Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Authenticity Rules!

After my long winded diatribe a couple days ago, I promised a follow up on what's so positive about my block 1 multimedia class, which has undergone a significant transformation in the past 5 weeks.

So we're busy. But aren't we all busy? I don't want students to be busy, I want them to be "engaged". This is the current buzzword sweeping education this month. This idea of engagement needs to come with some qualification, and most people are now adding to it and spout the phrase 'authentic engagement'.

Right now there is nothing more authentic for my television news crew that producing a daily program. I honestly wish I had started a student news team 2 years ago when my class dabbled in it for 3 short episodes.

So, what is cool and totally awesome about the news?

1. Engagement. From the director to the anchor to the camera operator, all have work to do, and these jobs are VERY interdependent. If one person doesn't come through then many are affected. If a reporter doesn't have a story ready for the news by 9:15am then the script writer has to rewrite the script, the audio engineer needs to know that they don't have a package to adjust, the technical director has to change the settings in BoinxTV, and the graphics creator needs to change the lower thirds on the news. I've started a wiki to help support the development of the news (thanks Kaminski for this idea!). Students will write their own job description and as time goes on and their role changes they will make changes to it on the wiki. It's going to be my first 100% open and editable wiki, which is a big step for me. I'm trying to get the students to accept the idea of leaving something behind to help the next group do a better job next semester.

2. Real Deadlines, real audience. Real feedback. We get the best kind of feedback there is: peer feedback! Everyday the news is watched on our youtube channel by our teacher advisory classes. If our audio levels suck or a transition between stories isn't smooth we hear it. In addition to this we have partnered with Jim Billings' North Little Rock High TV program and their students are giving us advice and mentorship with our fledgling program.

3. Capitalizing on the strengths of each student.
Right now I have placed each student based on what I see as a fit for their own abilities and interests. What has happened is that students who are behind the camera want to stay in front of the camera. Since the anchors get all the glory, I'm seeing many reporters wanting to have their own crack at it. We now have 6 students who anchor in pairs. Next semester we will have tryouts for anchors, and with the advice and work of this semesters students, we will have the set job descriptions available to help each student.

So far so good. Life is great at RTV News. I think that RTV is now going to be a staple of life at Cold Lake High School, and I'm happy to say its been because of the task put before the students to do each day.

And yes, we have our own coffee mugs!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trying to Assess where Curriculum Fails

So here goes. Just a few things up front. I'm not an assessment specialist, I have great people who I can talk to in my school and in my PLN who had provided invaluable advice and guidance in my career. I'm also a realist andhave enjoyed throwing out complete programs in the middle of my schools year this year. The results of this purging have been pretty darn cool. One of them is our daily news.

Where I'm struggling right now is the assessment piece. I think I'd like to get into some kind of portfolio assessment for students to demonstrate their competencies, skills and mastery of the outcomes, but there are a few problems. The first step to making things better is admitting you have a problem, right?

Problem 1: The curriculum. Joe Bower would be proud. What really hampers my ability to assess effectively is often the thing that is supposed to guide me and my students. The Alberta Education curriculum for Audio-Video is so void of substance and real action verbs (thanks Deana!), which can be a great thing for a teacher or a terrible thing. Right now when my students are putting together a 4-7 minute daily newscast, the curriculum is not working for us.

Take for example AV Preproduction 1 (COM 2105). The main outcomes (the bold ones) are words like: describe, identify, consider, discuss. The only one that actually is an actionable item that could be considered higher on Bloom's taxonomy is "present and discuss a production plan". Fail.
And don't get me started on the outcomes that ask the student to demonstrate consistent and appropriate workstation routines, or demonstrate basic competencies like communicating, thinking, and solving problems!

Problem 2: Right or wrong, the CTS outcomes in Alberta are developed for the one stop shop idea where students can get in, get what they need and get out. This doesn't leave much for a program that I want to develop with the Television Arts. So many outcomes from multiple modules are overlapping as we create our news program.

Problem 3: Television Broadcasting is only 1 module in the curriculum and credits in the province are tied to hours of instruction. I can work with this, but I need to be creative. There are several other modules that students will get credits for at the same time as COM 3165- AV Broadcasting.

Problem 4- Where's the substance?
The outcomes in the AV Broadcasting module are pretty basic, and the students have actually achieved all of them within in the first week! We are working on direct feedback from students in other news programs, feedback from the web, myself and the student news team themselves. Where is the curricular guidance for students to look deeply at the craft and art of TV production? Where is the connection to the real world? This is where I have to do a great job of connecting it to those in the industry.

Problem 5- Diversity of Occupations
I have at least 10 different jobs in my newsroom. All have their own challenges and tasks each day. They each have a detailed job description to follow that they helped develop. Students have been given certain jobs for now based on their strengths that they have shown me before the news began. All students have the opportunity to change what they are working on if they ask, but how long do they really need to feel that they have demonstrated proficiency or mastery of an outcome? Some don't need to demonstrate mastery of certain outcomes to do their job. Do I need to have knowledge and be able to help students achieve an outcome in math? No, there are math specialists for that. The blanket, one size fits all concept of our curriculum has the same flaw that our current approach to teacher PD: it is limited in its effectiveness because it only serves a small percentage of the population. Deep thoughts...

Putting it all together.
This post has been all over the place. Thanks for sticking with it. The outcomes in Audio Video just don't cut it here in Alberta. They are delightfully insufficient, and vague and basic all at the same time. It's frustrating. Now I need to focus on what I really want students to learn and to demonstrate because I know our news is going above and beyond what the outcomes tell us in AV production in Alberta. (All of this is my own doing for changing things up halfway through the semester.:))

Part 2 Coming Up
This is the negative, teacher B.S. side of what goes on in my brain and keeps me awake at night. At the end of the semester I need to report a percentage grade for a process and learning by the students that I truly believe in my heart and my mind doesn't need to be communicated in that way. What does an 84% camera operator look like? How do we know that an anchor is a 58% anchor? This isn't important.

Part 2 of this look inside the news will look at what is awesome and authentic and engaging (buzzword!) and keeps students excited to be a part of producing our show each day!

Thanks! Any thoughts, ideas would be appreciated!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

PLN to the Rescue Again

Last weekend I was staying at my parents house for the weekend with my family. As many nerdy father son duos do, the conversation got to web tools. My dad shared how he was going to get a guest speaker to Skype into his 4th year petroleum engineering course at the U of A. His issue what getting the speaker's powerpoint (booo) deck to display at the same time as the video of his guest.

I suggested that he try Elluminate. He hadn't heard of it so I went to 'The Twitter" and asked for help from my PLN.

Within 3 minutes I had 2 responses from Jen Clevette and Alec Couros. So far I don't have a lot of experience in Elluminate, only a few sessions under my belt, and none as a moderator. Jen and Alec toured my father around all the features and let my dad upload his slide deck to try out. Inside 10 minutes my dad was sold on the tool! He's now excited to cancel his classes during the day when he's away on business and offer his class through Elluminate in the evening and teach from anywhere he is in the world.

Thanks so much to Alec Couros and Jen Clevette for your help in converting my dad. If only he'd be interested in recording the session for later use by students, but one thing at a time I guess!