Cardiff University's Centre for Community Journalism has been teaching children from two Welsh primary schools how to shoot and edit videos on smartphones and iPads, in a bid to create North Merthyr Voice, a new community digital news service in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.
The news outlet publishes news articles on issues facing the area, such as graffiti and dog fouling, from the perspective of schoolchildren, who are using mobile technology to produce video interviews and news packages on the subjects that matter to them.
Emma Meese, manager for Cardiff University's Centre for Community Journalism, trained the youngsters at after-school clubs at Pantysgallog Primary and Gwaunfarren Primary over the course of 10 weeks.
She said was impressed by how enthusiastic the pupils of both schools were to make their own footage, using the phone's native camera and apps such as Quik and iMovie.
"Trying to get them to sit down in front of a computer and write a story would be a challenge," said Meese.
"But this is a way that is familiar to them – they are already so engaged with videos on YouTube, and now they have the option to tell their own stories through images, video and audio, in a way that resonates with them."
Meese, who previously taught BBC journalists how to use digital tools and social media, said the Merthyr Tydfil community felt they did not have a space to air opinions and produce stories about their local area, but now the children have been able to highlight issues such as bullying in schools, and what can be done to prevent fly-tipping.
Attendance of the after-school club rose as the weeks went on, with children bringing their friends with them to enjoy the lessons.
Along with how to use different apps, Meese taught the children basic storytelling techniques, such as how to produce a running sequence, why they have to include the who, what, why, when and where of the story, and how make their videos more engaging.
"We are teaching them that interviews and news packages don't just consist on one long shot, but that they have to produce a sequence and tell the story with a variety of different shot sizes and angles," she said.
"We teach them about the need for reversioning footage for social media, and adapting content for different platforms," she said.
The project also aimed to help teach children the dangers of social media, as Meese was surprised how many of them had their own YouTube channels and smartphones.
Now they have the option to tell their own stories through images, video and audio, in a way that resonates with themEmma Meese, Cardiff University's Centre for Community Journalism
"They love to film each other, but the sessions taught them that they can't just take video of their friends and put it on YouTube without making sure that their parents know about it," she said.
"We show them how to make videos private online as well, and teach the parents at the same time.
"The idea is that if we now go on to teach it to the teachers, then it is something that the school can continue."
After the successful pilot programme, the training project is set to roll out to more schools in the area, aiming to not only educate children in mobile journalism, but also highlight the benefit of the practice to teachers.
Meese also hopes that the future development of a multimedia community hub in the Gurnos Estate in the region, with Mac computers, a radio studio and a photography lab, will provide an editorial home for North Merthyr Voice and encourage other school children and community members to contribute to the hyperlocal news website.
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