The new Content Creator initiative at Hillcrest High School in Memphis has both students and staff excited about giving them more opportunities on their way to college as well as being a motivation to excel in other courses.
The program, generously supported by the Tennessee Valley Authority, will impact 20 students in the 11th and 12th grades, even though principal Teddrick Estes hopes to expand it to accommodate more people.
“Everybody wants to be in the class, but unfortunately we can only serve about 20 students and it’s only one period a day, but we are hoping that it grows and we’re getting extra creative about it,” adds Estes, at one time a podcaster himself. “The 9th and 10th graders would still be doing the music, art and band classes and when they get to the upper levels, they can start thinking about joining this class.”
The program was created by Christopher Franceschi, a Memphis content creator and will teach students to create digital content, music, as well as how to legally protect it. After students complete music, band, and art classes they will be eligible for this elective course.
“This year is the first we are going to have it as a class and the kids will get credit for it,” explains Estes. “At the beginning of the second week, they’ve only had three classes so far. They’re still in the preliminary stages, getting used to the machines and what does what, but we should see some material created during the next couple of weeks.”
The course was conceived this past Spring, but it took longer than expected to set up due to delivery issues of software and hardware needed for it. The students will have access to MacBooks, beat and drum machines, keyboards, speakers, and headphones that will support each aspect of the course, which will include podcasting, music production and social media online content.
“One of the things that we are trying to provide is a skill they can use the day after graduation, so we teach them about music production. When we are done, you can go into a studio and be able to master a soundboard. Somebody needs an engineer, you are there. If you’re in a podcast, you know now exactly what you need to get going. You have practice, you know how to get on the mike, talk, and if you need to edit, you have practice with it,” said Estes.
He is confident that the New Content Creation course will not only get students ready to work in the digital world immediately after graduation, but will also motivate them to be able to continue to college and get a degree in related fields. The principal also expects that it will be key to get students to keep high attendance levels.
“We’ve been thinking about this for two years. We have to offer things that they are going to be excited about,” explains Estes. “As the landscape of our world is changing with technology, we must start doing something that they can engage in. We must have programs that young people will do. So, when you get a student to engage in a program like this, you can use it to motivate him. I think programs like this will do it, so when you get someone that’s engaged in a program like this, you can use this to motivate them in another class.”
The program has state-of-the-art software, which will help the students produce content faster. A few years ago, Estes was part of the podcasting world along with some friends. At that time, editing would take a few hours before the podcast could be published.
The new Content Creator could be implemented at sister schools Bluff City High School and Fairley High School, both operated by Green Dot Public Schools, as soon as next year. Estes expects to smooth out the course offering during the first few months of the semester and replicate it in other schools.
“Everybody is excited about it; everybody wants it in their school,” said Estes. “Who doesn’t want to learn about podcasting? They listen to podcasts all the time. Who doesn’t want to learn about how music is made when all they do is listen to music. They spend all day on Instagram, Tik-Tok, watching others create content and get paid for it. Why wouldn’t a student want to learn about how to make that themselves?”