A vision for the Internet generation

Online tool incorporated into MPS graduation requirements

For nearly as long as there’s been television, parents have been dubious of its benefits for their children.

What, then, to make of Tel.A.Vision?

A growing number of educators already have embraced the new online video-making tool, which was developed by a Minnesota entrepreneur and had its national rollout March 20. Starting next year, Tel.A.Vision will be incorporated into Minneapolis Public Schools’ college and career planning requirements for graduation.

The Tel.A.Vision website (www.telavision.tv) allows students to combine words, pictures and music into short “vision videos” that express their hopes and dreams for the future. They can then share the videos online.

Its developers say Tel.A.Vision holds particular appeal for a generation reared on the Internet.

“I think what’s going to grab [students] is it’s a very easy program to use,” Danielle Jastrow, coordinator of the AchieveMpls Career and College Center at Southwest High School, said.  “The technology is very person-friendly.”

Jastrow said Tel.A.Vision would be incorporated into My Life Plan, a post-college planning activity that is required for graduation beginning next school year. Creating a vision video will be one option for seniors to complete the My Life Plan requirements.

Tel.A.Vision founder George Johnson said it was his belief in the power of vision that inspired him to develop the tool.

“It doesn’t matter if you accomplish the dream,” Johnson said. “It matters if you have something you are working toward.”


A positive vision

Johnson, a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” helped to start several businesses, including Internet Broadcasting, a TV news website host and developer, in 1994. He now works as a “vision coach” to executives and spiritual leaders through his company Entrevis.

Johnson said Tel.A.Vision combined his background in video technology and the Internet with his experience in helping others to set and achieve life goals.

“Whatever you focus your attention on is what you’re going to get,” he said. “… Tel.A.Vision was started to put more hope and positivity in the world by having kids create these vision videos of their future.”

The technology powering Tel.A.Vision was developed by One True Media, a company based in Redwood City, Calif., that markets photo and video editing software. The website has hundreds of licensed photographs, songs and video effects that can be incorporated into the three-minute videos.

“Kids just love this stuff,” Johnson said.

For many students who spend their after-school hours surfing the Internet to sites like YouTube, Facebook and Flickr, using the Tel.A.Vision tools comes naturally.


Engaging students

The website was piloted by teachers and students in the Stillwater school district, which is not far from Johnson’s Lake Elmo home.

Darrell Salmi, a seventh-grade health and physical education teacher at Oak-Land Junior High School, said he recently had students create Tel.A.Vision videos about the potential negative effects of drug, alcohol and tobacco use. In the past, students completed the same assignment by creating posters.

The difference this year, Salmi said, was “the kids got more deeply involved in it, with their message.”

Salmi’s students, many of who are comfortable with online technology and use it often at home, had fun with the assignment and seemed more engaged with the work, he said. The end product was better, too.

“With Tel.A.Vision, the message is real,” he said. “It seems live to them. They’re hearing it [and] they’re seeing it.”


Post-secondary planning

For Minneapolis Public School students, the vision videos they create using Tel.A.Vision will focus on post-high school college and career aspirations.

Southwest’s Jastrow said high school seniors would have the option of creating a vision video for their capstone project, the final step in completing My Life Plan. For their capstone project, seniors must produce something — such as an essay or art project — that both reflects on their high school career and also looks ahead to life after high school.

My Life Plan was introduced with the 2006–2007 freshman class, and so next year’s seniors will be the first required to complete a capstone project before graduation.

Jastrow said the district’s AchieveMpls coordinators and licensed school counselors recently were trained in using Tel.A.Vision. Several of the adults created their own videos within an hour or so of being introduced to the program, which means Tel.A.Vision should be a snap for today’s tech-savvy kids, she said.

Jastrow said students are drawn to interactive media. And like generations of teens long before the Internet Age, they crave control.

That’s exactly what Tel.A.Vision gives them, she said.

“They’re able to combine music and pictures [with] their thoughts and personality,” Jastrow said. “They can put their stamp on what it will be.”