School is on, these kids aren’t in class and – AND! – they’re playing around with electronic gadgets.
But before you cluck your tongue and sigh, “Today’s kids,” you just might be watching the show they’re producing for Shaw Cable.
“The rate of learning has just taken off,” says teacher Joe Shields. “We’re just two weeks in; they’re in first gear and they want to be in fourth.”
Welcome to the first ever DRIVE class at Carihi Secondary School, an acronym that stands for: Digital Recording Integrated Video and English.
“It’s a mouthful,” admits Shields who adds, “it’s a project-based approach to teaching these two curriculums.”
Shields, who has previous experience in both the tech and media fields, has been trying to get this program in gear for a couple years.
Thanks to a long-standing tradition of innovative education at Carihi, along with the blessings and guidance of principal Sean Toal and school district superintendent Tom Longridge, the DRIVE class fired up for the first time in September.
The class of 30 is split into two groups and the class runs full afternoons, or in school terms, C and D blocks. Four days of the week they work together in class going through the English 10 and 11 curriculums, and also developing this week’s show.
That involves planning, setting up interviews, filming, editing and script writing, and working in collaboration as a team. Shields sums up the process more succinctly, “It’s a field all about communication.”
Then, one day a week, the class is bused to the Robron Centre where one group works on English studies in the computer lab while the other half trots next door to the Shaw studio where the DRIVE CR show is shot and produced. And halfway through the afternoon, they swap places as Shields and teaching assistant Codie Harpell oversee the show’s production.
“The kids are doing really, really well,” says Shaw videographer Marjorie Greaves, as the students work on production.
Shields says Shaw has been a huge supporter of the news desk style program, particularly program director Chas Leckie and Greaves who provide professional assistance, guidance and encouragement to the budding video journalists.
Not only that, but the class is getting studio time for free as Shaw also seeks innovative ways to produce and present local shows through its Community Access Programming. Shields notes there’s even been discussion of using DRIVE CR as a pilot program for other communities where Shaw operates.
The other key goal of the program, obviously, is to get students to complete their Grade 10 and 11 English courses, and they’re able to do this at their own pace.
“Their goal is to complete English 10 in half the time and then advance to English 11 much quicker,” says Shields. “The kids are choosing to work at an above-and-beyond level.”
It’s Wednesday afternoon and students are in studio and the control room at Shaw producing the next DRIVE CR show.
They’re working through the “bugs” of the script and the co-anchors are flubbing lines as well, yet it’s obvious they’re concentrating on their work and trying to get things right.
It’s a little hairy as Shields suddenly opens the studio door and interrupts the production to announce the presence of a visiting reporter.
“Ahggh!” sighs camera operator Brett Friedrich, somewhat annoyed by the intrusion.
Later, in private, Shields chuckles as he relates how many of the students want him and teaching assistant Harpell to be as hands-off as possible. Shields admires the can-do attitude and says his biggest role, outside of teaching duties, is to provide continuity to the show and to spur the students to constantly improve.
Watch DRIVE CR on Shaw Cable channel 4 on Tuesdays, 11:30 a.m., Thursdays, 9 p.m. and Fridays, 10 p.m. You can also view the show on Youtube.