Teacher makes media a priority

Kenneth Blum, the library media specialist at Oak Grove Elementary, has embraced broadcast and social media platforms to connect the school community.

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Kenneth Blum, the library media specialist at Oak Grove Elementary, has embraced broadcast and social media platforms to connect the school community.

Credit: con

Credit: con

Kenneth Blum interprets the “media” portion of his job title to the fullest extent. As library media specialist at Oak Grove Elementary in Peachtree City, his responsibilities include overseeing the school’s library resources, but he’s also expanded into the world of broadcast and social media.

Blum is credited with keeping the community connected through his timely use of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the school’s website. He’s developed a following for the recorded morning announcements that have turned into a 10-minute, mini-news cast managed by fifth graders.

“We do the announcements with a smaller version of the same software used at big production companies,” he said. “I teach fifth graders to use that equipment, and we record everything so parents can see it when they want.”

Students volunteer to be part of the news crew or the technical team. The positions are recast every eight weeks to give everyone a shot at participating, which requires showing up at 7:30 a.m. to rehearse.

“We have five kids each week, with two anchors and three technical for kids who don’t want to be on the air,” said Blum. “For our last shift, I had about 40 kids involved.”

Blum types the script and posts it on the bottom of the TV monitor so the anchors can read from it. “But after a few weeks, they get good at it and want to change my language – which is totally fine,” he said.

When COVID closed the school in March 2020, Blum devised ways for students to be remotely involved in the production. They submitted news items through their Chromebooks and recorded items at home. Parents did shout-outs, teachers offered tips on staying focused and administrators chimed in with activities for the virtual school day.

“And we do quizzes and announce who answered first – that keeps the kids involved,” Blum said.

He has also leveraged social media sites to pull in parents.

“I realized a lot of our younger parents weren’t checking email as much as us older folks, so we got on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” he said. “We use it for kudos about what’s going on around the school and for kids doing cool things. It helps parents see the neat things that are going on.”

Blum also launched a program to keep kids reading during the pandemic. Every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m., he invited families to come in, check out books and reconnect with the school, and its success has inspired him to keep the evening hours going.

“Coming out of last year, so much reading had dropped off,” he said. “This was a great way to increase circulation. And I got to see more kids and meet parents I’d never met before.”

For his work, Blum was honored as the school’s Teacher of the Year for 2020-21 and was a 2021 nominee for the Georgia Leadership Institute on School Improvement’s Hidden Heroes award, given to education leaders who may not receive recognition for their contributions.

“Just knowing that somebody took the time to write up what I do was very cool,” he said.

Information about Oak Grove Elementary is online at fcboe.org/Domain/21.

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.

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