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Innovative Practice - Ride the wave

Want to set up an award-winning media network for your school? Get a pupil to take the lead

Want to set up an award-winning media network for your school? Get a pupil to take the lead

The background

By the age of 11, Lewis Phillips (pictured) already had a strong interest in producing digital media, including videos and podcasts. When he started at Inverkeithing High School in West Fife, he was impressed by the large range of activities on offer, but wondered if there were more modern ways that the school could capture its pupils' talents and share their successes.

By coincidence, Fife's education authority had recently bought a network licence for its schools to use Radiowaves, a social media website that allows pupils to upload blogs, podcasts and videos. Instead of waiting for a teacher to organise it, Lewis set up the Inverkeithing High School Media Network himself within his first few months at the school.

The project

The core of the school's media network is a set of web pages for Inverkeithing High on the Radiowaves site, overseen by Lewis and a group of other pupils at the school.

These pages are regularly updated by pupils and teachers with blogs and video reports on events, from backstage chats with the cast of the school's production of Peter Pan to an interview with England's former education secretary Charles Clarke.

Lewis helps to train other pupils and teachers in using video and audio equipment to make their reports look as professional as possible.

"The media network is no longer limited to just our Radiowaves station, but now also includes the digital signage in the dinner halls, social media services, email newsletters and a strong presence around the school," he says. "We have an impressive portfolio of professional quality videos and international event coverage, with a large team of trained reporters from all year groups."

Teachers can use the network to upload subject-specific material for the lessons. The network also allows parents and the wider community to see what has been happening at the school.

Lewis, now 16, says: "The past five years have been a huge learning process for me. I am constantly trying to raise the bar on the quality and reach of our content, and I've picked up a lot of tips on the way."

Tips from the scheme

Mark Riches, chief executive of Radiowaves, says Inverkeithing's success shows that teachers should have the courage to let go and "devolve responsibility to the pupil level".

Advice from Lewis for school reporters includes:

Try using a DSLR camera instead of a standard handheld camera, for the improved picture quality. For inspiration, see some of the films made this way on the website Vimeo.

Tell people about your project. "It's amazing who you meet and how interested people can be in hearing about new things," he says.

Do it only because you want to do it. "It's the natural passion for a project that makes it succeed."

Evidence that it works?

Lewis is the only pupil ever to have been nominated for an Impact Award - which are normally reserved for teachers - from the ICT teachers' association Naace, and was highly commended at this year's ceremony.

The Inverkeithing High School Media Network has also received awards at the Kingdom FM Radiowaves Awards and the Celebrating Fife Radiowaves Awards. Riches describes the school's work as "an exemplar" for Radiowaves.

Teachers' and pupils' positive comments about the network's impact on the school over the past five years have been collected in a special video about the project - which was, of course, filmed and edited by Lewis (http:bit.lyxTSzLG).

THE PROJECT

Approach: The Inverkeithing High School Media Network Started 2007

Led by: Lewis Phillips

Supported by: Angela Macari, school librarian

Other organisations involved: Radiowaves

Website: www.radiowaves.co.ukinverkeithing

THE SCHOOL

Name: Inverkeithing High School

Location: West Fife

Pupils: 1,500

Inspectors' comments: Good, with "exceptional range of opportunities for out-of-hours learning" (2007).

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