At 13, he's at helm of school newscast

Online: An imaginative eighth-grader uses his proficiency with computers and the latest video technology to create another way to get his school newsletter home to parents each week.

March 26, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Most schools have a newsletter they send home periodically to parents. Some even post the newsletter online as part of the school's Web site.

But a computer-savvy eighth-grader at Glenwood Middle School has found a way to combine the ubiquitous parent newsletter and the latest technology - sending the week's news and tidbits home on the Internet in an innovative and informative way.

Joey Spurrier, 13, has developed an online video newscast that he writes, films, produces and packages in a high-tech, real-time, imaginative broadcast nearly every week.

What once would have required a television station and a broadcast license to produce, "we can now do with an iMac computer and a video camera," said technology resource teacher Tom Miller, who supervises Joey's work.

"If a parent's on vacation in Hong Kong and they have an Internet connection," Miller said, "they can see what's going on in our school."

Each week, Joey looks over the Glenwood Cobra Connections newsletter and pulls out the most important or interesting items. He writes a camera-friendly script that a cheerful classmate reads as Joey stands on the other side of a digital camera, stopping her if she makes mistakes and watching for places where he can cut.

Then the real work begins.

Joey plugs the camera into the computer, imports the video into a software package called iMovie, edits it, creates slides and graphics on a program called Fireworks, adds transitions between clips, exports it to a program called Quicktime, exports it again to Real Media and, once it's converted to a usable form, puts it into a program called Dreamweaver.

The final product is a real video, with sound, viewable in a little box on a home or work computer screen - a mininewscast with middle-schoolers in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Sometimes, Joey includes clips from the latest choral, band or drama performances.

"We're really pushing the envelope here," Miller said.

The online video is unique in Howard County, he said, and possibly in the state.

"It sounds like a unique feature," said Barbara Reeves, the State Department of Education's director of instructional technology. "I haven't heard of anything like it. It's very imaginative and industrious of this student to do it."

Joey's been practicing for this gig since he was small.

"I've been working in computers like my whole life," said Joey. "My Mom got me started when I was really little, just typing and stuff. I like live on my computer at home. I'm on it all day, on the Internet."

Last year, Joey approached Miller and asked if he could help work on the school's Web page. Miller quickly learned how talented Joey is.

Unlike many of today's fidgety, rambunctious middle-school boys, Joey was computer-savvy and responsible. He was driven, Miller said, to turn a problem around and around until it was solved.

"You could show him something once and he knew how to do it and could do it better than you," Miller said. "He was very persistent with [learning] the software. A lot of kids would have given up."

Joey works on the online video at least four hours every week. In addition, he plays clarinet in Glenwood's band and loves to play basketball and tennis at home.

"Sometimes I lose a few hours of sleep, but that's because I start my homework late," Joey said. "But I can pretty much find time to do all of it."

The online video is catching on this year, Miller said. But he is certain more and more parents will consider it one more tool to stay in touch with their kids' school.

"We send out the [paper] newsletter, but true to form to middle school, 80 percent don't get home. They end up in the back of the bus or the bottom of the backpack," Miller said.

"This way, a parent can spend 2 1/2 minutes per week and get all the information they need."

Next year, Joey will go to Glenelg High School, and Miller will have to find someone to take his place - a task he acknowledges will be difficult. "After seeing Joey's results, there are several teachers waiting for him to get there," Miller said. "He doesn't know that though."

He does now.

"I like hearing people tell me I did a good job," Joey said, with a big grin. "It's reassuring.

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