There's a lot of expertise in the iTV Cable 16 studio at the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), and the team is sharing some of that knowledge with students in the new iTV Learning Lab.
This fall, about 200 students have participated in the lab, which offers them an authentic industry experience using the equipment, techniques, and storytelling skills they would need to work in the entertainment industry.
"This was one of my best and favorite experiences of the four years I've been in high school," said Alena Martinez, a senior at San Marcos High who participated last month. "I thought it was going to be more of a watch-and-learn thing, but it was a lot of hands-on learning, which I thought was really fun and cool to experience."
Lynn Copeland, who teaches at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, brought two of her TV, film, and digital media classes to participate in the learning lab last month. She said it was a wonderful and engaging experience for the students that helped augment what she has been teaching them in class.
"They've been excited about the experience," Copeland said. "Any time you can get a student excited about learning, it's cool."
The experience encourages students to work together collaboratively, said Brenda Drew, a senior at Hilltop High School.
"Everyone has to come together to work as a team," she said.
Students are often surprised at how much work it takes to create a short, simple video. In one of the workshops, students break off into teams focused on lighting, sound, production, and videography.
"It's all about delivering what a student would experience working in a professional production environment, on a real set, with real deadlines and real consequences," said Doug Gilmore, executive producer with iTV. "There's no 'the dog ate my homework' option here."
Gilmore developed the iTV Learning Lab with support from SDCOE Career Technical Education team. The process required lots of research and three pilot labs earlier this year.
There are different experiences available for students, depending on their experience level and needs. In one, students become a news team to create a story. Another has students working as a crew and the iTV team as producers. Groups of students can range in size from a few to more than 30, depending on the size of the class and the project they're doing.
"We are not teachers, and this is not a classroom experience, but it's a great learning opportunity – learning that incorporates creativity, communication, and collaboration through teamwork as well as developing the critical-thinking skills that come with solving problems in the production process," Gilmore said.
During most of the labs, there are about a dozen SDCOE employees who support students in one way or another with the experience. The process helps the employees as well as the students, said Bill Britt, writer and producer with iTV.
"It's nice to be able to get away from our desk and share what we have learned with some students, and then see them put it to use," Britt said. "It helps us to be more aware of the services we offer and gives us a greater appreciation for what we're doing."
Someday, Gilmore said he hopes to expand the effort to include more support for teachers.
"If we can impact teachers with knowledge they can use in the classroom, we will impact far more students than we could through the iTV Learning Lab on their own," he said.