Students gained real-life media experience when they set up their own internet channel. Dorothy Walker reports
Sharon Green's students don't just study the media, they are now media insiders, thanks to a broadcasting venture that is earning support from influential names in the industry.
The GCSE students have launched Remix TV, an internet television channel for young people, by young people. Their work counts as coursework, but the project extends much further than the coursework brief. The teenagers have established Remix as a social enterprise that will help their community.
The plan is for successive generations of students to take the channel forward, gaining career skills along the way.
Sharon Green teaches media studies at the College High School, Birmingham, and she believes in giving pupils the chance to gain real-life experience:
"They should be doing something with a purpose, rather than making film clips or magazine covers just for the sake of it. Remix has let them experience what it is like to have a media career."
The school is working with c21VOX, a production company which specialises in projects linking education and the arts, and which has developed the c21vox.tv website as a showcase for internet TV broadcasts.
Paul Murphy, creative director of c21VOX and a former teacher, says: "The aim of this project is to create a self-sustaining social enterprise that links into the burgeoning creative sector in the West Midlands. In 10 years' time these students will be the movers and shakers. We want to help them learn how to build alliances and how to use technology creatively."
The pilot phase was done in seven weeks and culminated in the first broadcast last November. The idea was that Year 10 students would work through launching an internet TV channel from scratch. With the help of experts, they would set up the production company, formulate the brand and sound out potential partners. And they would produce the first programme - an opportunity to present their ideas and field questions from an online audience. The broadcast was also aimed at attracting investors to fund further development over three years.
The work was led by a core production team of 10, with the rest of the class acting as a focus group and running a campaign to publicise the new channel. Everyone was given the chance to pitch for a place on the core team after two introductory sessions which helped pupils prepare for the selection. In the first, professionals from c21VOX explained the kind of work they had done with young people and led a discussion designed to help students gauge how they might contribute to the project.
In the second session, pupils were asked to come up with a list of the skills required to get the new business off the ground. They split into four groups, each with a brief to research one of the four pillars of business practice - structure, marketing, management, and finance. Students were given the chance to chat with an expert online before presenting their findings as part of a brainstorming exercise.
After the selection, in which pupils were filmed presenting their credentials for jobs such as camera operator, interviewer or editor, the core team spent a day learning their trade and planning the broadcast. They worked in three groups, each led by a professional. One focused on camera and editing, another on using the broadcasting equipment, and the third concentrated on front-of-camera techniques, scripting and set design.
The students sought advice from businesses, filming the interviews for inclusion in the programme. They talked to advisers at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, and had meetings at the Custard Factory, one of the city's creative hubs, and at the BBC, which is piloting local TV in the West Midlands.
There were tips on everything from personal networking to camera-friendly colours. "I started by doing free projects for my friends. That gave me evidence to show prospective clients," says Stefan Lewandowski, managing director of web and graphics design company 3form. Patricia Hoskins, content producer of BBC Birmingham TV, says: "Keep up to date with young people's trends - clothes, music, TV - and bring all that into your pieces."
By the day of the broadcast, which went out live from the Chamber of Commerce, everyone was full of confidence. The slick young presenters launched into their introduction: "Remix TV - we're going to bring you a mix of music, comedy, fashion and much, much more..." Things got even better during two live interviews when support was pledged to the new venture by the BBC, which offered to feature Remix material on its new local channel, and by Business Link, which advises and helps fund new businesses.
The three-year project, for which the school must raise pound;55,000, fits neatly with College High's plan to gain performing arts status. Sharon Green says: "We will be able to film performances and incorporate them in programmes for everyone to watch. In future the production team will include the whole class, and I hope the project will help attract key stage 3 children into media studies."
College High has set its sights on becoming the most improved school in the country, and Remix is providing a major boost to skills and confidence.
Samantha Richards, the 15-year-old set designer on the Remix team, says:
"We have learned skills we never thought we would have, and it has been wonderful working with industry professionals. It felt really grown-up. We thought this project was going to be easy, but there have been some real challenges, especially trying to bring together the creative and business sides of the enterprise.
"Teamwork is really important - you can't work in a creative operation unless you can co-operate and see other points of view. I want to be an architect, and the biggest thing I learned was that I can't just design for my own tastes, products have to appeal to other people. This has been very helpful for the future, and given us all a good idea of what it is like to be in the real world."
The school spent pound;6,000 on the pilot phase, and c21VOX matched this in kind with expertise and broadcasting equipment. Video was shot using the school's digital video cameras and edited with Final Cut Express software from Apple Computer (from pound;129.25) Tel: 0800 039 1010 www.apple.comukeducation) Broadcasting was done over a high-speed broadband connection and the programme was shown at www.c21vox.tv, where it can be viewed as part of the online guide to the project. Paul Murphy of c21VOX says: "We honed down the broadcasting kit to be as simple as possible, and we also used technology the school already had. This project is not about the tools, it is about getting the kids to think creatively. Web broadcasting is still in its infancy, but its potential is emerging. The web presents a fantastic opportunity to engage young people in communication and dialogue. For me, that is what education is all about."
Contact c21VOX for details Tel: 0121 433 4107 www.c21vox.com