VENTNOR – It started last April with pre-recorded segments, but VECC-TV is back this school year with live morning broadcasts and more students participating in the school’s latest venture into new media.
STEM teacher Bob Braverman and Director of Information Systems John Spencer worked all summer long to get a television studio installed in the old computer lab next to the middle school library. The lab is no longer needed because the computers have become obsolete and students in third through eighth grade each have their own laptop to use in school.
“We started with 12 students last year, and this year we will have about 25 in the rotation,” Braverman said.
Eighth grader Jake Hocker participated in the before- and after-school program when he was in seventh grade and is looking forward to being back at the anchor desk.
“It was a fun thing to do and I got to use technology that I would never have the opportunity to use because it’s so expensive,” Jake said.
Principal Rob Baker said when Braverman suggested the TV program last year, the Board of Education was quick to support it. The board felt the program would get students ready for media studies in high school and approved an $11,000 expenditure in last year’s budget to get the TV studio up and running.
Baker said Braverman and Spencer “picked up the technology quickly and it became their baby,” saving the district $10,000 in teacher training costs.
“They’ve been passionate about it, if not, it could have taken years to get it up and running,” Baker said. “And we were fortunate that we had a contact person who could tell us exactly what we needed and how we could make it happen.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 29, the board discussed stipends for the facilitators, who worked long hours throughout the summer to get the technology and software installed.
“They’ve taken it to the next level,” school board President James Pacanowski said.
Superintendent Eileen Johnson said she likes to encourage teachers to pursue their passions.
The studio has two video cameras, a green screen, lighting, editing and graphics stations, and the latest “pro-station” controls, Braverman said.
“Even the TV stations don’t have this latest technology,” he said.
“They use a rotation system to get students to learn the different production jobs, including being on-camera, reading from a teleprompter, using the recording equipment and editing video,” Jake said. “My favorite part was being on camera. It helped me with my public speaking skills.”
Students write their own scripts, which include school announcements, sports results, what’s going on in school clubs and the ever-important school lunch menu, using Microsoft Teams, a collaborative platform that combines workplace chat, meetings, notes and attachments. The Teams software allows others to read and edit copy. Writing teacher Chris Kane approves the final edits and rewrites. Students will also give shout-outs to teachers and achieving students.
“I’m having fun with it,” he said. “The kids do all the work and we just let the ponies run.”
The program covers several content areas, including English, writing, communication and social skills, engineering and computer technology.
“We are a very career-oriented school,” Braverman said. “This is something I can see the kids going into, either in front of or behind the camera.”
Braverman said the students learn the technology very easily.
“Some know more than me in an hour,” he said.
Students will arrive at 7:45 a.m. to prep for a live broadcast at 8:25 a.m. starting Monday, Sept. 10, “after that, I’ll be behind the glass,” Braverman said.
Students will be able to broadcast events taking place in the auditorium school-wide on CCTV Ch. 2, he said.
Braverman said he is considering posting the students’ work on YouTube so parents can see what their children are up to.
“We’re planning to broadcast graduation live for grandparents who can’t be there in person,” he said. “The way we set it up, the sky’s the limit.”