Windermere Secondary: News Flash

Arts Education, Information Technology, Language Arts, Social Studies

School: Windermere Secondary, Vancouver

Teacher: Shannon Leddy

Artist Collaborators: Gordon Cobb

Class: Contemporary Studies Grade 8 - Grade 11



In small groups, students engage in inquiry based learning through the development of relevant and socially conscious current event show segments of their choice. This project-based learning resulted in transformative learning as students dug deeper into issues of importance for them as urban youth. Using the news theme template in iMovie, iPads, as well as in Windows Media Player, students edited together each individual segment to create a full-length webisode. Students practiced and refined theatrical performances through interviews, talk shows, news anchoring, and rants.


Connection to the Vancouver Biennale Exhibition

Students visited Engagement in English Bay to inquire into the following questions: What does this image invoke in the students? What images or ideas come to mind? What kinds of assumptions do the students make when engaging in a discourse around the exhibit. How do the students feel about the institution of marriage?



Social values form the individual


Guiding Questions

How can Mac-based technology promote student self expression through collaborative learning? Thinking about our overarching theme for the year, which is social alienation and the social construction of self/other, how can we use the lens of compassion to decrease alienation and increase the sense of our oneness?


Cross-Curricular Access

Language Arts: Author a creative short news segment that features a series of current world events. Use aspects of theatre and performance to convey important themes in an expedient manner.

Social Studies: Spanning a timeline of thirty to forty years, depict Canada and its cultural identity, showing how it has supported gay rights over the past few decades. Who were the cultural icons during these periods and how did they influence the masses? Compare Canada’s progress to that of the United States. How far has the US come, and how far do they have to go?

•  Visual Arts: Students explored what applications and programs are required to produce a TV-like segment as well as the environmental factors to consider when shooting footage outside. The gained experience in segment planning, adding sound and visual effects to footage, and in multimedia production.


Learning Process/Inquiry challenges

Free-writes: In shared small group discussions, have each group complete a short answer to the question: “What kinds of assumptions do we make about people within society and how does this impact others?” and share their thoughts with the class. Ask the students to take five to ten minutes to describe one concept related to the line of inquiry that they can perform through a theatrical sketch or through a short improvised monologue. Lead a discussion to summarize what are the core themes and values the class has identified. Keep track of ideas within a detailed production list.

Giving the students five minutes to think, have them write down two or three ways that the top 5 issues could be filmed. Would this be a “news” segment, a rant, a comedy sketch, or a rap video?

Dialogue and collaborative inquiry: Dividing the class into groups, have them collectively brainstorm what it means for them to be a Vancouverite or to a larger extent, Canadian. Share the ideas as a class. What are some of the things that people have come up with? Are they similar to anybody’s perceived self-identity? Why or why not? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of relating to a larger society.

Digital portfolios of photography, videography, visual artwork, and creative writing

Work shopping segment ideas

Considering the affordances of various mediums for each segment (photography, live performance, video, creative writing, etc.). 

The news flash concepts students come up with:

Engagement: one project explored this exhibit from a youth point of view.

• Random Acts of Kindness Campaign: what does it mean to perform a random act of kindness, and where is this occurring?  How has this project developed at Windermere Secondary and who started this project?

Human rights, equality:  the gay rights movement in Canada compared to the USA, homophobia in Canadian schools, human rights violations in the Russian Olympics.


Student Creation

Each group project was captured in video format as a QuickTime movie file, which can be uploaded to the Vancouver Biennale and school websites.




Planning and conceptualizing sessions. The artist and the teachers planned the entire project, enlisting the objectives, approach, workshop activities


Overall project introductory workshop

Field trip to Engagement

Free-writes and collaborative inquiry of concept

Pre-production – finalize role as producer, actor, writer, camera operator, script writing, rehearsal

Begin production


Production of videos and editing

Creating either original music for segments or adding in existing stock footage from artist’s collection of news themed music files.



Teacher – Shannon Leddy

It was a great pleasure to with Gordon Cobb this year on the Athena News Flash Project, generously funded by the Vancouver International Biennale.  Gordon’s confidence and vision, combined with his tremendous talent for managing teens, afforded a rich and meaningful learning experience for my grade 8, 9 and 10 students.  Students were challenged to learn new skills, applications and programs in the course of creating their project.  During the planning and development stages students investigated human rights, questioning historic social assumptions around heterosexuality and researching what progress has been made in assuring equal rights for the LGBTQ community.  So our experience was rich from the angles of both technology and critical literacy.

Although the timeline for project completion was too tight (in fact, we didn’t make our deadline), Gordon and the students worked hard at trying to keep to the schedule and to create the highest possible quality finished piece.  I am tremendously proud of their success and grateful to the Biennale for finding thins complex and highly rewarding project.

Artist – Gordon Cobb  

I have had a wonderful time working with the students in the Athena Fine Arts program at Windermere Secondary School. It took a few classes to get this project up and running, but once we built some momentum, the projects took on a life of their own and were very successful. Students were also very much inspired and engaged by their interactions with Engagement, and the students did a great job appropriating ideas relating to the exhibits into their segments. We also had a great time filming one of the segments on location during the field trip. For some students, memorizing some of the more substantial monologues was challenging, but overall the performances were excellent.

In the end, the students produced six different segments. Managing these six distinct groups of students as they produced short film segments was a big task and required lots of communications between classes. Students were encouraged to use their own technology, which included iPads, DSLR cameras, computers (both Mac and PC), and some external microphones. The produced a noticeable spectrum in regards to production quality depending on the productions resources used by each group. Regardless of the technology used, students were resourceful and creative, and critical thinking captured within the segments were all interesting, timely, and related to their experiences with Engagement. I am very proud of the students and their work, and we all learned a lot along the way.


 Students enjoyed working with Gordon tremendously.  Those students who identify with the LGBTQ community were particularly pleased to bring issues facing their community to our classroom, giving other students the opportunity to become effective and active allies.   It was also clear that students relished the opportunity to work with technology.  In short, those who are of quieter nature were pleased to work behind the scenes, while those who love performance also had their chance to shine.