Magazine article Techniques

Broadcasting a Middle School Success Story

Magazine article Techniques

Broadcasting a Middle School Success Story

Article excerpt

At a Massachusetts middle school, a television technology program has become an on-air success thanks to the persistence of the teacher whose dream it was to have a TV studio for his students.

After many years of teaching English, Jim O'Hearn began a new program at the middle school where he taught. Now he is the director of the TV studio for the East Longmeadow Public Schools, which means he is now a career and technical educator. It is a transition that has renewed his energy toward teaching and has brought a new and exciting program to his school and to its students.

His background in teaching a core academic subject helps him see how his TV technology course encourages students to use math and writing skills, but he has also learned what veterans of career and technical education know. This is not a field filled with unmotivated, underachieving students.

"My consciousness has been raised by seeing what kind of kids take to the TV studio," says O'Hearn.

As a long-time middle school teacher, O'Hearn also has an appreciation for the special qualities of students that age and understands the importance of this transitional time in their lives. That's another reason he wanted to give them the opportunity of having a TV technology program.

"This is not just a special subject," explains O'Hearn. "this is a career track."

It gives his young students a chance to explore what is involved in the field, which he feels has something for almost everyone. "It's great for 12- and 13-year-olds to see what's in TV for them-whether it's the performance aspect, the technology, the production or the creativity."

As for finding something they might like-says O'Hearn, "What's not to like about being sent around the world by National Geographic or going to sports events and doing graphics for ESPN."

Integrating Academics

The school where O'Hearn teaches, Birchland Park Middle School, is only three years into a new building, which has its advantages. Because it is relatively new, there is tech ed, which O'Hearn describes as a multimedia exploratory course showing the interaction of technology and daily lives, including robots and lasers. There are traditional career tech courses such as family and consumer sciences education as well. And, of course, there is the TV studio.

"Very few middle schools have the kind of TV studio that we have," remarks O'Hearn. "Credit the town of East Longmeadow with foresight and a willingness to support its schools. And the school administration has been very supportive."

The very well equipped studio consists of eight rooms in the studio suite and includes a classroom in which students construct all of the materials used in television production. There are three computers for creating graphics.

Students generally work in teams of two or three-but most often two in deference to the group dynamics that often occur among students of this age group. Working as a team means, "There are two people to come up with ideas during brainstorming and to share the work," says O'Hearn.

During the 10-week marking period, O'Hearn explains, the idea is that,

"They create something that is sufficiently exciting to them that they're inspired by their own work and want to find new video challenges."

The work the students do in the TV studio is not done in an academic void, however-far from it, in fact. In addition to acquiring technical skills on the computer, the students in the TV studio have to use calculations when they format stills to the aspect ratio of television, they have to write the scripts for the audio portions, and they employ creativity.

O'Hearn sees it as a really great benefit in the "big picture of education," because, he says, "It is a rare opportunity to synthesize all kinds of educational skills in something the students enjoy doing."

The Birchland Park Middle School students in the TV technology program have also integrated history lessons into their work. …

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