Zooming From On Stage to Virtual Assemblies

Today’s Contributor: William (Kent) Hawes, MEd, is the Campus Innovation Connector for Travis Heights Elementary. He has been a strong advocate for media and technology programs in Texas school districts for over 20 years. His dedication to the 1:1 device program at Travis Heights Elementary has helped make technology integration an integral part of core instruction, campus communications, and project-based learning.

One of the cool things that came from the pandemic was the need to innovate using the technology resources we had before us to serve a common goal in a new way.

Travis Heights Elementary has had a long-standing tradition of producing a Friday morning assembly for the campus and Community for many years. This has always been a live event run by students.  An elite group of students who are ‘hired’ to be part of the Tech Crew.  These students run all elements to produce the show.  The lights, audio, curtain, sets, props… every part of the show.

When Covid suddenly showed up, the Tech Crew had to shift from a live stage performance to an edited television production done with Zoom and put on YouTube.  Totally different type of program, but we were able to do it and it was great because it kept all of the Travis Heights Elementary Community solidly connected.

Fast forward to this year. I can’t even remember for sure, but it all started with some kind of merge of in-person learning with masks, shields, and all kinds of stuff. We began to build back the original live stage production, however one key missing ingredient- we could not have a live, in-person audience.

And this is where the GREAT comes in… Tech Crew students made profound connections from their experiences of producing the Zoom television show and merged it with their knowledge of how to do a stage performance.

They rigged their Chromebooks to be cameras to show the assembly live and in real time to the whole campus.  Many cameras. Many, many cameras.  In front of the stage cameras.  Behind the stage cameras.  On the band cameras. On the talent cameras.  Remote moving all around cameras.  And even in the classroom cameras that connected to the EduDisplays where each class could be a part of the show like the old days.  Shy of some 30 Chromebooks in all!

There are 5 visible Chromebook cameras (of the 12 we used for each show) in this picture.  Can you spot them?

We had cameras before, but they were ancient, video tape cameras and we only had a couple of them.  By using the Chromebooks as a vast multi-camera set up, students were not only able to show what was happening on stage live, but also what was happening in the classroom.  They took a desktop computer from the computer lab and used that to control or ‘switch’ each camera source by ‘spotlighting’ them through Zoom.  Absolutely awesome to watch our students take over and actually ‘cut’ a live production like that to the enjoyment of all!

This month we will end the school year with a full, in-person audience. The Chromebooks and Zoom setup has been put aside for another day or another production perhaps.  Nonetheless, the application of today’s technology, learned by both students and teachers, were lessons that will never be forgotten! 

Great job Tech Crew!

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