The Internet is rife with videos of kids doing goofy stuff and making fun of the world. Now several Minnesota school districts are teaming up with civic groups and an Internet start-up company to build a channel for kids to talk seriously about their dreams.
Called Tel*A*Vision, it's the brainchild of George Johnson, the entrepreneur who co-founded Internet Broadcasting Systems, one of the country's top publishers of TV-news-oriented websites.
Tel*A*Vision is a Web tool that helps students assemble "vision statements" in short video clips, then puts them online. The videos consist of uploaded pictures, clip art and written statements; the system also provides a selection of background music to play along with the visual elements.
Next year the Minneapolis School District is adopting the program. Its high school students will be able to make videos detailing their dreams as part of their graduation requirements.
The system is being tested in several places, including at Lake Elmo Elementary School.
"We're very excited about it," said Shelly Landry, lead counselor for Minneapolis schools. "It's a natural fit for the personal and career counseling we do."
In one video at the Tel*A*Vision website, www.telavision.tv, a girl named Jasmine says she wants to live in Africa, be a veterinarian, get married and have children. "I am a vet," she writes.
The Lake Elmo school is introducing the video to its fifth-graders, said Principal Andrew Fields. "It informs them of what they need to do to get to where they want to be," he said, and "gives kids the opportunities to get to know their friends better."
"It has had a profound effect on how they treat each other in the hallway," he said.
But perhaps the most appealing feature is that it lets students who may not have computer access at home practice on computers doing something they like. About 23 percent of the Lake Elmo school's students are eligible for free and reduced-cost lunches, a sign that they may not have Internet access at home. "This has really exposed all our children to the potential of what they someday could become," Fields said.
Johnson, the entrepreneur, said that currently the basic service is free, but that there is a $40 annual charge for an upgraded level of service. He said he believes it's vital for kids all over the world to see and hear one another's dreams. "Our goal is to make this a worldwide movement," he said.
Gregory A. Patterson • 612-673-7287