Evolution of an Experiment: The Kids Are Running the Show!
My teaching colleague Isaac Raya and I spent the summer of 2015 getting ready to welcome students to our new broadcast media classroom. We moved our cameras, lights, and tri-caster from our old studio into our new classroom, and painted a green screen in a corner wall.
As we worked, we brainstormed how this new class would operate. There was a variety of jobs that needed to be completed for each show’s production, and with 32 students in a class, we weren’t sure how we would keep all students on-task for a full 90-minute class period.
Since some students would be writing the show’s script, some would be creating graphics, some would be filming/editing movies, and others would be working the technology during the show, we couldn’t teach them all the jobs at the same time. We decided to create a central hub where students would access the resources and directions needed for each job. This hub took the form of a class website, which we have made available to anyone interested in seeing how we run our class. We also created a job board, where students could check in to see their responsibilities for the day (students keep the same job for three weeks, giving them time to learn each job well enough that they can teach another student).
If you were to walk into our studio during class time, you might sense a bit of chaos. Students are scattered throughout the room: some seated at tables with laptops, some working with studio equipment, some outside filming, some huddled in groups brainstorming. Since the teacher can’t be at every station, answering questions for every job, the students learn to turn to each other for help. They know they can find answers on our website, but they also discover which students are experts in which area, and they learn to collaborate to get the jobs done.
Recently we completed our second year in our new classroom, where we continue to tweak, revise, and fine-tune our program. Our biggest struggle is one we had anticipated: keeping students productive during class. Some jobs require hard work most of the class period (script, graphics, floor manager, producer); while other jobs demand focused attention for the final half hour of class (tricaster, teleprompter, audio, bus, director). But the students responsible for the equipment (cameras, laptops, studio lights/cameras) have very little to do during most of the class period. We have told them they should be working on film production when they have nothing else to do (creating PSAs, for example, about school rules or current issues), but too many students don’t work well in that kind of self-directed environment.
So as our program continues to evolve, we look for more ways to help our students develop those life skills critical not only to their futures, but to their current lives: responsibility, initiative, maturity.
Next year we will divide the jobs into three categories:
Production Team: busy all class period, so they won’t have any other assigned work during that job rotation.
Tech Team: busy only during filming, so they will be assigned short films to help build film-making skills (angles, narration, green screen, etc.).
Equipment Team: busy only at the end of class, so they will be assigned specific PSAs, longer films that should take multiple class periods to film and edit.
When Isaac and I took on the challenge of advising our student news program, we really didn’t know how much we didn’t know! But we both agree that it has been one of the most exciting challenges of our career. And the best part is probably that our students continue to teach us how to look at learning with fresh eyes, to give our students more responsibility, and to let go of the need to be in charge of everything that happens in our classroom.
It’s especially satisfying to see a tiny 7th grade girl call out, “Quiet on the set!”; see the entire class respond appropriately; watch the students produce the entire episode; and hear the joyous, “And that’s KTV!” that signals the end of each show.
To get a sense of how our class is run, check out this student-made video from our first year in our studio classroom: