Students Gain Extra Skills Via PBS ‘JobPop’ Project
Nick Geidner was searching for a way to help his students develop the fundamental skills needed to work on bigger documentaries. He wanted to give them a soft entry into Land Grant Films, a production company he leads at the School of Journalism and Electronic Media.
Geidner found the perfect solution with a project that aligns with the university’s mission toward a growing Tennessee workforce.
Land Grant Films has partnered with East Tennessee PBS to provide educational programming designed to reach a younger audience. Called JobPop, the series introduces children to jobs they may find interesting and explains what each profession does.
The bite-sized videos created by Land Grant Films are 60 to 90 seconds in length and targeted towards children in third to sixth grade.
Geidner’s students take the lead in arranging interviews, obtaining video footage, producing and editing all the videos.
“The work is the perfect training ground for them,” said Geidner, an associate professor of Journalism and Electronic Media. “I can send them out and trust that we can get something good no matter what. It’s the perfect educational situation where it is very low-risk and yet you get to learn a lot.”
The JobPop project launched in July of 2020. Land Grant Films makes the videos and PBS is developing extra educational supplements that accompany each video for teachers or parents to use with their kids.
The series is practical in nature, allowing kids to see how an HVAC technician uses geometry during work or how a machinist measures things.
“Our goal is not to say, ‘Hey, this is a cool job.’ But say, ‘This cool job is why you are going to school.’ It makes them understand that what they are learning in school is actually a pathway toward that job,” Geidner said.
The funding for the project was obtained through the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Connected Communities initiative. The grant for JobPop was $444,000 for two years, including $159,000 for Land Grant Films.
Geidner works with a crew of about five students at Land Grant Films. They have filmed 22 of the JobPop segments, and East Tennessee PBS is currency airing six of them.
“I have been really lucky to be a part of this,” said Brent Palmer, a graduate assistant who is completing his degree in journalism and media. “I’ve been able to really buff my editing skills and learned how to talk to people and how to be more persuasive. But I feel like I’ve been able to help people, even if it’s in a small way by making sure kids know about different jobs in different areas.”
The crew is trying to film a diverse option of jobs that fall into three main categories: work with technology, work with hands, and work with people.
The Land Grant Films students have traveled throughout Knoxville and into Maryville, Kodak, Sevierville, and Chattanooga for the project. Among those they have interviewed are a data analyst who programs a robot dog from Boston Dynamics, a welder who fixes the elephant enclosure at Zoo Knoxville the Knoxville Zoo and a 23-year-old pilot who flies private jets.
“My favorite part is just going on the shoots,” Palmer said. “I get to see so many interesting things and know that I have been a part of that in some way. It makes me excited to feel like I have done something special just with the planning for it.”
Through their work on the JobPop project, the Land Grant Films students are developing marketable skills that will serve them well in the future.
“They are producing pieces that involve graphics and they involve that kind of internet feel to more of a social video type,” Geidner said. “That is hot across the fields they will be interested in working. They are transferable skills.”
Geidner has received positive feedback from a wide array of people who have seen the videos.
“Everyone we have shown them to is loving them,” he said. “The (Knoxville) Chamber not only loved them, but they actually hired us to do some specialized ones just for them that connect with The 865 Academies initiative that Knox County Schools is doing.”
Land Grant Films and East Tennessee PBS are trying to get all the JobPop videos featured on PBS LearningMedia, which is a national clearinghouse of free educational content available to PreK-12 educators and students.
“They are all very much on board with that. They are just going through the process of getting the curriculum approved and working with an educational specialist to develop all the curriculum,” Geidner said. “If that goes through, it will reach thousands and thousands of classrooms around the country.”
Given the early success, Land Grant Films and East Tennessee PBS envision the JobPop project expanding to reach wider audiences. It would give UT students even more practical experience while helping them educate others.
“We just see so many opportunities to grow this in multiple ways,” Geidner said. “We are already thinking of the next grants that would really be more about depth and building it out for older age groups.”
Written by Rhiannon Potkey