Multimedia and broadband will be the communication mechanisms of the century. A new online project spearheaded by the East of England Broadband Network (E2BN) aims to improve that understanding and unleash this enormous potential.
Earlier this month, E2BN launched its DfES-funded project, Making the News at the Centre for New Media (CNM) at the Open University. Making the News is an internet news station for schools that allows pupils and teachers to create news in minutes in different formats including video, text, images and audio. News can be created locally within schools and added to the Making The News regional site using simple news creation tools. The best stories are presented regionally and nationally and a facility is available for teachers to moderate stories before they are published.
Making the News also contains a range of curriculum resources such as news feeds (web pages that display headlines and usually a brief description of the news story), copyright- free resources and activities provided by project partners, including the Open University, Channel 4 and Proquest.
"The idea was to create a one-stop shop for news, where pupils, teachers and the wider local community could access, research, create and share news," explains Making The News project manager Jeff Howson. "The world of the media has so much to offer education, in its approach to creating interesting, lively content, creativity and career opportunities in an ever important field."
The website and the technology behind the project was created by the CNM at the Open University, Milton Keynes.
To mark the launch, 16 pupils from the Lord Grey School, Milton Keynes were invited along for a "news day". They were set the challenge of creating 30 news stories in a range of different formats in just five hours. Prior to the news day, Jeff delivered a training session at the school on how to submit stories to the site. A newsroom was mocked up at the Open University and students took on different roles, such as reporters and editors.
One of the most challenging tasks was conducting live interviews, both face to face and via the internet. Year 9 student Neha used the CNM's own creation, Flash Meeting - a cross between video-conferencing and instant messaging - to interview a web designer from Gooii, the company who designed some of the Making The News online activities. She says: "I was quite nervous, because I hadn't done anything like that before, but it was really fun. It was hard thinking up questions, but once I got going it was fine. I hadn't really thought about a career in journalism before, but now I might."
Andy Maurer, head of Year 9 is delighted with the resource: "It was great to see the students grow in confidence, develop their understanding of the media and their literacy and ICT skills. A lot of the technology at our school is dated and the cost of replacement and repairs is enormous. The students had access to resources they wouldn't normally use."
But Jeff insists that schools don't need up to the minute equipment to benefit from the project. "All you need is a PC, internet access and a webcam, which can set you back as little as pound;12.99."
At present, Making The News is only available for schools on the broadband network in three regions - the east of England, the North East and the South East. It is hoped the project will be rolled out to the rest of the UK in the near future. More newsdays are planned and E2BN will also run a news desk from the BETT educational technology event in January 2005, where pupils will report on the four day event.
* Making The News contacts: East of England, Jeff Howson, Making the News project manager Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
North East, Mick Young - Northern Grid for Learning Email: email@example.com
South East, Chris Davison - South East Grid for Learning project officer Email: firstname.lastname@example.org