Live from in front of my china cabinet its....

Recently our district unblocked Twitter for teachers after a short battle with our Internet gatekeepers. One of the terms of the peace accord was I would provide Twitter training for district personnel. Bluffton Today Education Reporter Sara Wright asked if she could participate in one training session for a story which I agreed to. After the training, Sara started using the Twitter account she created in the class. One of her other followers was Holly Bounds, a reporter for WSAV television in Savannah, Georgia. Holly produces a show called "My Lowcountry 3" which covers covers the South Carolina Lowcountry including Beaufort County. Holly contacted me through Twitter requesting an interview.

I agreed to the interview but I must admit I was skeptical. Years ago, a television reporter for another station did, in my opinion, a brutal job of editing some comments I made about a controversial topic which got me into trouble. I learned a hard lesson about TV media which I later put to use in the classroom and won an award for but that is another story. Through Twitter, Holly and I set up a time for her to come by the school which turned out to be the day before Spring Break. At least I would be in a good mood.

Now I was expecting Holly to be one of those divas since she produces and anchors her own show. I envisioned her coming in with entourage in tow. Make-up person constantly fussing over her appearance like I see right before "Fox and Friends." A personal assistant with one hand holding a phone up to one ear and texting into a Black Berry with the other. The rest of the entourage would consist of the camera operator and sound engineer. What I saw when she came really surprised me. Holly was lugging a camera and tripod on her own. Could you see Katie Couric jumping out of a CBS car in Alaska and carrying her own equipment to do her interview with Sara Palin'? I know I am not a Vice Presidential candidate but anchors never carry their own stuff or so I thought.

When I enquired about where the camera and sound people were, Holly replied "I'm it." Just to prove I was not behind the times, I saw a crew at the ETV conference a couple weeks earlier shooting an interview. Holly later told me she also has to do her own editing for her show. Talk about a 21st century learning moment, I bet journalists didn't learn much about videography, sound, and editing in the past. The interview with me and our principal went well in my mind. I offered to be on Twitter when the show aired in the evening which Holly said would be great.

Now comes the fun part. I heard stories about how crazy live TV could be. I even experienced this when an attempt to produce a school show through UStream went awry as it spiralled into failure. Well I was about to get a dose of it on a whole new level. One of the features of My Lowcountry 3 is they try to get the views to participate via Twitter and Facebook. Actually, all reporters at WSAV are required to have both a Twitter and Facebook accounts. Questions are posted each day so viewers can give their opinions with the best read over the air. A very social networked show. Today Gabe, the show's studio producer, decided to try something new. After checking in via Twitter and about 10 minutes before airtime I get a message asking if I had a webcam. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach because I knew where this is probably heading. Live interview from my home.

We agreed to use Skype after I replied yes. Little did I know this was the first time Gabe used Skype to broadcast an live interview on the show. I had race and change out of my old t-shirt and into something more presentable while booting up my webcam equipped netbook. A similar scene had to be played out in the studio. People flying all around trying to get this stunt to work with Holly on set maintaining outward professional composure but probably screaming in her mind, "YOU WANT TO DO THIS NOW!?"She may have to carry her own equipment but Holly, I'm sure, has some professional pride as an anchor. Fortunatly everything worked without a hitch. Actually, it must have worked so good they had me on for two segments. Take that Karl Rove and James Carville. I'm sure Sean Hanity and Keith Olbermann don't give you two segments too often if at all. It was an exciting experience I will soon bore more people with.

Lessons to be learned from this experience? One is more practice talking on podcasts or videos. The ahs just kill me when I do too much. The other lesson is build a set in your spare room or garage because you never know when you may have to do a live television interview in your home. At least Holly liked my wife's china pattern.

I'm Joe the Student: Learning from The YouTube Election

Presidential campaigns have a way of defining changes in media. Franklin Roosevelt made effective use of the radio in his election bid in 1932. Richard Nixon was the first politician to use television to speak directly to voters in 1952. John F. Kennedy showed that preparing for the characteristics of television helped him during the televised debates in 1960. Bloggers pretty much decided the election in 2004. In 2008 it will be the use of YouTube or citizen generated media that has made inroads and I expect 2012 will see its effective use by a candidate.

Both campaigns used YouTube to post campaign commercials. John McCain may have started the rewriting of Fair Use policy when some of his posts from news shows were taken down after networks complained of copyright infringement. CNN and YouTube collaborated on having people video questions for Republican and Democratic candidates during the primaries. Now YouTube, PBS, and GroundReport are teaming up for Video Your Vote which encourages people to video their experiences during the voting process and are giving away Flip camcorders to make it happen. Yet the biggest surprise is how many people picked up a video camcorder of some kind and shot video that made some kind of statement for one candidate or the other because they wanted to. I receive information e-mails from both the Obama and McCain campaigns (I should disclose that my sister is a county chairwomen for John McCain) and while most of the e-mails are asking for money (which Obama can stop because he can't possibly spend $300 million between now and election day) the McCain campaign surprised me with a call for "I am Joe the Plumber" videos.

The thing for teachers to learn from this is that people are finding new ways to communicate that are easy and cheap to do. I could write, shoot, and edit a campaign commercial for either candidate with a $100 to $150 camcorder that would look decent then upload it on YouTube. All this exercise in democracy would cost next to nothing but time. Take a look at what individuals have created on their own by surfing the campaign videos on YouTube. Think about how you can tap into that creative energy with your students. See if you can't create your own "Joe the Student" video that could change the course of history as much as "Joe the Plumber" might in this election.