While navigating the various corridors of the Amway Grand today I wound up in the wrong session…and oh what a blessing. Sometimes all we focus on are tools and gadgets but we ignore what really makes educational technology work: the human side of things.
At Marquette Senior High School in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, teacher Eric Hammerstrom has created a bubbling media empire. MQTube.org is a product of Hammerstrom’s script writing class and broadcasts school events, especially sporting events via the Web. The beauty of today’s session to me was the fact that a site attracting 1300 visitors a day and sending programming all over the world is all accomplished with really basic equipment but truly runs on ingenuity.
“We jerry-rig everything,” Hammerstrom told attendees as he detailed stories about the benefits of having a metals shop across the hall from his studio. “I told (our shop teacher) that I needed some plastic spacers for a camera so he took the lid off of a Crayola marker, ground it down to size and drilled a whole in it. All of our plastic spacers are Crayola marker tops.” Eric admitted he couldn’t hook up a video camera to a computer but 2 weeks prior to his first class. With a little thought and problem solving, he figured it out and has since figured out how to create a phenomenal learning experience for students.
Besides “jerry-riggin’”, revenue generating was another area where this teacher’s ingenuity showed. His kids sell ads during morning announcements and local merchants sponsor various sports’ homepages. Assorted grants and some hometown networking have allowed MQTube to operate independently of school funding, thus allowing the site a comfortable bit of autonomy. The work Eric and his students are doing is a much a testimony to will power and ingenuity as it is testimony to the powerful things kids can do with video.