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Ithaca High School Debuts New TV Station

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Published: September 16, 2013

Ithaca High School students started classes this fall in the school’s newly built state-of-the-art television studio and digital media lab.

The studio has three high definition cameras, a switchboard and a green screen for digital media and English digital media courses, said television production teacher Steve Cass, who spent the summer building the studio.

Cass said the students are lucky to have these resources available for their use.

“It’s a little overwhelming starting a new program and teaching all these new classes,” Cass said. “But I’m excited. I think it’s a great opportunity for the students, and I can’t wait to see what they do.”

The initial push for new media facilities came in 2012 when Timothy Moon, then Chief Information Officer for Ithaca City School District (ICSD), proposed it to the school board.

“I thought it was very well-received by the superintendent and the board. They acknowledged the need for really engaging students in that multimedia world and preparing them to be members of that digital community,” Moon said.

Cass said both the digital media and English digital media class allow students to practice their writing over social media platforms like Tumblr, and also encourages them to ask questions over Twitter. The English digital media course allows students to create a bi-weekly television show covering events and issues in the ICSD and Ithaca community.

“I’ll push them to think about how they can tell a story with words that can be translated to visuals,” said Michael Reiff, an English teacher at Ithaca High School who works alongside Cass to develop students’ critical thinking, interview skills and storytelling techniques. “It’s going to be a really useful way to bridge academics into the real world. It’s not simply knowing knowledge to help you get a job, it’s also the social skills and the ability to interact with adults.”

The television studio and digital media lab are important resources to help students develop their skills and meet educational goals, said ICSD Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown.

“Our mission is to educate, engage and empower, and the ICSD uses emerging technology to engage students in creative ways and to foster college and career readiness,” Brown said. “I hope the new studio will be a place where students not only apply what they learn, but also a place where they are empowered to hone their skills and supported in their plans for the future.”

Students will also be able to explore media beyond television by collaborating with public media professionals through the organization Youth Voice out of WSKG Public Broadcasting, said Cass. Youth Voice works in schools and afterschool programs giving students hands-on experience in producing radio segments about issues that are important to them.

The program emphasizes media literacy and encourages students to think critically about the media they consume, a goal that reflects the recent nationwide education reforms outlined in the Common Core State Standards, said Annie Whitman, Education Initiatives Coordinator at WSKG.

“In terms of being real world and helping students feel like what they’re learning in school applies to their life, media is the on par thing to achieving that for students… to be able to understand what the media is and where their sources are coming from and how they can use their voice to make a difference in a positive way,” Whitman said. “When they are given a platform where they’re taken seriously, what comes out of them is so personal and authentic and inspiring. It’s just really a great view to be shared with our community.”

Student-created media has a powerful effect on communities, said Moon who saw the popularity and success of a high school television station in Oswego where Cass used to teach. Moon has no doubt the new program at Ithaca High School will find the same success.

“I think once it gets up and rolling and they start seeing some of the work the kids put out, it’s going to take off…” Moon said, “you’re going to come back in two years and see the enrollment in those classes, and I’ll bet there will be a waiting list.”

As for now, Cass is focused on getting the inaugural year of classes started smoothly. He hopes to have the class’s first broadcast up on their own site by the end of October.

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