Chromakey curriculum for a high school meteorology class

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Monday, 18 January 2010: 11:30 AM
B214 (GWCC)
Jeffrey A. Yuhas, Concord-Carlisle Regional High School, Chelmsford, MA; and A. G. Coffin

Presentation PDF (1.2 MB)

The meteorology class at Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) collaborates with CCTV, the local access television station, to give students a weekly experience researching, producing, and filming a weather related feature as part of the regular curriculum, introducing students to broadcast meteorology. This collaboration has several benefits for the students in reinforcing meteorology content, developing presentation skills, and providing differentiated instruction. Students prepare their own chroma-key backgrounds (still images, Keynote and Powerpoint presentations, video) and scripts and are then filmed in the studio. These presentations complement and reinforce what is being presented in the classroom that week. This is believed to be a unique collaboration between a high school meteorology class and a public access television station. In addition, students produce one radio forecast per quarter that is aired on WIQH, the student radio station.

Once a week the students have Green Screen Friday at the CCTV studios, where they make a presentation. The topics presented on Green Screen Friday serve two purposes: to reinforce that week's lessons and continually develop the students' presentation skills. Topics range from examples of condensation to optical phenomena to weather map interpretation. Often students have the opportunity to presents pictures and videos that they have taken themselves. The semester of studio work builds towards their final presentation, which includes explaining a concept learned during the year and preparing a two day weather forecast, complete with original maps and graphics. The best ones air on CCTV.

The weekly presentations provide content reinforcement and enrichment in line with Earth and Space Science standards and Technology frameworks. Meteorology is a very visual science. In preparation for their presentations, students scour the internet for images to support their topic and must provide a detailed explanation that goes beyond classroom discussions.

More important than having a good idea is having the ability to share it. Students get a weekly opportunity to develop these skills. Most students make more presentations in this class than in the rest of their high school career combined, helping to address not only Earth and Space Science standards, but English Language Arts standards in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

Beyond content, standards, and frameworks applications, this collaboration provides a means for the non-traditional student to shine. The traditional classroom can be challenging, especially for those students on Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 Plans (in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act). Skills beyond note taking are valued in the studio. Students who are good speakers (through drama experience or simply self-confident), artists, and/or technical whizzes are given a venue to shine and develop great self-confidence, that often translates into other aspects of the course. A student run survey of the participants in this class clearly shows these benefits.

The assistance of CCTV staff greatly frees up the teacher to be able to teach. There is no studio prep time required for the teacher (though rewarding time is spent with the CCTV staff to continuously enhance the experience) and the CCTV camera person and control board operator allow the teacher to stand on the line with the students to give them pointers. Students are coached in general presentation techniques, and those specific to chroma-key studio work.

The technology available in the studio allow students to create backgrounds using Powerpoint, Keynote, JPG files, or anything that can be displayed fullscreen on the class MacBook. Students become much more engaged when they are not limited to single digital images. From assignment of the topic to final presentations, students need to do on-line research, take original digital photos, prepare graphics and become comfortable on camera.

Final, DVD quality videos are ready at the end of the studio session. This allows student to view and critique presentations the next day that class meets. Students have a real television studio experience, with exposure to all aspects of production and a program for airing their work. The ability to have productions broadcast excites the students and can lead to other television opportunities.

In addition, the availability of the studio makes it possible for students to schedule their own time to practice presentations. It has also lead to the creation of Concord-Carlisle Weather Services, a group of students that produce radio, television, and internet content outside of class.

We originally tried to do the green screen presentations in the classroom with a green screen sheet background, a Sony Handycam, a single spotlight, and Adobe's Ultima software running on a PC. It seemed ideal to do this project in the classroom, with easy access to other classroom resources and convenience of filming in the same place that we taught, but we ran into several difficulties.

Due to the limitations of a personal PC, we could not record our work in real time. The software we used did allow for us to operate in a preview mode, so the students could see what they looked like in real time. However, the quality was poor, due to computer software/hardware limitations and sound and lighting issues in the classroom. It turned out that desktop PCs are unable to handle multiple, realtime, high quality video streams so we had to record the video of the student just in front of the green screen and then in post-production put the background in behind them, creating a long time delay between filming and the availability of videos to view in class.

The biggest drawback was that due to the cumbersome nature of the classroom production, the teacher had to focus on the technical side of the production and was not available to work with the students while they were being filmed. This greatly reduced the amount of instruction and the learning of curve of students doing their presentations was much slower.

Supplementary URL: http://www.cchsweather.com