Students across Donegal have been getting an opportunity to dip their toes into the world of the media over the past year thanks to an innovative project from well known local journalist and blogger, Liam Porter.
His newspaper in the classroom has already proven a smash hit with students and teachers alike, while his first blogging and podcasting school project has seen students at St. Eunan’s NS in Raphoe short-listed for an Irish Aid Award at Dublin Castle on Thursday (February 17th) for their blog – www.steunans.scoilnet.ie
Speaking this week Liam said he was delighted with the way his venture has gone so far and is looking forward to developing it further with more schools.
“The idea is to give the children a greater appreciation of the media and the work that goes into news gathering and reporting by turning them into reporters, photographers, editors – basically all the jobs necessary to turn out a newspaper.
It’s very much a practical programme, it is great fun and can seem a bit hectic at times – (that’s just like any newsroom I’ve been in) – but there is hard work involved because there is a deadline to meet and a paper to print at the end.”
The project, he says, has given him a greater appreciation of the work teachers do on a daily basis with our young people and he has nothing but praise for everybody he has met in the schools he was worked with to date.
“All the young people have been brilliant and I have found their creativity and enthusiasim infectious and uplifting. They are great fun and they make me smile – and working with people who make you smile has to be good!”
He added: “Until you are in schools on a regular basis and see the colossal and amazing work they do every day, I also don’t think you really understand the contribution teachers are making to the development of our young people. I am so thankful to the schools I have been in for the opportunities they have given me to work with the students.”
Over the past year Liam has helped schools in Ballyshannon, Raphoe, Convoy, Newtowncunningham and Stranorlar and having just finished a paper in Dromore in Killygordon in the past fortnight, he is currently at work with students from Scoil Chartha Naofa Kilcar and St. Eunan’s Raphoe on their papers.
Speaking about the recent newspaper project in her school Deputy Principal at Dromore NS, Charlotte Brady, said that her class had thoroughly enjoyed it and are looking forward to launching their publication very soon.
“From his first visit to our classroom Liam inspired great enthusiasm among the children. He led them through the project in a patient and professional way, teaching them many new skills and stretching their abilities. Through his guidance, the children have gained confidence and learned the importance of teamwork. They are very proud of their achievement and will always remember Liam’s contribution.”
And it’s not only Primary School students who have benefitted under the programme with Transition Year Students at Deele College also working with Liam to produce their first ever school yearbook in the past year.
“In some ways it has evolved on a few levels since it got started. For instance one of the favourite aspects with the students now is the fact that they get to produce a comic. That has proven to be great fun and some of the imaginative ideas have just been amazing,” Liam added.
Indeed the comic from St. Eunan’s NS last year saw them scoop the overall national award in the Show Racism the Red Card competition – beating entries from second level schools and Youthreach centres in the process. And that comic was in their school paper – Flow and Grow – which also formed part of a winning entry in the national Eco Unesco Awards.
With the school’s 6th class about to head off to Dublin Castle on Thursday following their short-listing in the 2011 Irish Aid Awards, it’s hardly surprising that Deputy Principal at St Eunan’s, Anita McMonagle, is thrilled.
“As a teacher I have to say that this has been a hugely positive experience, it integrates a wide range of subject areas and gives the children a real sense of achievement.”
She explained that in their role as reporters the students have learned more about their local community and the world around them while at the same time covering subjects strands including art, English, geography, history, SPHE and maths.
“Liam allows the children to take ownership of the project – he wants them to come up with the ideas, write the stories and take the photos and he just guides them along. Because they put in so much work it gives them a fantastic sense of pride in their final product and the reaction they get from the local community has been brilliant.”
She added that the 6th class blog and the podcasting experience – for which the children have been short-listed for the award – had also opened the eyes of the children to new media forms and technology.
Liam who continues to write his own weekly blog entitled ‘A Drop of Porter’ (adropofporter.blogspot.com) and a new Donegal election blog called ‘The Floating Voter,’ (donegalvoter.blogspot.com) says he’s looking forward to working with more schools in the weeks and months ahead.
“A number of schools across the county are already pencilled in, but if a school is interested and wants to find out more they can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or 086 2657758,” he concluded.