Does Blacksburg have the best multimedia program in the U.S.?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 03/29/2011 - 13:07

I had the opportunity to stop by Blacksburg High School recently. Mike Kaylor, the head of the BHS Cinema and Photographic Production program, was holding an open house. I've written about the program before, and I was interested to see if the program has kept up its high standards over the past four years. I was not disappointed. The still photography exhibit was simply extraordinary; Kaylor is really teaching his students to think about composition, framing, lighting, and subject matter, and the student images demonstrated mastery of the subject. The students also get a lot of hands-on video experience, including storyboarding, shooting, and video editing, all using professional quality equipment and the same software that the big Hollywood studios use.

Students can start taking the two period, two credit class in their sophomore year, which I think is an essential element of Kaylor's success. The option for students to take the advanced levels of the class in their Junior and Senior years allows them to develop real mastery in photography and/or motion picture production. State of the art Macintosh computers allow for editing of HD movies. And Kaylor's students go on to the top college photo and movie programs, including Savannah College of Art and Design, RIT, VCU, and the Brooks Institute. His students are also getting top jobs in Hollywood, with film credits on movies like Hulk 2, The Golden Compass, and being part of teams that have won Academy Awards for Best Special Effects. Other Kaylor students have gone to work for Pixar and National Geographic.

It is this kind of program that ought to be available to every high school student in America. Our kids need true digital and visual literacy, of the kind that only comes from intensive work and study. It's a myth that our kids are technology literate because they know how to use an iPod or log in to Facebook. It is as if we have decided that because you know how to drive a car, you are somehow qualified to build a car. To continue the analogy, Kaylor is actually teaching these kids to design cars, not just drive them. Most of the students that go through this program will not become professional photographers or work in Hollywood, but it gives them a sharp edge when entering the work world--visual literacy and the ability to use visual editing tools are skills that are valuable to employers and will give these students the ability to excel in whatever field they enter.

How about your community? Does your high school have an equivalent program? If not, why not?

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