Creating an In-class Cable TV Network

Ever wonder if you and your students could create your own TV news show? Would you like to have announcements and school/class information available to students all class long? Would you like to avoid those students who were absent constantly asking you, "What did we do in class yesterday?" It isn't only possible to do, but with a few pieces of equipment, it's easy to set up and run.

You, of course will need several pieces of hardware, including a TV or (digital projector) and a computer. You will also need the proper cables to connect the two. We've discovered that sometimes the resolution on some computers needs to be adjusted or changed, so check your monitors setting. You might even need a scan-converter if all else fails. Such a TV network can also be simply set up on a computer monitor which is turned to face the students.

Your computer will also need PowerPoint (or an equivalent presentation software). We've used such programs effectively on Macs, as well as Linux and Windows machines, and they all work well for this application.

PowerPoint has the feature of progressing through information or slides by either clicking your mouse, or by setting up timings between every action. Thus, you can have each word, line, paragraph, or even graphic animated automatically. You can change up the settings for different bits of info you have. Check the top menu for 'slide show', and follow down the menu to 'custom animation' (or look for a similar command). Once there, you can select each element to animate, the type of transition to occur, any sound you want associated with it, and also the timing (automatic, not on a mouse click). You will want to practice a few times until your timing is good, and there are enough seconds to see or read each element before the next animation or transition.
Even your slides can be changed automatically. Go to the 'slide show' menu and select 'slide transition' or 'set up show'. From there, you can choose the type of transition, and even its speed of animation.

You may wish to check your computer's settings so the machine doesn't go to sleep on you, or change to a screen saver. That would definitely defeat your purpose!

Now that you know how to set up a show, you have to decide what material or information to put out on display. I put up basic information such as the lunch menu, school or class announcements, and homework assignments. I will also post a class schedule and switch times if the daily schedule is altered. For the students who were absent, we also display class notes from previous classes. Now there is no excuse for students missing assignments or class information! And this saves you from having to deal with every returning student asking what was missed and where to find it.

If you are brave and want to create a great class project, have your students run your daily announcements. You could partner them up and have your first class of the day create the announcements. Another project is to have your students create storyboards, where a short story is broken up among a number of slides, each slide including pictures, clip art, or graphics to illustrate the story. You can find many good images online or in the clip art of your program. If you have access to a digital camera, you can even have students take their own pictures and insert them.

Yet another project we've done is to create a PowerPoint to summarize one class or a week's worth of class info. This becomes an animated newsletter or magazine. Again, assign a student to take photos on a digital camera during the class and combine these with articles on the various activities you've done. You might want to include students' work as examples.

There are also advanced techniques you can experiment with as you get better with the program. Sound can be added, such as background music, songs, or voice recordings. There are also ways to include video. Become an expert with the basics, and you'll be ready for these advanced techniques.

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