The New Millenium is about Media
Does your school offer courses in computer, photography, drama, cooking, sewing, and art but not a video production course? Isn't it ironic that at the dawn of the new millenium there is no single technology that our children have more exposure to than video, but with which they have practically no educational experience? Go figure. It's a paradox in need of repair.
A majority of American schools already maintain video cameras, microphones, cables, lights, VCRs, TVs, and computers. And all institutions will admit to having talented students and competent faculty. Combine these and toss in the incredible resources of the www and you could assemble your own mini-media broadcast station. Technological synergism in the hands of adolescents. What a significant and dynamic combination! The question is "Where does a school start?"
A Humble Beginning
Twelve years ago the "video tech lab" of Hong Kong International School's Middle School consisted of one borrowed video camera, a VCR, an aging cassette tape player, and the world's simplest video editor. The set up comfortably fit on one computer trolley. Through small projects supported by the Parent Faculty Organization and with interest from the local community, donations started to trickle in. The school administration also lent their support.
Next, we allocated a big closet in the back of the home economics room for our fledging program. We took off cupboard doors, used the shelves as work spaces, borrowed a cafeteria table, and created the first video production course. Minor inconveniences like having only two electrical outlets did not deter us. We were on our way!
Today the video technology lab and broadcast studio has over three dozen cameras, six Casablanca non-linear editors and a full array of supporting equipment. The lesson being that a school can start anywhere and end up getting somewhere.
Based on our middle school success we began plans for a new video tech lab in our high school division. We invited the Hong Kong Education Department to watch our current operation with hopes of getting grant money for innovative programming. I stood back and let the students run the affair. The broadcast included a timely story on the economic summit taking place in Malaysia that afternoon, several school notices which conveniently had supporting video clips and ended with a live interview.
Next, the officials received lessons on editing with the Casablanca, which worked like magic! They were impressed. By the end of the year, over $190,000 in commitments for the high school had been secured.
Every community has key people willing to support youth, education or innovation. Fortunately video education qualifies on all three fronts. It's recommended you try to connect with these individuals. It will take time and effort. Even applying for government grants is tedious with no guarantees of success. The only guarantee is that video production course won't happen without some effort.
One School Leads Out
At the Hong Kong International School (HKIS) middle schoolers can receive several types of video opportunities. In the Video Production class students create and produce their own videos. There's also Broadcast Technology where eighth graders produce a daily broadcast for the entire middle school.
It's amazing how kids are seldom tardy to class when the broadcast starts promptly after the bell. Every student and teacher tunes in. At the heart of the broadcast are the day's announcements and current events. When the Columbine School tragedy hit the web, our student body heard it first on the morning broadcast. Our own student reporters edited and narrated the pictures and facts downloaded from CNN's Web site. A meaningful assignment which led to further classroom discussions.
Most broadcasts are not that solemn. Adolescent current events tend to focus on topics like Madonna, endangered species, innovative computer gadgets, fashion, or previews of the next Star Wars movie. School and community news comes to the broadcast studio via email. It includes information about Scouting, school sports, upcoming dramas and concerts, computer tips, lost and found articles, new students enrolling, club meetings, student government activities… and the list goes on.
Sprinkled around the day's announcements are colorful videos created by students from the Video Production classes. Most video clips are humorous and centered around scholastic or teen topics. Homework, tardiness, detentions, dating, grooming, or how to kiss up to your teacher are common themes. Features are serious pieces on pollution, safety, or the perils of teenage smoking. Our school now has a library approaching over four hundred one-minute videos which supplement the daily broadcast.
In the spring of 1999, when Turner Broadcasting launched it's CNNStudent Bureau, HKIS was on board. CNNSB produces news by students for students. Their popular show, NEWSROOM, selects works contributed by high schools and colleges from around the world.
Working for Turner Broadcasting offers the students real life experiences. Like actual reporters they begin by pitching a story to a bureau editor. The preliminary steps follow: contacting pertinent sources, acquiring press passes, organizing interviews, securing release forms and more paperwork. All this before they ever do anything "fun." Welcome to the real world, kids!
The actual fun starts when they get their equipment. After weeks of working on their story the ultimate payoff comes only if they're fortunate enough to have met CNN's high standards. This commitment is for mature students with a foundation in videography. Turner Broadcasting accepts schools on a merit basis.
If developments in education proceeded at a fraction of the breakneck pace of technological advances then our children would be in sync with reality. The real world today evolves around information, communication and entertainment. In other words, media. Getting the message out in full living color.
What can you do to help develop a video production course in your neighborhood school? Perhaps it may be as simple as sending the district's superintendent a copy of this article.