Tips for making sure you have necessary technology tools in the classroom your students need to be successful

Senior Sam White and sophomore Noah Byers place their Canon 80D camera onto a tripod on their first day of Broadcast Bootcamp in January of 2021. Obtaining 1-2 new DSLR cameras each school year through grants, equipment budgets or Perkins funding can ensure your camera inventory is constantly being upgraded each year, creating a natural rotation of equipment for your program.

I’ve got 99 problems. The right equipment and technology might be 98 of them.

There are many inherent situations that can cause a lack of sleep over the equipment and technology you don’t have in your classroom. How can you combat the variables and get creative this school year to ensure you have the necessary tools your students need to be successful creating content?

Here’s five tips to give your equipment closet a facelift.

Whether you’re a new adviser coming into a program not knowing the equipment and technology you need, or a veteran adviser looking in all directions trying to find out which equipment works or not, we’ve all had our struggles figuring out how to equip our student media classes with the right gear to not only be successful in our publication courses, but build foundational skills with our introduction level courses as well.

If you find yourself losing sleep on adding an “equipment-focused” item to your never-ending to-do list, it’s likely you fall under one of these categories below.

Scenario 1-Inheriting a program from a veteran adviser who hadn’t asked for new equipment or technology in a decade and put band-aids on technology that was failing as needed (entire inventory is outdated, no system in place and things barely work as is.)

Scenario 2-You’re new to advising/teaching journalism and are hyper-focused on lessons, staff management, building the journalism skills of your team and really just aren’t sure where to begin looking or HOW to begin looking for new equipment and technology your team may need (you don’t KNOW what you don’t know sort of situation!)

Scenario 3-
Veteran adviser being pulled in so many directions by teaching 6-8 different courses, sponsoring clubs, coaching sports and new in-house responsibilities the past two years that you simply can’t find a slice of your day to fit “looking for equipment and technology” into the daily schedule.

Let’s take the FUNDING part out of your hands as much as possible and look at several ways within your district, community and parent-group to fund and reload your camera inventory, essential small equipment purchases and slowly improve the overall technology you need to be successful creating student media this school year.

Tip #1-Have an Amazon Wish List ready and refreshed at all times!
If your department chair or principal asks if you have equipment need(s), the answer is always “yes, I do!” and can have a list your way within 24 hours. Having an Amazon Wishlist or B&H cart ready to go can show you’re thinking about your program’s needs in advance. Consider emailing out your list to parents for equipment under $20. You can fill some smaller equipment needs quickly by preparation and planning for future needs for your students!

Tip #2-Collaborate with other adviser(s) in your school or district!
How has the school down the road improved their camera inventory so quickly? How is your video teacher always getting new SD cards and tripods? Simply collaborating with fellow journalism and media advisers near you can be worth its weight in gold. They will most likely have insight, advice and veteran tips to help you improve your own camera inventory or small equipment needs-you just have to ask and listen!

Tip #3-District, community and state CTE grants
Make sure to talk to your district’s CTE coordinator about Perkins funding around November and December (must be decided upon in January) to pinpoint future needs for your program prior to that NEXT school year. If you have technology grants available in your district through a committee, Booster Club or other organizations, it’s definitely time to take advantage of this. Throughout a given school year, there may be 3-4 other opportunities of grants available regarding certain socioeconomic groups or “special populations” of students enrolled in your course. Keep an eye out for these emails and additional opportunities. They are time-consuming but are plentiful if you’re looking in the right places.

Tip #4-Get a concrete budget number and learn how to use it
It’s important that you learn and understand how your budget works from your building fund and what exactly you can use those funds for. Having a conversation with your principal about what that number is each year is a great starting point. You may even be able to negotiate if you do some research locally and find out what other advisers are given for their respective newspaper, yearbook or broadcast program budgets. It takes time as a new adviser to learn how to conserve the money throughout the year, as you navigate items you will need now, items you just want vs. items that you will need as your program grows or develops new storytelling methods.

Tip #5-Don’t shy away from the hard work
Consider working that Friday night concession stand with your group to earn some extra money. Make sure you sell as many yearbook senior and business recognition ads as possible each year. Ensure that you are making some type of profit or donation from the various special project requests from around your building. Build a fundraiser within your own school that becomes a part of the culture of your program and the premiere fundraising effort around a specific holiday, month or initiative. These ideas do take EXTRA time but will bring in EXTRA revenue you may need to purchase that ring light for feature photography or fund a few pizzas for spring work nights. You know what else it brings in? Extra time getting to know your students outside of your classroom and just having meaningful conversations where you can build even more connections with your team.

Spencer O'Daniel

Spencer is in his 12th year of advising student media at the high school and college level. O'Daniel currently serves as the Associate Director of Student Media at Texas A&M University, where he advises The Battalion newspaper and website, Maroon Life magazine, and The Aggieland yearbook. In his limited free time, he enjoys being active and outside, spending time with his two sons, and wife Jenna. His students have won over thousands of individual awards over the past decade, including a team KSPA state championship, collegiate photographer of the year, All-Kansas publications, Pacemakers and STN's Broadcast Excellence Award.

Spencer O'Daniel has 17 posts and counting. See all posts by Spencer O'Daniel

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