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Lights! Action! Camera!: Student News Coming Your Way

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This post is the second part of a three-part blog entry. Read part one.

How did we design, produce, and broadcast the Benjamin Franklin Broadcast News (BFBN)? The fifteen eighth graders and the three teachers gathered around a large table and began to ask a series of questions: What will the television show be? What will we call it? How often will it air? What equipment will we need? What roles will we need to fill in order to produce the show? What skills and knowledge will we need? What do we know, if anything, about television broadcasting? Can we make it whatever we want? What are our limits?

Tony Bencivenga, BFMS

We spent days posing questions. The level of constructivist, divergent thinking, and creative brainstorming was incredible. The students took up the challenge immediately.

The children created the name and the tagline: "BFBN - Where YOU are the News!" It was perfect! The students of Benjamin Franklin Middle School would be the news. Every show would be student produced. They would fill all the positions and monitor and assess each show. The children made a visionary and profound decision: BFBN would be a live, daily broadcast that would air first thing in the morning on monitors that already existed in each homeroom throughout the school. Each broadcast would open with daily announcements about school and community events. A feature story would follow the announcements. The students felt empowered.

The children wanted BFBN to provide a student-directed forum to discuss and address topics, events, and issues that touched their lives and the larger world, and serve as a vehicle for presenting the results of their work to peers, family, and community. On tape or live in the studio, students might read a piece of their poetry or an entry from their journal. Their artwork might be used as part of the set or displayed in a feature story, and taped soundtracks from the school's award-winning band and orchestra might close the show. The children were eager to show their work.

The television show began to take shape. What next? Where would we broadcast, and what equipment would we need? We had very little money. Still, we were fortunate to have a classroom with a small room adjacent to it. The students and teachers built the set (an anchor desk, a backdrop, and a feature-story corner). We had one studio camera. The small room served as the control room, which included a few monitors, a rudimentary switcher, and an outdated soundboard left over from an old radio class. We outsourced the wiring for relatively little money -- about $500, as I recall.

How would we learn the skills needed to operate the equipment? Again, in the spirit of true constructivism, we learned as we went along. We read excerpts from a few manuals and books and asked several parents and teachers in the community (those who had some experience with television production) to conduct some workshops. Although the students (and we, the teachers) had much to learn, they enthusiastically and passionately welcomed the challenge to learn on their terms.

In addition to recognizing their lack of technical knowledge and skill, the students understood that the equipment fell far short of state of the art. But, it mattered little. BFBN would not be about technology alone. It was about critical thinking skills, decision making, empowerment, ownership, community, and, of course, vision. Everyone (including the student body, staff, and parents) was eager to watch BFBN and excited about its future.

What was the content of BFBN? What were some of the feature stories? Stay tuned! More in my next posts.

Student Broadcasters: Feature Stories Reflect Local and Global Awareness
On the Air: A Student's Dream Fulfilled

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Don Jones's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Tony this is awesome.. We have a similar program but it is Video production. We also have our own cable channel (educational only) that we play the different event on on timed playback decks. Our local cable company has been tremendously supportive. This year and last year have been tial by fire in learning all the componets, systems and processes. Last year we had built 2 high end video editing computers. It has also been a large rebuilding year updating technology and freeing up time. We lean heavily on the local businesses who we make yearly commercials for ($400.00) and we play them at the end of all of our events.

One of the biggest hings i had to overcome was the sterotype of the AV geek, that ended when the QB for the football team signed up.

This is a great progam to start in any school. and it can be started very cost efectively

Sandra Axelrad's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

To Tony and Don: Bravo! The Fine Arts Team here at my elementary school decided to pool their yearly lump sum supply money to purchase a camera, tripod, mic, and dolly to begin an on-campus media studio. We are just getting started. I am so inspired by your work with the students.

Joan Glowacki's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Tony, This is exactly what I'm trying to get together in my middle school and I plan to allow some of our 7-8th graders to put it together. I am in contact with a local channel that produces a kids tv program and we will start our project with a field trip to their studio soon. I'll keep you posted on how things go. Joan Glowacki

John Joseph's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently planning to create podcasts (radio shows) with my Middle years students in Australia. I am also completing my Masters research with my thesis being that students can achieve improved literacy outcomes via podcasting. I plan to compare written and oral communication skills with 2 groups- a control group writing, collaborating and delivering scripts for their peers and the podcast group using the ICT tools and having a worldwide audience. What I would like to find is lesson planning format for English or Media studies that provides students with the essential skills to write radio scripts, considering the spoken genre and audience. This would provide me with the core understandings, skills, and process to ensure my research is credible and can be substantiated. Can anyone help?

Mrs. Davis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great ideas here! I am currently working with 8th grade students who put together a morning announcement show and broadcast it around the school. In addition to learning basic editing skills, they also are developing some important communication and public speaking skills. My question is, where can I get daily world news feeds that I can (legally) print and give to the students to read each morning? Anyone have any ideas?

Kim Bass's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello John,
I am very interested in your project. I am also working on my Masters and I am asking the same questions. I am also interested in the improved home school connection that podcasting may also support. How have you been progressing so far? I would love to hear from you and we can share some of our podcasting ideas and research.

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