Tuesday, May 26th, 2009...4:56 pm

Digital Media Students Discover New Possibilities

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The ever evolving world of technology will present ongoing challenges for those of us who are already in the workforce, and new opportunities for those who are just starting their careers.  A Digital Media program that’s been in place at Middle Creek High School in Apex, NC the past few years produces a vivid picture of the brave new world ahead.

The program incorporates audio and video production along with basic web design, graphics and animation. Students produce sportscasts that are available as podcasts through iTunes. They produce a daily morning radio show that’s broadcast in the immediate vicinity of the campus, as well as a daily newscast for the school. They create web sites and graduation DVDs and video productions of the school musical. They edit sports videos that are played for thousands of fans air at Carolina Hurricanes games.

Most importantly, they learn how it all works together in the modern world of interactive media, where digital information and entertainment are available not just on radios and television sets but on laptops and cell phones, all on-demand.

Middle Creek has a Digital Media academy, so students have the ability to get in-depth exposure to skills they may use as they continue their education or begin their careers.  During my spring visit, students were busily working on a variety of projects.

Level I students learn a bit about each of the areas covered in the course (audio, video, web design, graphics and animation).  Some of them were in the school’s Mac lab, putting the final touches on videos that layered graphics - some of which they’d created themselves - over music tracks they chose.  They’ve learned a bit about the major Adobe CS3 products - Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Flash - in edition to audio and video editing software and equipment.

By Level 2, students are creating real products.  One group I saw was taping a segment for the next’s day’s campus newscast.  Others worked on radio broadcasts or sports play-by-play, or created websites for non-profits.  One girl named Abby showed a beautiful site she built for SkillsUSA competition around the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, in collaboration with a couple of other students.  They won first place at state, one of five state championships the school brought home.

Advanced Studies students were working on post-production for a DVD of the high school musical, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, complete with a multi-camera shoot, credits, profiles, behind the scenes takes, and more.  I saw last year’s edition, Seussical the Musical, and the DVD is definitely professional quality work.

Middle Creek’s Digital Media program is one of the models for ExplorNet/QTL’s new Digital Media courses, and the school’s three Digital Media teachers will help lead the training for new teachers from across North Carolina in late July. All three have experience in the TV news industry, and have brought those skills to work for students.  Hearing them talk about the program they’ve built, or the students they’ve affected, is a pleasure.

Luis Maldonado works closely with advanced students on the morning radio show, among other things.  He and some of his students are at school by 6:00 for a daily radio broadcast that goes from 6:30 to 7:30 in the immediate area of campus.

As Maldonado notes, the skills students are learning won’t just be put to use in entertainment.  These skills have the promise to help business save travel or training costs while building efficiency. They may enable doctors to perform diagnostics or eventually surgery remotely. They’ll enable professional development and collaboration and education, helping make expertise in any subject readily available far and wide.

Maldonado two other teachers who work with the academy - Thomas Hodges and Wes Petty all bring industry experience as well as dedication to the program at Middle Creek. With varied skills from Flash, Photoshop and Dreamweaver to audio and video production, they combine to offer a comprehensive program.  But ExplorNet’s new Digital Media program aims to help schools with a single teacher begin programs that may start smaller but become robust over time.  The summer training gives qualfied teachers a basic understanding of the major topics - a foundation upon which to build their knowledge and skills.

Some of the Middle Creek students’ work you can see online includes:

  • Music that a pair of students named Tony and Cole recorded together;
  • Play-by-play broadcasts at sportsblock.net ;
  • Photo albums at the Mac website;

Though Middle Creek’s program is an academy and more in-depth than most Digital Media schools will attempt, it’s a promising field and an exciting program for the future. Find out more about it here.

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