Middle Schoolers Produce Network-Style Newscasts
When he began looking for video production equipment for his schools studio, Aviara Oaks Middle School Teacher Doug Green knew that finding affordable tools with the look and feel of network television would be a challenge. Green
, who owned his own video production company in the 1980s, insisted that his students have the equipment to learn proper techniques and current technology. Unfortunately, he found that traditional studio equipment can easily cost more than $125,000 well beyond the reach of most public schools budgets.
Then, three months before the schools studio was to be built, Green discovered Plays Trinity system. Trinity is an all-in-one, PC-based solution that replaces the equipment of an entire television studio for a fraction of the cost.
As a teacher of broadcasting, I felt that if the class was going to be a true school to career opportunity for the students, then the equipment we purchased needed to be cutting edge and current. I wanted my students to learn how to create television using the same tools that are available to professional adults, Green says. This thinking was very much behind my desire to purchase Trinity.
Back to the Studio
Aviara Oaks, located in Carlsbad, Calif., was a brand-new middle school two years ago. The initial funding to purchase Trinity came from funds used to build the school. Typically, Green says, schools spend tens of thousands of dollars to develop a technology lab, but Trinitys affordability allowed the schools administrators to actually save money. Additional funds for accompanying equipment, including Plays virtual-set technology, HoloSet, came from a grant from a local cable access channel. With professional-grade technology, our programs closely resemble broadcast-quality television, Green notes.
The students produce a show called AOTV each Monday morning. It is broadcast throughout every classroom in the school, and then re-broadcast the following Wednesday on a local cable channel that reaches nearly 250,000 households. While other school news shows often just involve a student reading a news bulletin, Aviara Oaks students produce programs that rival television networks in their sophistication. The student anchors and producers report the news and make special announcements, conduct live remote interviews from across campus and produce pre-recorded packages complete with Hollywood-style special effects and customized graphics. Adds Green: We can, during our broadcast, go live to anyplace on campus for a remote report during the show.
Green has developed much of his curriculum based on Trinitys sophisticated tools for text-generation, graphics and special effects creation, video editing and virtual set generation. He says he tends to create lessons as he g'es along, often developing written worksheets. The students frequently work on special projects beyond the weeks regular news broadcasts. In the past, these have included interviews with professional sports figures including the late Payne Stewart, San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn, and WNBA athlete Lisa Leslie. The students also produced a Who Wants to be a Millionaire spoof.
However, Green says he also pushes his students to cover important issues. The students covered the Columbine High School tragedy, interviewing fellow students about their thoughts and feelings regarding the incident. Students also dealt with the issue of drunk driving when an area high school student was killed in a related accident. Green says that the students coverage is currently being used by the local police department in their D.A.R.E. program.
Whenever we come upon a story that is meaningful and has a powerful message, I push the students to cover it. If given a choice, they would probably produce skateboarding and fashion stories non-stop, so the teacher needs to push for balance, points out Green. I feel that valuable class instructional time is being used to show the live program each week, and our content has to be worthy of this time.
Green also notes that he spends much time after school and on weekends with students who want hands-on experience with Trinity. With class sizes in the 25-student range, all training must occur one-on-one after hours, Green says. Teachers who take on this type of elective course need to realize that there is substantial after-hours involvement.
Despite the extra time students spend exploring Trinitys features after school, Green says his students havent had a difficult time picking up the basics. The learning curve has been a piece of cake. They are already familiar with the Windows operating system, so Trinitys drag and drop interface is no problem.
The Future of AOTV
Last year AOTV won more than $10,000 in prize and grant money from various educational institutions and programs. Most recently, AOTV was awarded a $3,000 grant from their local cable company. In the coming school year, AOTV will not only air at the middle school and on public access television, it will also be broadcast online. Green says hes expanding the classes from Beginning Broadcasting and Intermediate Broadcasting to include a third level, so the most advanced students may work on a show for broadcast on the Internet. This show, due to the Internets international availability, will be accessible by people throughout the world.
Green feels that the AOTV course has been a great success; its become popular in the schools community and is a favorite among students. The Aviara Oaks students are gaining first-hand knowledge from all sides of the television production environment and are enjoying the experience. Jessica, an Aviara Oaks eighth grader, agrees, saying, Trinity has given me something to look forward to at school every day.
For more information about Aviara Oaks Middle Schools television-production program, visit www.aotv.org.
Rancho Cordova, CA
This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.