A Lesson On School TV?

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With the cost of audio visual technology and recording equipment coming down, the advent and accessibility of high speed internet connections and the arrival of cheaper web hosting and streaming, it is now quite feasible for a school to provide it own online television station. Many schools have their own website and many already host some video footage, so why not take this one step further. In this article we look at the reasons for embracing the technology, the costs involved and how to do this. It’s all quite new to me, as it may be to you, so this article will take a layman’s view.

What is School TV?

The idea is to create programmes for the benefit of the school, its teachers, or its students; be it school news, teaching or learning, to reach over short areas or long distances, to be viewed in school hours or outside.

Each department can create their own “channel” and posts videos, streams and footage. These can be made either by students as part of their coursework, by teachers to teach part of the course, or by Heads of Department, administrators or management to provide news.

One example, which ties together a number of the advantages, is to create your own programmes to teach part of your course that you repeat every year; a part that students could learn just as easily, if not better, from watching on video as they could from watching you. For music teachers, that could be fingering techniques, tonguing techniques, vibrato, etc; for sports technology, it could be triple jump technique, how to serve, or how offside rules work. The advantages here are: the students can learn at any time and almost any place; the lesson can be more in depth and watched repeatedly; you take the lesson once and you never have to take it again; by using students to create the video lesson, you are teaching two lessons simultaneously, the second being “how to shoot, edit and broadcast a video”.

Let’s take an in depth look at how these advantages work:-

The online lesson can be accessed from anywhere with Internet access and even most phones will allow you to watch videos. For students who are ill or otherwise unable to attend the lesson in person, the video provides a chance to catch-up or take part from home or elsewhere.

For learning intense skills, being able to watch the lesson repeatedly can really help, especially whilst at home practising. Video allows close-up shots and slow motion to focus on precise techniques, and often it is impractical to have an entire class this close to you and impossible to perform a technique in slow motion – so these can make the video lesson far better than an actual lesson.

You only have to perform the video lesson once and can be used for every class, every term and every year.  If you are off ill, then a supply teacher will be able to use your videos to carry on your lessons without you.

You may not be a video broadcasting teacher and your school may not even run a course teaching film or video production, but regardless, these are easy and fun skills to learn and to teach, and the students will be given valuable skills by taking part in producing the video for you.

The further benefits of School TV

I will look at some more advantages in this section, but I’m sure many others will spring to mind as you read through.

There will be students for whom accessibility, disability or illness, prevents them from attending a lesson, field trip or excursion. It may also be logistically or financially impossible to take the whole class on such occasions. In both these situations, filming the lesson, trip or event, will allow everyone to learn, regardless of whether they were in attendance or not. As with my previous example, the students filming will be acquiring valuable skills and the outcome is a better learning experience. Admittedly, students watching the lesson on video won’t experience the smells, the environment or the grandeur; but how frequently do you have to repeat yourself because the students were chatting or looking at something else? What percentage of the lesson, trip or event did they actually pay attention to? With it all captured on video, they can simply go back and watch it again – so whether they were there or not, they will learn more from the video.

You may have students that are permanently at home, or you may have linked with another school to teach a particular course or topic. In both these cases, recording or even streaming the lessons mean that student’s can learn remotely. With interactive whiteboards, you can have many schools tuned into your lesson or event and even talking back to you.

With broadcast equipment, school performances, concerts, recitals and musicals can all be recorded and produced to a high standard. Again, this gives students the opportunity to learn valuable filming skills, but also to get used to performing in front of a camera and this may well improve the students practice as a faultless performance is critical when it is to be recorded and watched by hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people. For students and parents who are unable to attend, they also get a chance to enjoy and learn from the event.  For those who took part, they can reflect on their performance and identify the flaws in their performance.

School news can be recorded and posted online. This could be the goals from Wednesday’s school football matches, reports from students studying journalism, or even the school assembly for those who were absent.

Sporting events, as already suggested above, can be recorded in full and then turned into highlights for the enjoyment of parents or students unable to attend. The footage can also be watched by the participants to help them understand their strengths and weaknesses better.

