In a recent post, “Creating a Progress Culture One Pilot at a Time,” I identified four reasons to support piloting ideas and programs in schools. In this post I will expand on the second of those ideas:
- “Supporting pilots creates opportunities to extend what is already good in the school culture or curriculum. The lion’s share of progress should allow additional space for the most strategically aligned parts of the existing culture and curriculum to flourish as unconstrained by other factors as possible.”
There are programs in our schools, often ones that have grown up organically, that reach a kind of ceiling in their progress. In order to continue to allow them to grow (or, even better, to accelerate their growth), a pilot expansion may provide a good option. I am particularly interested in this as it may pertain to augmenting a successful and strategically aligned existing program with a curricular program or course offering.
For example, at Westminster we have had students, under the dedicated leadership of a faculty member, operate a web-presence called WCAT that serves as the school TV station. They cover a remarkable amount of ground from sports events to dance concerts, from weekly newscasts to interviews of students involved with the school’s exchange program with a school in Africa, Mount Kenya Academy. So far WCAT has been confined to our extracurricular program.
The students involved in WCAT learn a remarkable array of skills related to broadcasting and producing programming. They also learn important lessons about teamwork, dedication, and responsibility. In addition they learn how to adjust on the fly and how to deal with logistical obstacles. I am quite certain that many of the students would number this experience as the most engaging and valuable of their experience at Westminster, and placed against our Learning For Life Vision Statement—they would recognize it as among the most strategically aligned experiences of their school career. In short they learn a great number of real world skills.
So our hope is to pilot a course called “Broadcast Journalism” that would look like this:
▪ Three week summer course which will receive a semester credit on the transcript.
▪ Free for students reflecting that it is a Pilot Course.
▪ Course components:
Journalism skills: interviewing, telling the story, writing copy.
Editing and technology skills: Final Cut X software, green screen use, audio editing and more.
Ethics of journalism.
Hands on city experiences at Braves games, Atlanta Dream, City Council meetings.
Full coverage of Westminster events and activities.
▪ The students would also document their own learning, filming and editing a ‘behind-the-scenes’ of their own class.
▪ Final project would have a real world application, for example:
Westminster marketing and communications use
(this bulleted description comes from Daniel Searl, the faculty member who has led WCAT to this point and who would teach the course).
By allowing this program to expand into our curriculum, we begin to back up the rhetoric of our strategic direction with specific action.