School Radio: Initial efforts

Click here for the class blog post

Click here for the class blog post

The week before last, with our new studio now installed, I took the first steps towards staring our school radio station at Robin Hood. With pressure of time bearing down on me in the first weeks of my NQT year, I decided to do this as one of our ‘Learning agreement projects’, where a group spends the first hour of each day working on a negotiated project.

At the moment we are working on helping the pupils to build up their concept of what a project could be, and the planning of both how they will manage their time, what the end outcome of the project will be, and what they will learn through doing it.

Having ‘negotiated’ the title of the project (after seeing the studio my group could think of no other projects!), myself and a group of six children set about planning the project. We decided that they would produce a short radio show to put on our class blog. They split themselves into two and decided to do features on jokes, school news, a weather report, and an introduction. After discussing with me the various styles of presentation they could go for, they decided they would like to write scripts for their parts to read, so that they knew what to say and could make sure they had interesting content, and were not just ‘chatting’.

Over the next few days, whilst they were researching using their new netbooks, I gave a pair at a time an introduction to the studio equipment. We covered the mixing desk, the computer, the special keyboard, the microphones, and the headphones; talking about what each thing did, and having a play with them. We also talked about how radio presenters sound, and they highlighted the need to be confident with their delivery.

They found the concepts behind the computer playout system, Myriad, quite straightforward, easily recognizing the ‘carts’ of songs and jingles, and the audio players. They also enjoyed having a go at talking over the start of records, as Myriad provides them with a countdown to when the vocals kick in in songs. With a little direction, and some evaluation of ‘practice runs’, they found the mic technique fairly straightforward, helped by the fact we have some nice microphones with a wide area in which they pick up sound. However, they found the mixing desk quite hard to understand. I did not explain that you could pre-cue songs before you played them, but just gave them a chance to mix two songs together. Most of them could start a second song playing at a good time, but several ended up playin g two songs at once, and found it hard to get their head round the fact songs needed to be controlled in three places at once: on the computer, they keyboard, and the faders on the desk. We might take a while before they are confident self-op DJs, but I was impressed with them as presenters.

I really had very little input into their scripts, and they recorded their pieces on the Friday in a single take, ‘as-live’. They presented confidently, especially as they are not that used to hearing their own voices as they speak in headphones, and it was interesting how much of the language they had already such as ‘now over to my friend…’. I did not explain the editing capability of the system to them, but two of the girls immediatly asked if I could cut out the ‘umms’, so I showed them the audio editor and how I would do that. I then took the recordings away and added the music, as we had by this point run out of time.

This project was a bit of an experiment really. I was interested to see where they would take it, what areas they would be confident with, and what they would find difficult. Overall I was impressed by their ‘media saviness’, and the confidence with which they selected content and presented this material. This experience was very useful for me in getting a benchmark of how pupils might work in our school radio station, and with some reflection will influence how I begin to implement the radio station in more of a school-wide way.

You can hear the finished radio show on our class blog.

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