, which will hopefully lead to more student buy-in to the project.

PSA04An important part of the PBL model is a good start to the project called an “entry event/document.” The event should be something out of the ordinary and seem like a big deal to the students. The entry event I used for the PSA project is to have a representative of the United Way of St. Charles come and introduce the project. They explained to the students that being a small United Way agency they could not afford to produce PSA’s for all of their partner agencies. The representative then gave a rundown of the agencies they supported and explained to the students that their PSA’s would be used on their website, local cable channels and submitted to the broadcast stations in New Orleans. Another option could be a letter from the director or marketing department if they would not be available in person.

This entry event makes the project real for the students and not a typical school project where they are just turning their completed video for a grade and that’s as far as it goes. This will be seen by REAL people and will help a REAL agency get their message out to the public. The non-profit agencies are usually very grateful for the service your students are providing.

The first order of business is to create a “know/need-to-know” chart with the students. This is as simple as using a large piece of chart paper or whiteboard and first have the students, as a group, come up with a list of things they know about the project. This list is generated from the driving question and entry event or entry document. Usually five to ten minutes is good for this list, but it should be a living document and students can add to it at any time.

Next is a crucial list to get the project started off on the right path, the “need-to-knows.” These are all the things the students will have to know to complete the project. This could includePSA03 such things as, what is a PSA, what’s our deadline, what format should we work in, can I do an animation, do we have to call or visit the agency, can we shoot on location, etc. I usually allow as much time as possible when generating this list.

The beauty of the “need-to-know” list is that as a teacher you have the students come up with the list of what you need to teach them or that they need to discover through research. This list is also a living document and should be added to, or items should be crossed off as they are learned.

To get your students started, a great resource on PSA’s produced by professional ad agencies can be found on the Ad Council website. The Ad Council is a non-profit organization and kind of a clearinghouse for professionally produced, high quality PSA’s. You can view samples and if you create an account you can download high quality versions to use in your own broadcasts.

Next month we will look at contacting potential “clients” and actually starting production. Also, we will take a look at how to keep the client involved during the project and how to end the project by presenting it to client, community and school officials.

If this seems like this is too much for your TV Broadcasting program, this model could also be used inside your school with school clubs or afterschool programs instead of United Way Agencies. What school club wouldn’t want a PSA/Commercial to promote their activities?

Buck Institute for Education


Student Produced PSA’s from Satellite Center

Dupont-HeadshotAlbert Dupont has been the Advanced TV Broadcasting Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005.  The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools.  The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans.

Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Dupont was a news and sports videographer for WVUE-TV in New Orleans for twelve years and news producer at WAFB in Baton Rouge and KATC in Lafayette for five years.  As a sports photographer, Mr. Dupont was a field videographer at the New Orleans Saints games from 1994 to 2009.  He also was a videographer at two Superbowls and numerous college national championship games in a variety of sports. He is an Avid Certified Instructor in Media Composer 5.