What is your name?
Sarah Nichols, MJE
What school do you teach at?
Whitney High School
What city and state is your school located in?
What different media are produced at the school?
Whitney High Student Media produces a news magazine, yearbook, news website and social media.
How many students are involved at the media program at your school?
Describe your space for us.
At first glance, it’s more computer lab and less newsroom. Five rows of computer tables line the majority of the room, where students sit at 30 desktop stations. The back of the room has a table for conferences and meetings, which is popular for the rolly chairs, and behind that is a wall of drawers and cabinets for equipment. The screen is at the front, and the white board is to students’ right … but the doc cam and teacher work station are in the back, so it’s an odd arrangement.
What do you think are some of the benefits of the workspace you all have?
I’ve always felt incredibly fortunate that we have 30 work stations when I know plenty of advisers with only a handful of computers. Two of the four walls are lined with windows, so we have nice light. We also have tons of lockable storage, which is key for all of our cameras and other tech items. The room also is equipped with a countertop and sink in a way that definitely invites grilled cheese bars, pancake breakfasts and cake day celebrations.
What do your students like most about the workspace you have?
About six years ago I purchased an enormous stuffed bear as our staff mascot, and over time the homey atmosphere has grown to include a full family of larger-than-life stuffed animals for cuddling or as a form of stress relief and socializing. Students love to plop down on or with one of the stuffed bears. In general, what I think they like about the space is that it’s personalized by them and for them. We have pictures everywhere. They see themselves in the room, from their work framed on the walls to the personal photos, awards and notes. They also get pretty territorial about their cubbies. While every staffer has a personalized cubby or mailbox along one wall, the editors get more space and choose theirs first, and they take a lot of pride in that.
What computer programs and/or apps is your staff using on a regular basis for their work?
Students use the Adobe CC suite for most of their work. The print media is created with InDesign and Photoshop, with small amounts of Illustrator mixed in and Bridge for editing. We use Google apps constantly. For organization we use Trello, and for staff communication we use GroupMe.
What tech equipment are your students using on a daily basis?
In addition to the desktop machines, we also have about eight MacBook Pro laptops, so students use those around the room and for overnight checkout. Our cameras are Canon (6D and T6, mostly).
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.
Honestly, I’d always rather spend our money on experiences and training rather than equipment, and that’s how I advise my students. I’d rather have them learn how to do better with our existing equipment — to really use it well and get training on how to use it differently — than buy more stuff we may not use down the line. So much of the tech around us is short-lived or too specific to be useful compared to what you can learn from and do with computers and cameras. And their iPhones can do so much! If I *had* to answer, I’d say a massive charging dock, a good classroom speaker system and a large and reliable backup drive. And stuffed animals! Or a succulent garden. We have that, too.
How is your workspace funded?
The school provides the computers, computer tables, chairs, eight rolly chairs, a scanner, two printers, a doc cam and the LCD projector. As a CTE program, I applied to use Carl Perkins funding for most of the cameras (we have about 25 DSLRs) and lenses. I also applied for CTEIG grant money to use for the laptops, Wacom tablet, podcasting equipment, Osmo Pocket and other items. All of the fun stuff is out of my pocket, such as framing the cover of each news magazine issue and all decorations, posters, white boards, additional storage and so forth. I also purchased a Smart TV to mount at our camera checkout area so Trello could be visible all day for editors as they manage equipment for photo shoots.
Do you have anything on your wishlist for your space? If so, what do you have and why?
Space! We need more space. Students need to be able to see each other for collaboration and discussion. The desktops overpower the room. We conduct a lot of activities sitting on the floor in order to create better face-to-face interaction outside of the rows. Most of our specialty photo shoots are a nightmare, too, since we don’t really have the space for the setup we want. People are climbing over each other all the time, but we make it work. It’s all part of the creative problem-solving experience!
(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.)