Post it, Tweet it, Link it, Like it. These are the catchphrases of this generation.
Providing instant access, instant responses and, especially, instantaneous viewing of material was the goal envisioned by Niles North High School Athletic Director Karl Costello, Niles North Principal Ryan McTague, and me three years ago. One of our district’s strategic goals is to engage students by increasing digital literacy and teach using the newest digital tools. We believe that our Video Production Club provides interested students a way to showcase our excellent athletics program, and in the process to learn valuable production skills.
When we started our new initiative three years ago, the Video Production Club consisted of four students, one old camera, one laptop, two handheld microphones, and a dream of holding Niles North to the highest standards possible outside of the classroom walls. After just a few years, we have garnered national recognition for producing more than 120 live streams, including some with professional sports personalities as guest hosts. Our students are producing professional-quality programming that we can also air at football games, graduation and other community events to showcase Niles North and District 219.
In the beginning we encountered technical issues due to overwhelming crowd noise, lack of equipment, and production quality. The students and I sat down and used a Venn diagram to map out specific objectives we needed to achieve in order to meet our ultimate goal of engaging students, both as video producers and as viewers.
Goal one was to seek out passionate and quality announcers. We decided to recruit injured athletes and junior varsity team managers, since they already had subject matter expertise and a love of the game. We recruited student sports enthusiasts at ice cream socials and via display tables outside of the cafeterias. We also took advantage of You Tube, holding weekly meetings to watch and discuss videos that focus on proper announcing and play-by-play techniques. The videos helped us dramatically improve our product.
Goal two was to take best advantage of available technology, which I have had as a personal goal since I started at Niles North as an AV technician. We realized we had an invaluable resource in The Cube.com, which allows schools to stream events live. Use of The Cube platform has taken the Niles North Video Production Club to new heights. Parents and community members are amazed that we have the ability to schedule and stream live events. Our student athletes are thrilled that they can use Cube footage for scouting purposes. Our student producers can create a video portfolio to share with prospective schools and employers in the future.
The Cube has been a wonderful partner. Their management actively seeks advice from us as a client and end user, and they have welcomed our suggestions, in some cases even having their programmers make some changes to make the platform more user-friendly. They also provide us with great professional advice. In many ways, working with The Cube is like having our own teacher who really listens to what the students’ needs are to help them better learn.
As we have increased the quality of our programming, we are also finding ways to multi- purpose the content. To better highlight our program to the wider community, I contacted The Cube legal counsel to ask if we could re-edit the live streams and broadcast on our Skokie Public Access Channel and via our website. We were able to use these vehicles to publicize the program to incoming students from our sender schools. Membership in our club grew quickly, and we began to expand our efforts with more cameras and sideline interviews. We also have begun showing student-produced content on the new video scoreboard at our football stadium.
Producing 50 sporting events in a school year is extremely time-consuming, but it also allows us to give students applied experience in the many different functions necessary to put together a successful production: everything from writing content and gathering statistics, to marketing the finished productions via social media to parents, alumni and even college recruiters.
D219 Superintendent Nanciann Gatta challenges everyone in our organization to find innovative ways to provide unique opportunities for students, and Chief Technology Officer Guy Ballard asks his technology staff to teach students how they can translate digital literacy skills to real-life applications. This support from the administration allows us to continue expanding the scope of our video productions.
Our advanced Video Tech Leaders stream live broadcasts of the ceremony where our student athletes announce their college choices. Our first signing ceremony, which aired at 7:30 a.m., attracted 1,080 live views. Our most recent signing had 2,083 live views.
This spring we live-streamed a regional Vex Robotics competition. Our use of technology so impressed the organizers that we will be hosting the Illinois State Competition in February of 2016. At the beginning of May, we streamed our annual Skokie Skirmish Girls Soccer game (against our sister school and rival Niles West) at Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire. With a crew of eight and proper marketing and planning, the students had an experience of a lifetime while the teams helped raise money for charity and received 2,003 live views on a beautiful Saturday in Bridgeview, Illinois.
And at the end of May, D219 entered into a new realm of streaming events; both Niles North and Niles West live-streamed their Class of 2015 Commencement ceremonies. At North we had four cameras and were able to project close-ups on the large video scoreboards, so proud families could see their children receiving their well-deserved diplomas.
The success of these events is helping us achieve our goal of engaging every student in meaningful activities that better prepare them for college and for life. We look forward to building on our success in coming years, thanks to our students’ passion for live broadcasting and the incredible team at The Cube.com.
Robert Henderson is a Cable TV Producer at Niles North High School in Skokie IL. He holds a Masters Degree in Education from National Louis University. In 1991, he and some friends won the Grand Prize on America’s Funniest People for their segment “American Parent”. He has sponsored the Video Production Club for 17 years and the past 3 years growing the Video Production Club using The Cube.com platform. He devotes every extra moment thinking about how to make the best quality product available in the educational sports arena. His wish is to create a true fan experience for viewers and provide a real life foundation for his students in the area of video production and take the club to the next level.