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April 1, 1994
Vol. 51
No. 7

Kids Behind the Camera: Education for the Video Age

Students attending the Montgomery Media Institute are working hard to become the nation's next Peter Jennings or Connie Chung.

Instructional StrategiesTechnology
Three miles north of the U. S.-Mexico border, in Southern California, many young people are attracted to local gangs and feel trapped by their low socioeconomic status. Without an achievable dream to motivate them to study and work hard, many of them face an uncertain future.
We created the Montgomery Media Institute—or KMMI, as we call it—to tap the varied talents of our local young people. Located within Montgomery High School and Montgomery Junior, our feeder school, this exciting media program is creating interest among our students and, more important, introducing them to fields with current opportunities for employment.
Since 1991, KMMI has been enrolling our own resident students, 91 percent of whom are minorities, in its media courses, as well as young people from outside our neighborhood. Already equipped with closed-circuit TV and a studio, Montgomery Junior was ready to teach students the basic principles of video production and to give them speaking experience through daily news updates. At the high school, however, we needed to develop intensive broadcasting courses and update current print courses. We also purchased the latest camcorders, sound, lighting, and editing equipment. The Carl Perkins Vocational Education Grant and district magnet monies funded us.
When they reach Montgomery High School, KMMI graduates from the junior high program join other students from all over the district who have elected to be in the program. Media electives they may choose from include courses in either the broadcasting or print fields. “Block” classes in English and social science reinforce their understanding of new media skills and clarify media issues—such as the growing sensationalization of news shows and the increasing violence in media across the board.

Learning Television Production

Our students learn the fundamentals of video programming and production in Montgomery High's new soundproof studio/control room and adjacent classroom. Beginning Television Production students learn preproduction skills such as writing treatments, storyboarding, interviewing, and writing voice-over scripts. After studying the technical ins and outs of studio shoots and electronic field productions, these students go on to learn how to use one of the industry's most dynamic editing and special effects computer programs, The Video Toaster by New Tek.
As students progress to Intermediate and Advanced Television Production, they learn to create more sophisticated programs, which air on the high school's closed-circuit TV. The needs of the school and community determine the focus of the projects. One of last year's programs, for example, was a documentary of the Inclusion Program at Montgomery High School, where teachers are trained to mainstream special education students in regular classes. This video has traveled to national conferences as an effective aid to presentations about new methods of inclusion. A future project centers on nutrition programs for AIDS victims in San Diego.
Through researching, consulting, planning, shooting, and editing, students refine their communication skills, develop a sense of responsibility, learn cutting-edge technical skills, and establish community contacts that can lead to internships and jobs after graduation.

Studying Photography and Journalism

A course that teaches similar composition and organizational skills is photography. This class challenges broadcasting and print students to combine technical photography skills with an artist's eye to create photo essays and photograph school events.
Courses in journalism include opportunities for students to work on two newspapers and the school yearbook. While producing the English newspaper, The Moctezuman, students sharpen their oral communication, writing, and graphic art skills. This outstanding monthly publication is a 10-year winner of top national journalism prizes.
Montgomery High also publishes a Spanish monthly, La Voz Azteca (The Aztec Voice), which has its own editor, editorial board, and staff. The staff of this paper—which we believe to be the only one of its kind in the United States—chooses its own stories and editorials, and writes from its own unique point of view.
The presence of two newspapers doubles the opportunity for Montgomery students to learn vital skills that will help them succeed both as consumers and media professionals. And through their work on the yearbook, The Tonalmatl (The Book of Days), students learn writing and photography skills that help prepare them for future work in print journalism.
To better understand the tremendous impact of mass media, students also enroll in special block classes with an emphasis on media in English and social science. In addition to critiquing news programs and other shows, these young people use their media skills to produce newspapers, radio shows, and video programs, which are based on the periods of history that they are currently studying.

A Day in the Life

Throughout the year, guest speakers from local papers, television, and radio stations share the realities of the field with the young people. Job security, daily stresses, and professional preparation—as well as the exciting fringe benefits of a career in the media—are among the topics addressed.
Field trips scheduled during the year give our students a chance to taste the reality of the workplace. For example, they visit station KGTV in San Diego, Universal Studios just outside Los Angeles, and station KPBS at San Diego State University, our official “partner,” which gives us advice and the latest information on the media job market. A highlight of the experience is a tour of the NBC Studios in Burbank and an opportunity to view the taping of “The Tonight Show.”
This year students are also excited about KMMI's “Peter Jennings Interview Competition.” On May 28, we hope to fly the two top winners to New York City to interview ABC's anchor, Peter Jennings, who has agreed to be our top prize. Accompanying them will be one winning student photographer and a video cameraperson to record the event. We are looking to airlines and ABC's local affiliate, station KGTV, for sponsorship of our adventurous journalists.
The culmination of our program is Senior Shadowing, in which 12th graders “shadow” a media professional in their field of interest. Staff members of The San Diego Union-Tribune work with the program coordinator to adjust each student's visit to maximize his or her look into the media work world. Upon returning, the seniors share interesting insights and anecdotes with others in the program.
The word is out that the Montgomery Media Institute challenges students to use their imaginations and initiative and to work with the latest equipment in broadcast and print media. KMMI is continuing to expand to meet the needs of the community and to prepare our young people to compete in the dynamic U.S. media market.
End Notes

1 We added to “K” to “MMI” to give the program the sound of a TV station.

2 The Video Toaster is a software and hardware configuration, produced by New Tek Inc., 1200 S. W. Executive Dr., Topeka, KS 66615; (800) 847-6111.

Beverly Berwick has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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