COMPUTER CORNER

Bill Gillespie
Rosemary McDowall

Our friend Matt Gillard from Sammat Education sent us an excited email about changes to one of our favourite programs, NewsMaker. This is not a minor upgrade but a complete redesign and restructure of the program. The most important addition is a dedicated website, NewsMaker.tv, where students can publish their finished news items. These can be shared globally or kept for private viewing.

For those who have not heard of NewsMaker, it is a video news-making tool that offers students an easy, affordable, and fun platform to practice writing, speaking and presentation skills.

With the new English curriculum specifically stating that students will create multi-modal texts, NewsMaker is a perfect tool for teachers with minimal technology skills to support students to successfully achieve syllabus outcomes.

NewsMaker can be used from Stages 2 to 6 across all key learning sreas whenever students are required to create professional looking presentations.

It requires minimal technology skills and facilitates a learning environment in which students can produce well-organised presentations that clearly and concisely convey concepts and information. NewsMaker’s simplicity provides flexibility that is neither grade-level nor content-area specific. It empowers students to improve their communication skills while mastering content in any subject area.

So how easy is it to use? Before starting their projects students need to have the skills to work in groups and negotiate their respective roles in the “news team”. Students can take on a number of roles including news anchors, writers or producers.

Once students storyboard or develop their program, they start the program by signing into NewsMaker.tv and deciding whether they want to upload their project to the web or store it locally.

To test the program, we decided to produce a weather report. As this was the first time we used the program we decided to store all programs locally to save ourselves embarrassment.

We typed in a description of our project and clicked “create”. Once the project was created we then worked on the individual segments of the report. Each segment can be named and assigned to a team member. The program comes with some templates to assist with news production.

Video recording a story via webcam is as easy as clicking one button. Text can be added to the teleprompter and the story will scroll through while the video is being recorded. You can even adjust the scrolling rate of the teleprompter.

We added music, images, titles and subtitles to our video recordings via the webcam recording page. For a bit of fun we even added a variety of backgrounds and virtual facial effects to the recordings. The program will also do voiceover images and scrolling text. Once we finished recording our segment, we hit “playback” to look at our masterpiece.

One of the really good things about NewsMaker is that it provides students with immediate feedback for self-assessment of performance and it also facilitates peer assessment, especially in oral skills.

Students frequently choose to rehearse and re-record in order to improve upon fluency, rhythm, pacing, intonation and expression, further enhancing their ability to communicate through multi-modal texts.

Software provided by Sammat Education. Bill Gillespie teaches at Elanora Heights Public School and Rosemary McDowall teaches at The Forest High School. They can be contacted at computer_corner2000@yahoo.com.