WATERVILLE — Teacher Dave Boardman describes the new mass media communications program at Mid-Maine Technical Center as more like a college course than one for high school students.

Students in the course learn everything from videography and multimedia journalism to social media and marketing.

“While this is technically a high school course, I really modeled what students are doing at colleges like Arizona State University’s journalism program or University of North Carolina’s photojournalism programs,” Boardman said Wednesday. “These high school students are really tackling what those college students do. They really come to this with a sense of possibility.”

Students will use the Internet, social networks and mobile devices to create the next viral video, promote an idea intended to change the world and develop a media campaign for a social issue, according to the course description.

Peter Hallen, the new director of the technical center since Mark Powers retired earlier this year, said the course was developed following a committee’s exploration and analysis of the job market, college programs and a survey of students interests.

“It’s something that is not generally taught in a public school setting but one the students have a lot of interest in,” Hallen said.

Videography is a medium that is already widely available to students outside the classroom. Social media sites and the prolifieration of video cameras and editing applications can allow just about anyone to be an amateur auteur, but several students of Boardman’s class said the formal training helps polish skills to a professional level.

“It’s more than just YouTube, Vimeo or other sites like that,” said Patrick Ayres, a senior at Winslow High School. “It gives us experience with TV and advertising production — things we haven’t explored yet.”

Currently, each student is working on a 35-second video that presents a profile of a fellow student. The assignment is meant to challenge the budding videographers to capture the essence of their subject in just a few words and actions, Ayres said.

The technical center helps students fine-tune their interests, which can lead to greater success, Hallen said.

“The numbers are pretty clear that students who go to a career and technical education school are more likely to finish college because they have a better sense of who they are and what they’re good at and what they want to do — and they’re finding work,” Hallen said.

That’s exactly what Ayres hopes to get out of the program. Ayres, who plans to attend New England School of Communications in Bangor, hopes the technical course will develop skills for next year, and also help him decide which area of mass communication suits him.

Dustin Wood, a senior at Messalonskee High School, plans to go to school for mass communications or marketing. He hopes the course will help ease the college admissions process, because students are developing portfolios over the course of the year.

The center, located at Waterville Senior High School, serves 422 students from four high schools. Last year’s enrollment was 392 students.

The center has an eight-member advisory board for each of its 13 programs, with members representing local industry who come into the school twice a year and evaluate the curriculum and equipment. That information is critical to the success of the school and the students, according to Hallen.

“That’s one of the ways we stay current,” he said.

A technical school is not the vocational school of the past, which had a stigma of being the place where students deemed unable to succeed in a regular classroom were sent, according to Hallen.

“We want high achieving students,” he said. “We want students who have aspirations because those are the students who do well.”

The next step is to establish an industry-recognized certification for the new mass media communications program, which has already enrolled 22 students.

“Last year we had 153 students earning college credits while they were taking courses here, for a total of 678 college credits,” Hallen said. “That’s about $100,000 in tuition that we saved students and families.”

Hallen, who was student services coordinator about 11 years before he was named director, said the curriculum is always changing and evolving to meet students’ needs.

Students enrolled in the mass media communications course include, but are not limited to, those interested in pursuing journalism careers, he said. Some want to be on camera, some want to produce and others want to run a camera, he said.

“It’s not one job that we’re preparing them for — it’s more of an industry,” he said.

Boardman holds doctorate’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Maine, as well as a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political studies from University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Before joining the center, he taught English and journalism for six years at Messalonskee High School and four years at Winthrop High School before that.

He was invited to the technical center to review and give input on the new mass media program because officials there knew he was doing similar activities at Messalonskee. Boardman was enthralled with the program.

“As soon as they started discussing what they were going to do, I just knew this was the perfect job,” Boardman said. “It’s super-relevant for people today and it’s just all centered around communication and how we use words, images, sound.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

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