Here’s a nice positive story for a Monday morning:
It took almost a year and a lot of dedicated reporting, but 11-year-old Damon Weaver finally got his wish last week: to interview President Barack Obama. This soon-to-be sixth grader from Pahokee, Florida used Internet sites, like YouTube and SchoolTube, to spread viral videos, which landed him in a seat at the White House for a one-on-one with the president.
There’s a good chance you’ve already heard or seen Damon’s story. During the 2008 presidential election, he and his classmates from Kathryn E. Cunningham/Canal Point Elementary School received national media attention for the election coverage they were producing at their school’s news station, KEC-TV. Damon led the newsroom’s coverage by talking with many of Barack Obama’s supporters, including this interview with now Vice President Joe Biden which spread quickly across the Web.
Brian Zimmerman, the KEC-TV news club director and Damon’s teacher, oversaw the election coverage. He helped Damon and his classmates gain access to press events, so that the students could produce and edit broadcast segments like professional journalists. The resulting work has been posted online to video-sharing sites, including KEC-TV’s own YouTube channel, which has attracted nearly 50,000 page views.
In the lead up to Obama’s election and inauguration, it was Damon who received some noticeable media attention. Suddenly his YouTube newscasts were on CNN, and he was the one answering questions from the press corp. Even while he was on air doing his own interviews, Damon continued to request an exclusive interview with Obama.
On August 13 Damon finally got his chance to sit down with the president, and he asked some hard-hitting questions about school funding and youth violence. He also joked with the president about school lunches and how Obama handles the “bullies” who “say mean things” about him. Damon’s story highlights all that’s possible when students and teachers integrate technology into classroom settings, like the KEC-TV news club. By using social media and sharing sites, the student news program has connected with a global audience of viewers. This type of tech access and integration in schools can be powerful, and for Damon it made the impossible— an interview with Barack Obama—possible.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.