We returned safe and sound from the STN convention on Sunday night. No gear lost, no kids lost. So how did it go? Here are some reflections I have about this annual gathering of 3,000 broadcast and video production students and teachers.
*Energy. It is the first thing that hits you in the face when you sit down for the opening ceremony on Thursday evening, for the film and "Excellence" awards presentations on Friday night, and then for the Sunday morning closing awards ceremony. Loud, a little crazy, with chants, flag-waving, pep-rally-style energy. And that is contagious, and just a lot of fun to see and hear.
*At those events listed above, the in-house and online live broadcasts have gotten more and more professional. Great graphics, solid production values all around. Well-done, Texas High School, the school behind those productions.
*Tompkins. Rose. Huppert. The list goes on of outstanding, top-level presenters who challenge their student and teacher attendees to think in new ways, and to be better journalists. Story telling is at the heart of it all, and that is something STN continues to value. It has since the beginning, and the "Tell the Story" logo remains a staple.
*Film kids are killing it. Full disclosure--I am a HORRIBLE film viewer. I have a hard time sticking with most movies I try to watch out of Hollywood. I find them cliched, pointless, with too much CGI and not enough heart, or they are overly violent or vulgar, and just not that interesting. But Hollywood better get ready for a new generation of storytellers, based on the creative, captivating work I saw at the film ceremony at STN.
*Journalism kids need to step it up. We are seeing plenty of great depth-of-field video, but we are not seeing nearly enough depth-of-story. Recent activism by teens, and an overall restlessness with the status quo among young people, could (and should) seep into their journalism. At least I hope so. The film kids are probably a little ahead of the J kids when it comes to getting beyond the obvious.
*The Crazy 8 contest is so short (just eight hours to create a show) that there is little time for real depth. It is just a who-works-fastest kind of competition. BUT...hang on. I mentioned to my kids on the way home that I think we should sit it out next time, and use that as a travel day. Rebellion. They loved the event, and the staff bonding, which is probably the main reason to participate. So next time we attend, we will be there, slugging it out in the Crazy 8.
*My kids, like a lot of them in the audience at the closing awards ceremony, gasped when they saw the DQs in some categories, especially the disqualification of the winner in the "Tell the Story Editing" competition. But I LOVED it. Good on you, STN. Students who misbehave and break the code of conduct should be DQed. Boozing it up in the hotel, or breaking curfew, are not appropriate, and I thank STN for the added clout you give me as a teacher to hold my students accountable.
*No event goes off without a hitch. The late start of the closing awards ceremony was annoying, but blame the late-night misbehavior, and the resulting disqualifications, for forcing a delay in preparing graphics and script for the final ceremony. Adjustments had to be made. So be it.
*The size of the event is impressive. It started in 2004 with 500 attendees. Now it is six times bigger, and with schools around the country emphasizing video as a skill all kids need, even beginning in elementary school, there is no reason this convention will not grow more.
*The event features both journalism and film/production tracks and contests, and some teachers on the outside looking in do not believe you should have both at the same convention. But one can actually motivate the other, and both provide teachers plenty of critical viewing lessons.
*Finally, Hawaii. It is our 50th state, but it may be the number 1 state in STN. What a fun group to witness, the pride they have in each other's achievements, their kindness to others, that "aloha spirit" they bring to STN every year. They have some of the best video producers in the nation, both middle school and high school. In fact, their middle schools kids' work was the most impressive thing I saw this year at STN. Keep that "Hawaii" chant going, kids. You are setting the bar high for all of us.