High-tech in a small school

The same kind of technology used in movies like Avatar and on the nightly newscast now exists at Crestomere School, 23 km west of Ponoka.

A Smartboard projects social studies notes in the background as principal Penny Mueller helps Grade 9 students Emily Pineo

A Smartboard projects social studies notes in the background as principal Penny Mueller helps Grade 9 students Emily Pineo

The same kind of technology used in movies like Avatar and on the nightly newscast now exists at Crestomere School, 23 km west of Ponoka.

Known as a green screen, it allows students to manipulate the backgrounds behind someone being videotaped.

Students stand in front of a bright green wall. Later in editing with a computer, different backgrounds can be put in behind them or they can project onto another screen and blend the students with the new background in real time.

Mark Den Oudsten, a Grade 9 student at Crestomere School, was recently working with classmates in their journalism class putting a newscast together that will play on the school’s monitors.

In one clip, students read news, with what looks like a stylized blue background behind them. In another clip, there is a picture of bulls and students wearing moustaches are pretending to run away from them, recreating the running of the bulls in Pamploma.

“In class you sit and take notes, but with this there is a world of possibilities that you can do, instead of just sitting down and writing,” Den Oudsten said.

Den Oudsten only just started working with the technology but already it has become easy for him to manipulate and edit the video. “When you’re introduce to something new, it’s always a challenge at the beginning but it’s getting progressively easier,” he said.

Crestomere School purchased two new iMac computers, two new high-definition video cameras, a tripod and Final Cut software worth a little under $5,000 with funding through the Friends of Crestomere School.

Principal Penny Mueller’s husband Dwain built the wall and she was able to find one container of special green digicomp paint in Alberta, with which she spent a weekend painting onto the wall. The way the technology works is computer editing software removes a single colour — in this case digicomp green — and replaces it with the preferred background photo. The person on camera can’t wear the same colour of green or that piece of clothing would also show the new background. The colours green or blue are chosen because they are the colours least like any skin tone.

Mueller said the project started as a way to encourage student engagement in school and provide them with unique skills.

The school, which opened in 1953, has 137 students from kindergarten to Grade 9. Mueller said the students are always excited when they have a chance to work on computer and technology projects and working with video has also been popular. Mueller said it is also a great way for students to engage in the 21st century learning skills they will need in the future.

When they started, many of the students only considered the screen useful for weather casts, but as time has gone on, Mueller said the students have seen how the technology can be used in their social class, math and science. The students have even found ways to incorporate it into their Christmas concert, with a weather forecast being done by the Grade 5 and 6s and then a talk show using the green screen. The screen has also helped the students taking a journalism class at the school move to the next level.

“It’s important for our kids to have access to the technology because . . . it is part of their present, but it is going to be increasingly part of their future,” Mueller said. “We want our kids to be one step ahead when it comes to technology. They need to learn the digital skills that will create good digital citizenship to take them into their future.”

sobrien@www.reddeeradvocate.com

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