The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 20, 2009

Making movies

Dakota Meadows students get tech

NORTH MANKATO — When Diane Coursol’s daughter was a seventh grader at Dakota Meadows School doing a video project, mom was able to supply hardware and expertise to help her learn more than her classmates.

“She had the many advantages of a tech-savvy mom with resources,” said Coursol, a professor in Minnesota State University’s college of education.

It was a textbook example of the so-called “digital divide,” which splits the technological “haves” from the “have-nots.” And if in the future “technology will drive employability” as Coursol predicts, then kids on the wrong side of the divide face a serious obstacle.

That experience four years ago led Coursol and MSU to partner with Dakota Meadows and teacher Mary Jost.

The university loans the school some of its video equipment as well as the expertise of Coursol and her grad students, who like the classroom experience.

All 260 seventh graders in the North Mankato school get a chance to take their own movies — advertisements, in this case — and learn how to edit them on Apple’s iMovie software.

Best Buy has joined on this year with a $4,000 grant to help buy more video cameras.

Jost’s classes were busy Friday editing their ad pitches.

Austin Reed and Douglas Krahmer said they’d already finished an ad for the hypothetical “universal hourglass,” which allows trips back in time. Their commercial shows Douglas despairing over his homework being destroyed by his cat, a disaster that can be remedied with the handy hourglass.

“It’s a must-have for klutzes,” they say.

But another viewing of the ad exposes some minor editing holes.

“Yeah, OK, we’re not as done as we thought,” Reed says.

Nearby, Kiersten Rigdon shows off an ad she and a partner filmed for an $80 automatic lawn mower, featuring enthusiastic testimonials from their sisters.

The aim, Jost says, is about learning how to speak persuasively and “the technology is what engages them.”

She also praised the electronics retailer for its support.

“Especially in tough budget time, having somebody like Best Buy offer these grants, more cameras get in kids’ hands,” Jost said. Best Buy said it has given away $17 million in such grants to 6,000 schools over the past five years.

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