Give Them The Tools and Get The Heck Out of The Way

This year I’ve been working hard on a bold experiment – put the kids in charge.  And the results have been great.  The fruits just keep on coming.

My yearbook staff is hitting their first deadline.  We were set back a little by Hurricane Ike, but we’re working hard to make a comeback.  Today several of the staff were cranking out new pages.  They have some really great ideas.  They are working on a theme that plays off the popularity of the iPod-like super bright colors and cutout silhouette images.

The theme pages are starting to look really good.

My newspaper and yearbook staff both like using Newsroomdirector.com which has been a great success for us.  Most of my kids have some kind of internet access at home and can work on their stories after school or on weekends.  There is no excuse for not getting it done.  And you never left your copy at home.

It also saves time and ink.  We don’t have to make three or more copies of every story to mark it up.  Some kids to still print out their corrections, but most don’t.

My broadcast kids really are owning their show too.  They pick the topics and create the segmetns.

What I like best is that they decide, they work and they create.  The only thing I do is teach and enforce the standards.  Like Chef Ramsey says, “Your food, my standards.”  Nothing leaves our journalism kitchen until it meets standards.  I like it; they like it too.

It has given me a lot more time to work with kids who need help and to help only when I’m asked.  That has made my kdis more self reliant and they are learning more, faster.

And finally our 2008 Yearbook has been named a semi-finalist for a national award!  W00t!

It’s The Good Stuff: Stuff Journalists Like

This site rocks!  It may be only about a month old, but Stuff Journalists Like is fun!  It is so true and a great way for embattled and embittered journalists to laugh at themselves.  Yes, we like Press Passes, Free Swag and Coffee – it is part of what we do and why it is fun sometimes.  Any aspiring journalist or journalism teacher should check this site out!  Too much fun.

Chalk: What Not To Do

I recently recieved a comment that said I should check out a indy documentary called “Chalk.”  This movie is not what I would call inspiring.  It is a great “what not to do” movie.

Nothing that happens in the classrooms of the school in the movie seems unreal or out of the question.  Many of the reactions of some of the teachers are things I’ve seen or heard about.  It is supposed to be a Mockumentary, but I didn’t find it funny.   I’ve actually seen teachers that act like each of the main characters.  That is not funny – it is sad.

Top Tips From Tennessee

Thanks to the THSPA for linking to my site on their THSPA Tips.  It is a great resource.  Just in the first couple of posts I have already found several great resources that I didn’t know about.  THSPA really volunteers a lot of information.  (Sorry I had to go there with a pun on your state’s nickname.)  I plan on sending this site to our Texas organizations, you’re miles ahead of us.  This also gives me an idea for a project – listings for all 50 state’s HS journalism organizations.  Maybe this weekend!  (or the next one).

TNTJ: What’s Your Dream Job?

The guys over at TNTJ have a blog post idea – and a good one it is too; tell us your dream job in journalism.

Sometimes I think I already have my dream job, except for being able to do journalism myself.  I am a high school journalism teacher, as you may already know if you read my blog.  I teach in a mid-sized high school and am the sole journalism teacher at my campus.  I teach it all from video to print and web in between.  I really enjoy my job most every day.  I like to teach and share journalistic skills with my students.

But if I could do any other job, it would probably be to work at a small college doing the exact same thing I do now, only with the ability to work for a publication on the side and produce a story or two a week.  I would be able to teach, only with a smaller load and be a working journalist too.

I’m not sure the position exists, but if it did it would be the only one that could tempt me away from my current job.

Cool Links #12: It’s Like A Party In Your RSS Reader

To start off my cool link bonanza, I’m going to recommend watching this short video about what an RSS Reader is and how to use one.  Like a lot of people, it took me a while to “get” RSS and then use it.  Then I had to learn again how to use it right.  Short cut all that and just go straight to Google Reader – it is a great RSS reader and easy to use.

2.  100 Cheat Sheets for Web Developers.  I guess as teachers we shouldn’t encourage cheating, but you can’t possibly ever know all the CSS, HTML, Ruby on Rails or WordPress shortcuts, codes and more.

3.  I just couldn’t stop looking at what a great site Crayon Virtuoso is and to top it off the site master is following one of the great online photo courses and posting their results on the site.  Very cool.

4. As a yearbook teacher, I’ve got to stay on top of trends and I know that Grunge is back.  So it is time to brush up on photoshop tutorials that grunge up text, photos and more.

5.  Cindy Green is blogging about a court case that could make Hazelwood look like small change.  Some court said that a middle school kid had to get a flyer approved before passing it out.  This could set the precident that ALL printed material MUST be approved before distribution.  So much for first amendment rights and the school house door. Keep us updated Cindy.

6.  Great collection of video tips and how to’s from Camp VJ. Wish I knew how to download them, because NING is bound to be blocked at school.

ACU Rockin’ Out With Multimedia

As an alumnus of Angelo State, just a little more than an hour to the south of Abilene Christian University, I find it very hard to say nice things about our rivals to the north.  But today, I have no choice.  ACU’s Student Media News Lab looks like they are well under way to being a college that “gets it” when it comes to multimedia-multifunction journalism.  It is not just about having all the cool toys, but that is a great start – you must also have a commitment to both quality journalism and multimedia coverage.  ACU’s new newsroom looks like they have a great new beginning for a program that has been around for a while.  It is great to see them offer up a quality journalism major at a smaller Texas university.  Too bad some of our public universities are slashing the quality of journalism instruction at the same time.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder, or the Lens

Now most photographers would not consider this beautiful, but this photographer took apart his broken 85mm lens.  Very cool inside.

Monkey Around With Scopes Photos

The title may be a little bit flippant, but the photos definately have historical value.  This is one of the six reasons that we take photos in my photojournalism class.  We take photos for historical value.

The pictures were taken by an editor at Science Services (magazine?) during the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial.”  The photos are old and of course decaying, so digitizing them and making them available for the public is a huge service to us all.

The pictures are a part of the Smithsonian Institute, who have apparently joined Flickr to make some photos of value available to the public.  I for one, complement them on this use of techonology and hope they make more photographs available.

It’s Working, It’s Working…

After an extended, unintentional vacation (aka Ike) – we are back into prodcution on the yearbook, newspaper and broadcast show.   And the kids are taking initiative themselves.  My main goal this year has been to enable the kids to become their own boss.  They run the show.

And after some initial skepitism on both of our parts, the first fruits of our labors are ready.  They are starting to take ownership.  Exciting doesn’t even cover it.  The yearbook staff has started creating templates for their sections – they have some really great ideas.  The broadcast kids have started turning in story segments.  The newspaper should have stories next week.  I am abuzz with excitment.

The only thing I can think is – why didn’t I do this a long time ago?

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