Nov 29 2012
I have decided that the time has come for me to make a new blog.
Here it is:
Audio = Safe
It took several years for me to get the courage to do video with my junior level students. Audio? No problem. My students seemed happy about creating radio style shows that we called Portable Radio. I had done that with my students for well over six years. We had quite a bit of success with show. The students were played several times on CBC radio, we won awards and even appeared on TV. Portable Radio lives on, although we don’t make as many shows as we used to.
Video = Danger!
Video on the other hand, I viewed with trepidation. I guess I had bought into the fear and paranoia of all the horrible things that could happen if I were to post images of my students’ faces. I was certain the parents of my students would feel the same way.
At the same time, working with video was such an obvious hook for the kids. So, my students and I came up with creative ways to get around the whole thing. Puppets, slide shows of art, talking hands, voice overs all worked and we were happy with the results.
Inspiration from New Zealand
It was a class in New Zealand that changed my perspective. Teacher Stephen Baker had a year 5 class in Palmerston North, New Zealand where they created their own class TV show called Street Talk. As I had learned with making our Portable Radio podcast, the real learning and quality came through repetition. In my mind, it was vital to view this project not as a “one off” but as a regular series of episodes. Stephen Baker clearly saw things the same way.
I highly recommend you watch the episodes of Street Talk in order. I found it spine tingling to watch the students develop their skills in front of the camera. The first few shows were perhaps what you’d expect. Children read from scripts that mainly dealt with curriculum related topics. While this was a wonderful experience for the students, it wasn’t always entertaining viewing.
Somewhere along the way something interesting happened. Street Talk became less and less of a classroom project meant for themselves and more and more of an actual, well, show. The students developed regular segments and challenges that gave Street Talk a unique style. It made me want to watch more episodes – just like a “real” TV show. The students seemed to become more aware of their audience. The students and their teacher obviously put a great deal of time and effort into producing the show but, on camera, they appeared relaxed, funny and spontaneous.
Portable TV is born
So, I decided to take a shot at it. I started with a small group of students and explained what I wanted to do. Once they were excited, I sent home a permission form. To my surprise, every form was returned to me within a matter of days and every parent was on board. So we dove in and Portable TV was born!
The true eureka moment for me was when my class watched the first episode of Portable TV. I had never experienced this scale of rapt attention, focus and pride from my class before. Sure, there was excitement when we listened to our Portable Radio audio podcasts; the students would listen politely and look embarrassed when they heard their voices. But with video, it was different. The students seemed to relive the moment as they viewed it together. This was especially the case in our class challenges and teacher vs. student challenges. They would cheer the student on, even though they already knew the outcome. There was applause and laughter throughout. And this was from a class where many of the students faced academic, social and family challenges.
I don’t pretend that this level of engagement will be sustainable for every group of kids that I work with. But it is something I plan to explore more deeply for the next while.