Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Setting up for RTV News Assessment

The big idea that I'm going to implement in semester 2 of RTV News is a way of students being more aware of their learning. I hope to accomplish this through a blogfolio.

Students will have the major outcomes presented to them at the beginning of each two week RTV news run. While they complete the jobs required for their position at RTV they will look at essential questions related to the outcomes as they would apply in a newsroom. Typography and principals of design will be looked at first as we develop our RTV News intro and picture in picture graphics is one example of how it will be integrated.

How can I help them with this process?
I've decided to blog with them on the same topics as they. Just prior to their blogs being due I will be reflecting on the essential questions and outcomes and giving evidence from the students' work to support it. I hope to provide "big picture" advice and comments on the class as a whole. This means I'm starting a new blog!!

With the type of outcomes in the curriculum I'd love to go with a different scale that a percentage grade. This type of class is one where the students' work and visual products and reflection of personal learning and application to their next task is where I want to be. If a student creates a "failing" news report for the first 3 times and then finally gets it for the fourth, am I going to fail him or her? The answer should be no, but mathematically, they could fail if I took the cumulative points average. That's why I like the idea of students completing several tasks over a period of time, get feedback from peers and myself for these products, then use that feedback to highlight their very best work.

Ideas, thoughts?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

RTV News: The Funding Realities

Starting a broadcasting program is pricey. VERY pricey. There are basic equipment costs that have really added up fast.

The overall goal of news program is to have all of the authenticity and hustle and bustle of a real newsroom. I've started to develop the jobs with help from my good friend Jim Billings from North Little Rock High School. I could not have envisioned how a broadcasting program would work without his help. There's a glowing red bat phone that connects our two schools. Sometime in this semester we'll be travelling to Global TV in Edmonton and Newcap News in Lloydminster to get a 'behind-the-scenes' look at the pros.

I've also recently purchased a great resource from Doug Green with has provided some great background info for getting off the ground. Pick up the digital or physical copy today! (Plug, Plug).

With startup and program costs that are quite high I'm looking at creative means to raise funds for those 'essential' extras. We need a backdrop for our set, a communication system, and a second camera that is reliable for the show. There's 300' of BNC cable, a second copy of prompter software and many others little things that add up.

A comment on a recent post of mine tweaked my interest and has now provided inspiration for our fundraising. The idea was for me to incorporate students who are working on Enterprise and Innovation and Marketing credits as part of the news team. Thanks to Maureen Parker for this idea! I've now put in place a sponsorship structure for local businesses who want to provide funds in exchange for advertising on our RTV website, credit mentions at the end of each news show and even logo placement and mentions in our weather each day. Why not have our weather person introduce the forecast "brought to you by local business X"? Students would make initial contact with businesses and would be part of meetings with the 'client' to discuss what our RTV Productions can do for them. Another place for funding would be to contact a local clothing company to be a clothing sponsor for our anchors. A few shirts and sweaters from them would get them a logo in the credits each day.

All news on TV is run on sponsorship. We see it everyday. Without sponsorship for RTV News we won't be able to progress in terms of equipment purchases.

The only downside of this is optics. Should we be advertising on RTV News? Technically the Alberta government is supposed to provide adequate funding for school programming and they tell us this. This is true if your definition of providing programming means putting a teacher in the classroom. My salary is paid for by the CEU generation of students in the classes I teach. I know this a simplified look at funding. I'm not a principal or division leader and I'm thankful that I can have this easy view of funding.

I say yes to advertising. The thousands of dollars extra that are needed have to come from somewhere, and the experience students will have working with businesses in the community to develop sponsorship structures will be a real world application for our CTS modules in enterprise and marketing.

What are your thoughts on sponsorship of our news program? Of any program in schools?

The REAL costs of RTV News

Running a television news program at our school isn't going to be cheap. There are big ticket items that need to be purchased. This includes broadcast cameras, a video switcher, microphones, monitors, the list goes on.

There are many all-in-one software solutions out there. One such program is Boinx TV. It's a great way to get into producing a TV news show, and we've used it for 3 years, but it's time to move on.

Most schools that want to run a broadcast program will soon be on the hunt for some kind of video switcher. There are two basic types out there: the virtual switcher and the physical analogue/digital switcher. Both have merits for applications in schools.

The virtual switcher such as the Tricaster from Newtek is a great value. It's great because you can shoot student news in front of a green or blue screen. The host looks like they are in a huge set with many different angles available. It also requires minimal students to run the software. a 3-5 person team can easily use this virtual switcher to produce great looking shows.

The physical switcher is the route we are going. For about the same amount of money as the Tricaster it allows us to connect 3 cameras as well as a computer source to a physical box that also records to an SD card. This switcher from Roland that we are testing out is more of a solution for us. We will be connecting our 32 channel audio mixing board in the theatre to it with pre-mixed audio from the anchors using 2 of our 12 wireless mics. Lighting will be with the theatre lights. The keying feature will allow us to do weather and sports in front of a green screen. The switcher actually CREATES jobs in the news room. I've got 27 students signed up for RTV News starting January 31 and each one will have a role to play. You can see my preliminary planning on our class wiki. This site will become our own 'how-to' and will share every aspect of how we are getting our program going.

Luckily we have an older JVC DV500 studio camera that just needed a new power cord to make it functional again! It will be the second camera to our new Panasonic camera. I checked these out on ebay and they are still going for $1000-5000!

So the REAL cost of the news? Right now it's sitting at around $7500 for the switcher and camera. If we had to add lights and wireless mics, it would be somewhere around $10-15,000 including computers. We will have one of our Mac Pros ($4000)running a Final Cut timeline through a Canopus converter ($200) to get our packages into the switcher. We also will have a second iMac ($1500) for graphics. It's big bucks. More than most schools can get into.

For entry level, a program can be run with a computer ($1500 iMac), a camera with Firewire ($500), Boinx SE software ($200) and a couple wired mics ($25 each). This is good for about 5 students running a show. I've been there, done that, and now it's time go to the next level, but where is the all the funding going to come from?

It's time to get creative. I'll share some ideas in my next post later today.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

40 Episodes Later...

As our semester wraps up this week so many things have been great about RTV news. My last post talked about all of the great things about students' producing the news every day. This Thursday will be our 40th show. 35 or so will be found on our Youtube and 5 will be archived elsewhere because they are pretty much awful.

One sad things from our wrap up episode from season 1 is that the computer program Boinx we were running with crashed- again. We've been having a lot of trouble with the program lately and it's because of 1 of 2 things. First, the computer we're using needs to be re-imaged and the software reinstalled, and second, we are pushing the limits of what Boinx can do with such little RAM available to run the amount of video, camera inputs and graphics we want for each newscast. It's really not the fault of Boinx. It's a great program and I would highly recommend it to any teacher who wants to start a student broadcasting program on a VERY tight budget.

Never fear, the solutions are almost here.... Stay tuned.

For now, check out a short blooper reel of a gag that our control room crew played on some of the anchors. Pretty funny!