Webinars and video conferencing are becoming increasingly popular and can provide learning opportunities that are otherwise impossible.

As I said at the start, these are just a few ideas. I’m sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other uses your school could get from adequate filming and broadcasting equipment.

But it sounds expensive…

It sounds expensive, but money can be made from having good filming and broadcast equipment and it’s not a technology or medium that is going to be superseded anytime soon; so you will have plenty of time for it to pay for itself. It really is an investment. So let’s look at potential revenue streams:-

Selling DVD’s of performances, recitals, musical and sporting events are the easiest ways of recouping the cost of the equipment. Parents, and students alike, will want a copy as a memento and be prepared to pay a reasonable amount of money – especially if they are aware the funds are being invested into the equipment that made it possible to capture the performance and teach other students valuable skills. The better quality the video is, the more valuable it becomes. DVD’s also give art and photography students a chance to develop their skills by producing the sleeve – this could run as a competition.

Distance learning initiatives can bring in revenue. If you team up with other Schools to host events and broadcast them online then you can levy a charge for doing so. You can also work with other schools in your borough, across the UK or worldwide, to provide lesson content. You could sell your lessons to other schools who don’t have the equipment or resources to record their own.

For those schools that are struggling to attract numbers, the ability to offer media courses using film and video streaming equipment could also help bring new students to the school. High quality videos on the school website can also help promote the school and the courses it delivers, thus attracting students.

Corporate investment can also play a big part. Apply to local businesses for contributions and, in return, at the end of every video there will be a “with thanks to…” and the name of their company (bigger investments can have a “sponsored by…” at the beginning).

Sell advertising. It may seem unscrupulous, which is why I have listed it last, but if you need to insert adverts into the videos the school is broadcasting in order to make this technology available then that’s what you can do. I’m not suggesting Mars adverts at the beginning of every video with the Coke theme playing at the end. Consider the local book shop, independent sports shop, local radio, etc. You aren’t going to be looking for tens of thousands of pounds, so you can be selective.

How to set up a television station at school

So, firstly the equipment: Video camera (preferably more than one to capture different angles), video mixer, audio recorder, audio mixer, output and input monitors, and an AV encoder. This already sounds exhausting and can be streamlined easily by using the Roland VR-5, which gives you the audio mixer, video mixer, 4 input monitors and an output monitor, an AV encoder and a USB connection for streaming the video to a PC all-in-one. You will still need the video cameras and the audio recorder. The audio recorder is not essential but it does mean that you can keep the audio stable whilst the video cameras move around. Something similar to an Olympus LS-5, or even a Zoom H1, is ideal as these devices can record outside, in the classroom, or be attached to the record output on a mixing desk when recording performances.

This simple set up would cost no more than £4000.

Once you have your video files and audio files, using the VR-5 you can just instantly mix everything together and add effects, voiceovers, computer graphics and subtitles if required. Once you have created your video, you simply upload it to the school’s website or to a hosting site such as www.radiowaves.com. The VR-5 will also stream video straight onto the web for live streams.

It really is that simple.

Find out more…

To find out more about the VR-5 and how simple it is to shoot a video, check our magazine for a video tutorial (yes, we’ve made our own lessons on it!) – http://magazine.dv247.com/2011/05/18/roland-vr-5-overview-video/.

To find out more about hosting your videos online and to see how other schools use video, check out www.radiowaves.com.uk. It is hosted by the same company that run NUMU, the online hosting service for music (which you should also check out if you haven’t already, at www.numu.org.uk.

You can also call our sales team on 01708 771983 or email sales@digitalvillage.co.uk.

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About Author

Starting out as an IT student, Robin inadvertently found his way into the music scene in the mid 90’s when a friend asked for help getting a copy of Cubase for Window’s 3.1 to work. The blooming dance scene of the mid 90’s sparked a passion in DJing and production and he held many residencies at clubs around the country in the late 90’s. Since becoming too old to stay up all night partying, Robin has devoted his skills to teaching others DJing and Music Production and most recently to giving sound advice on how to get started in the world of making music and running our educational sales department. Email him on robinheyworth@digitalvillage.co.uk if you have anything you can contribute to our educational news section.

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