The installation of a TV studio at Berkley Normal Middle School in Hamilton has proved to be “absolutely worthwhile”, with the students gaining significant benefits in terms of learning enhancement, says the school’s performing arts team leader and media teacher Marilyn Jessen. The school is a decile 9, co-educational school with approximately 720 year 7-9 students, and all students have the opportunity to work in the TV studio.
Built in 2012, the TV studio is a purpose-built, live edit studio, which can run up to eight video sources and create a finished mix without after edits. Adena, the company that designed and installed the studio, has had a good relationship with the school for quite a few years, so the school had been discussing their ideas with them right from the concept stage, director Steve Reader says. “From a design perspective this project had a good outcome. This was due to a combination of our early involvement, the school having a good idea of what they wanted and the architect knowing what the school wanted to achieve,” he says. In terms of the installation, Adena was involved from the outset, and worked closely with the contractors throughout, which Mr Reader says was fundamental to the success of the project as there were lots of technical details to be sorted out.
The placement of cables was a key factor, with the video and sound cables needing to be kept as short as possible and well away from the power cables to ensure the signals aren’t degraded by interference, which could ruin the quality of the videos the students produce. As consultant and designer, Adena needed to be on site so the electrician could be made aware of where the cables needed to be. “By working together with the sub-contractors, and with the focus on the customer’s requirements, we were able to avoid issues that could otherwise crop up later through equipment being put in the wrong place.”
The main focus of the design was the infrastructure and the installation of enough equipment to get the studio up and running. The way the infrastructure was designed has meant that the school has been able to simply plug in and use the extra equipment it has added since the initial installation. Mr Reader describes this as “very rewarding”. Students participate in three different programmes. The first of these is the morning news broadcast, aptly named by the students, Berkley on Toast. This seven to 10-minute programme includes items about what’s happening around the school, upcoming events and school notices. The 15 students that make up the Berkley on Toast team arrive at school at 8.15am, (20 minutes early). Each student has a specific role to play in the various aspects of producing and presenting the programme, e.g. presenter, editor, sound tech, camera, and vision mixer. A student director leads the team, mapping out the programme on the whiteboard and making sure everything runs to schedule. A de-brief is held after each session so the students can see where improvements can be made. For the first session the students have lots of teacher assistance. By the last session the students are running their own programme with very little assistance, and the student director leading the team. It’s a steep learning curve, and a challenge the students readily undertake, Mrs Jessen says.
The second programme, is the classroom media programme, in which the students use their media skills to communicate learning from their home room programmes. “We take an integrated approach using ICT/ Media for learning, as opposed to learning ICT/Media. As an International Baccalaureate school, running the Primary Years Programme, students are exposed to a number of Units of Enquiry each year. Students are encouraged to share their learning, and become skilled communicators through making movies and other media products about what they’ve learnt in class. It’s a partnership between the home room teachers and the media teacher, the success of which relies heavily on collaboration between the two.”
Also supporting the home-room learning and providing a real-life opportunity for student voice is the soon-to-be-launched, online magazine. Students will be able to share stories, photos, audio and videos, run competitions, conduct polls, comment on events and share ideas. “Our students are continuously bombarded by media. We want our students to be media savvy. What better way to learn, than by having their very own TV programme and online magazine,” Mrs Jessen says.
The third programme involves the roving reporters. Each team, or syndicate, has a group of reporters, who are responsible for reporting on classroom and school events. They meet on a regular basis, are assigned reporting jobs, and are responsible for taking photos and video, and completing these for play on Berkley on Toast or on the online magazine. A management team is selected from the students and they help teach newcomers how to use the equipment as well as aspects of reporting and presenting. By completing a structured learning programme reporters are able to earn their bronze and silver press passes. There is also a gold pass, which is conferred by invitation only, on students from the management team.
“The students absolutely love the TV studio. It’s open each lunchtime and there are always students in there,” Mrs Jessen says. While having the TV studio at school gives students the experience of working in media and potentially points them towards a career path, that wasn’t the reason the school had it installed, she says. “The focus is on developing teamwork, communication, leadership and time- management skills in an authentic learning environment. The children develop those skills through working together and having hands-on experience in the TV studio. It’s very hard to make a movie on your own. Students have to co-operate to be successful.” Mrs Jessen is keen to connect with other teachers using film making as a learning tool. She can be contacted by email at [email protected]