I’m adviser Travis Armknecht, and this is our newsroom

What is your name?
Travis Armknecht

What school do you teach at?
Grand Center Arts Academy

What city and state is your school located in?
St. Louis, Missouri

What different media are produced at the school?
My converged staff of 14 creates our website, GCAAtoday.com, the Expression yearbook and, new this year, the Phoenix Report, a monthly broadcast.

How many students are involved at the media program at your school?
14

Describe your space for us.
Our visual art department received a grant a few years ago that allowed them to set up a digital media lab for their fine art photography and graphic design classes. They have been kind enough to allow me and my staff to use the lab for our class. The room has 18 iMacs around the edge of the room and tables in the middle, facing a whiteboard at the front of the room. We don’t have any shelf space, so any of our books or other supplies are stored in a large blue cabinet, lovingly called the Tardis, where we also keep our equipment. We have a double-sided vertical whiteboard on wheels that we use to post information we want to keep up for a while, since the art department makes use of the whiteboards on the wall in their classes regularly, so anything posted there will likely be erased.

What do you think are some of the benefits of the workspace you all have?
The room is fairly centrally located – we’re on the third floor of a seven-story building – which is helpful when staff members are running out to find other kids. I appreciate that we have access to these computers. For the first two years of the program we were using a now-defunct lab full of broken, slow computers or a set of ancient laptops. I do wish we had a space we could truly call our own. Since there is another teacher who uses the lab as her permanent classroom, it often feels as if we are guests in the room.

What do your students like most about the workspace you have?
“The layout of the computers around the edge of the room makes it easy to communicate because we can move around room,” GCAA Student Media Managing Editor Elyse Luecke said. “We can also see what everyone is working on, which can help make sure staff members are staying on-task. I also really like the rolling whiteboard; it’s easy to visualize assignments and what needs to get done.”

What computer programs and/or apps is your staff using on a regular basis for their work?
We are primarily web-based. I have a Weebly site that I use just as a launchpad to access the various web services we use (email, website backend, SNO Flow and our yearbook site). There’s also links to other staff resources – a searchable name list, some sample interview questions for our Humans of GCAA series and some review tips for writing when the kids need a quick refresher. All of the iMacs have Adobe CC software, though most students don’t use anything more than Lightroom for when we need to crop or resize images for the website. The two students who primarily create our video content use Premiere, which I cannot provide any support on, because I don’t know it at all. If other staffers shoot video, I’ll typically have them use iMovie, because it’s also available on the Macs and has a much easier learning curve. Occasionally, a kid will use Illustrator for a web graphic or photo illustration and in the spring, when the seniors create their graduation magazine, they use inDesign.

What tech equipment are your students using on a daily basis?
Daily basis: the iMac computers. We have a Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Canon Zoom Lens EF 75-300mm 1:4-5.6, and a Yongnuo Speedlight/Bounce Flash YN560-II that were all donated used by a school parent. A few of our kids have their own personal DSLR cameras that they will use since we don’t have a ton of equipment. We have a singular consumer-grade tripod (I think the brand is Magnus). When multiple students need a tripod at the same time, I have a student who will bring in her own, or I’ll bring in my personal tripod. When we need it, we have a broadcast/photo studio kit that includes a backdrop frame, backdrops, softbox and umbrella lights (purchased as a kit from Amazon) and a 10×12 gray muslin backdrop we normally use that were purchased before when we began broadcasting regular announcements. For video, we have a Canon HF R600 camcorder, Rode shotgun mic, a single lavalier microphone and a double lavalier microphone that were all donated through a small grant. We also have a Parrot Teleprompter when something scripted is filmed. Finally, we have a couple of point and shoot cameras that were donated, though they don’t get used very often, because most of the kids’ phones have cameras with better resolution on their phones.

 Aside from the computers and the programs, what are one or two pieces of equipment that you have that you think other programs should have.
The Parrot Teleprompter has been great. For under $120, you can get a compact prompter and Bluetooth remote. The prompter uses a free app with any cell phone and can connect to just about any camera.

How is your workspace funded?
We are entirely self-funded. Each spring I organize a school-wide cookie dough fundraiser that is sent out over the summer. Kids who sell a certain amount of dough can receive a free yearbook, if they don’t sell enough for the free book, they can still earn credit for a discount on the book. This fundraiser and income from yearbook sales are my two primary sources of income. In the past, I’ve organized a trivia night, but it was a lot of work for a small amount of money. I personally have never had success with a Donors Choose project, but have had luck with Go Fund Me and a couple of small grants.

Do you have anything on your wishlist for your space? If so, what do you have and why?
Yes! Our principal asked us to create a list of five items about a month ago because there is a parent who will try to fulfill these lists. Since there weren’t any stipulations on cost, I thought about what I’d like for additional equipment and this is the list I sent her: A Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera (with 16GB High Speed SD card), so we have a second DSLR camera; a Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder (with 64GB High Speed SD card), for a second video camera; a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens that we can use when taking photos of dancers and other performers in our theater (I teach at a visual/performing arts school with no sports teams, our theater is a 100-year-old restored German opera house that has side wing boxes where we can shoot from during performances, but with the low light and distance, we can’t always get great images). Finally, the Manfrotto MK055XPRO3-BHQ2 Aluminum Tripod with XPRO Ball Head and 200PL QR Plate so we’ve got an additional tripod, and one that’s a higher-quality than the one we currently have.

(This is one of a series of posts where high school newsrooms are showcased. We’d love to showcase your newsroom on the site. To find out how, check out the information here and submit yours today.)

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 20th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He created The Next 26 and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook "Student Journalism and Media Literacy." You can find him on Twitter and Instragram @manfull and on Snapchat as aaronmanfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

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