The world is at their fingertips thanks to their phones, tablets and computers, so it made sense for 20 young members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Rutherford County to gain hands-on experience in podcasting and digital media literacy during a recent Middle Tennessee State University camp.
“Come to Voice,” a program in MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment that teaches communications skills such as audio, video, internet usage and media literacy to students in seventh through ninth grades, marked its second year on campus June 20-23.
School of Journalism and Strategic Media professors Jennifer Woodard and Ken Blake launched the special camp to guide young media users in “gaining the skills and the audacity to tell other people your story, to advocate for yourself and people like you for your community,” said Blake.
“The children we serve are clients of the local Boys and Girls Clubs. Many of them are kids … who otherwise may never acquire the media skills and confidence to advocate for themselves. We bring them here and equip them with some basic media skills.
“This time we around we are focusing on audio skills and the ability to make a podcast and sort of empower them to begin to tell their own stories.”
Woodard and Blake brought back former adjunct instructor and two-time MTSU journalism alumna Bianca Spencer of Memphis and senior video and film production major Kinsey McBride of La Vergne, Tennessee, as their hand-picked “Come to Voice” instructors.
The instructors spent the first day or two familiarizing their students with the recording studios and equipment available in the college’s Bragg Media and Entertainment Building, discussing what makes a great podcast and how to use the media format effectively.
By the third day, the campers were assigned to teams and soon were creating podcasts of their own. The topic for this year’s assignment? Social media and how it affects others.
12-year-old Kingdom Bowen expressed his enthusiasm for the camp, calling it “extremely fun.”
“I’ve learned how to set up a podcast and the different voices you should use, like a professional voice or a normal regular voice, to get different tones,” said Bowen. “Our (podcast) was about TikTok and how parents should monitor how long kids are on screen time.”
Mikayla Hubbard, 13, found new ways to express herself.
“I’ve learned how to speak your mind without making it sound rude, I guess. Get over your fright of talking in front of people,” said Hubbard, “(Our podcast) was about how social media can affect you. There was a part about cyberbullying and how it’s gotten way out of hand and how it affects your brain and your memory.”
Trevor Johnson, director for the local Boys and Girls Clubs’ “Triple Play” physical, emotional and social health program, said “Come to Voice” gives the young people a new way of learning.
“It gives us a chance to teach them how social media works and podcasting and to develop a new career path for them,” said Johnson, who brought the group to campus. “I think the kids enjoy it. I love that MTSU invited us out. It’s a great experience for them.”
Learning media skills, plus more about college
In addition to the training in the Bragg studios, campers received hands-on demonstrations in the James E. Walker Library’s MakerSpace, where staff members train users on media equipment and applications.
“They experienced our podcasting studio, for which we provided conversation prompts, and our ‘Easy Recording Studio,’ for which we provided graphics for them to make a newscast,” said Valerie Hackworth, manager of the second-floor library operation, where visitors can also design and work on projects with 3D and resin printers, a laser cutter/etcher, a vinyl cutter, robotics and virtual reality gear.
“They learned about and touched items made in our Epilog Helix Laser; interacted with some artifacts that were created in the MakerSpace, including a zoetrope, a motion detector and sound-effect buttons; and experienced ‘driving’ STEM robots called Spheros through a maze with their fingers.”
“Come to Voice” started with a Tennessee Board of Regents Student Engagement, Retention and Success Grant and the goal of enhancing student learning and encouraging students to come to college.
The inaugural session in 2022 offered one-week camps for Boys & Girls Clubs groups of fifth and sixth grade campers and seventh to ninth graders, while this year’s event was a single camp for 20 seventh to ninth grade participants. Woodard, who also serves as the college’s assistant dean, said organizers are discussing how to expand the program to other colleges on campus.
“This year we did one camp, but we hope to expand next year so we can have MTSU’s College of Education host their own week,” she said.
Though the program is beneficial in teaching young people important media skills, Woodard said she knows that’s just the tip of the iceberg for many kids.
“We also introduce them to the university and have an MTSU advisor go down and speak to them,” she said. “This is so that they understand they can go to college, and that anyone can come to college. They just need a little bit of knowledge of how to get here.”
To learn more about the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at MTSU, visit www.mtsu.edu/journalism. More information about the College of Media and Entertainment and its programs is available at www.mtsu.edu/media.
More information about the work of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Rutherford County is available at www.bgcrc.net.
— Rachel Helms (email@example.com)