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Students Produce
Must-See TV


"I have been doing this for over three years, and what amazes me is how professional young children get at assembling, narrating, and hosting RobTV episodes," says Maggie Caverly. "I see the whole experience gel whenever the students present RobTV to an audience. When my first crew presented RobTV to our school board, our superintendent was so impressed that she offered them jobs!"

Caverly wears two hats at Roberts Elementary School in Wayne, Pennsylvania. As a librarian, she teachers library and information skills, and as the "director" of Roberts Elementary School Television (RobTV), she walks students through the entire process of creating a television program.

"We start with storyboarding an episode and deciding what the topic will be, what the episode will include, and what photographs or film will be needed," Caverly told Education World. "Once everything is collected, we put it all together using Windows Movie Maker and/or Microsoft Photo Story. The children write notes to narrate the episode, and then we record the voices."

Finished videos are uploaded to Teacher Tube and links are added to the school's Web site. It takes surprisingly little equipment for Caverly's students to produce RobTV -- a computer, Internet access, a microphone, digital camera, and video camera. The editing software and Web-hosting services used are free.

"RobTV was created when our original plan to have an in-house television station to broadcast on closed circuit television was not possible due to budgetary constraints," recalls Sharon Kuznick, principal of Roberts Elementary. "We found another way, which actually turned out to be a better way because it provided the opportunity to expand our viewing audience beyond the classroom to the world."

The RobTV crew preps for another episode of unique, school-related programming. (Photo courtesy of Rob TV)
Parents and grandparents in other states and countries follow school activities through RobTV, and those who live nearby use it to catch events that they may have missed because of work or travel. RobTV has also introduced teachers and staff members to parents and community members during open house.

Kuznick describes RobTV as a great application of technology integration. What most impresses her about the program is the caliber of the students' oral presentation skills, which will serve them well throughout their lives.

"It is great to have the opportunity to showcase what the children are learning and doing in school. Our students have taped public service announcements for Red Ribbon Week, special weather reports by our first grade students, and character education snippets," she added.

The RobTV staff is always willing to run with an episode suggestion from a teacher. Recently, Ms. Grassi's third grade class invited RobTV to cover its "Obama Pajama Party." The children themselves have the greatest input into what each new episode contains and even become expert editors and videographers, with the strong opinions of producer/performers. Last year, Caverly overheard a member of her crew at a computer during recess, critiquing her own work.

"She was narrating an episode and commenting to herself about how her narration was turning out," recalled Caverly. "She said, 'That had too much expression! I need to be louder on that slide. Mrs. Caverly, that picture isn't clear enough. I need to do that one over.'"

Time is a constraint for the television staff. Most of the work on RobTV programs is done when the students have free time, such as recess periods. Caverly is also challenged by the continuous loss of her more experienced crew members. Students move on to middle school after fourth grade, so they are often finally well-trained news reporters just as they depart the elementary. For this reason, Caverly constantly seeks younger students who are interested in joining her crew.

"RobTV evolves into something different every year," reports Caverly. "Last year, the students did a series of monthly character education segments with our school guidance counselor. The teachers could then show the character education segments in their classrooms at their leisure."

Another episode focused on the life of a student in the historic one-room schoolhouse that is located on the school property. Caverly finds that part of the fun of working with RobTV is that students, school staff, and community members regularly suggest new ideas for the program.

"This year we are working with students at the Temple Media Literacy Lab on a global media literacy project involving media literacy for cultural understanding of Middle Eastern countries," she added. "We will be using filmed RobTV episodes to introduce ourselves and our daily lives in the school, community, and country to students in Kuwait. They will also be letting us know about their culture and lives in a similar format."

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