I read the other day in the Courier Gazette that the North Texas History Center is considering getting involved in an educational video website called TeacherTube as a way of compensating for losing a major portion of their funding from the County. (click here to see the article). I’d never heard of TeacherTube before but the concept makes sense when you consider to problems inherent in using the Internet for education with virtually no safeguards on content. It turns out TeacherTube is local start-up, originating in Melissa, and is a YouTube/Metacafe kind of site but specifically geared to house educational content that is usable by schools.
The article mentioned that the videos would provide a source of revenue, but I am not sure exactly how, unless it is by advertising. That’s fairly legitimate. Back in December, I heard this great interview on NPR’s All Things Considered about how an out-of-work hedge fund manager was making three thousand a month off of the advertising on his YouTube channel were he posted tutorial videos. It seems that his cousin in New Orleans was having trouble “getting” algebra so, since he was all the way in Boston, he invested in an inexpensive screen capture program and made videos which he posted on YouTube for her, explaining algebra in a way that made sense for his cousin. In fact, they made sense to a lot of other kids too and he soon had a following. After realizing the effectiveness for this approach with his niece and her peers, it occurred to him that this method would also be useful to adults and began to include videos about the mechanisms of the federal reserve system. His YouTube channel, KhanAcademy, is now a registered 501(c)(3) with over 800 videos covering algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, finance, statistics, probability, economics, physics, exam preps and more. It’s incredible to think that this all started with a loved one’s need and a $20 piece of software. I wish this had been around in the ’90’s. Stats was brutal for me and I learned more from the red ink on my tests than anything else. That was a hard-won “C” for me.
The museum will be needing seed money to get videos shot and, according to the Gazette article, is seeking grant funding from various sources as well as corporate sponsorship. I had wondered if corporate sponsorship might be at least a partial solution for them. In my hometown of Ennis, there is a National Polka Festival that depends heavily on the corporate sponsorship of Budweiser. While I realize that an alcohol distributor would be an unsuitable sponsor for something that will be going into schools, I have to point out that they have made a lasting tradition possible in that town that means a lot to a whole lot of people.
Corporate sponsorship is a valuable thing, though it is getting harder and harder to come by and is, believe it or not, subject to a lot of politics. The economy has really put a dampener on many of these corporations that used to give out grants. Starbucks used to have a grant program that did exactly this type of program. According to their community involvement web site, it looks like they are more into community organizing than in simply funding programs now. The History Channel had a program called Save Our History that used to also give out grants but it looks like the program is being reconsidered and my Google gave me a search result that said that they would not be extending grants in 2010 & 2011. One of the few that I could find in a quick google that might be helpful was Barnes & Noble who, though not giving out grants, has a sponsorship program for literary, arts and educational organizations.
It would be wonderful to hear of local companies that would step up to bat to get this program off the ground. One of the other things I learned while working for a safety-net health clinic in Florida is that grant writers can cost a pretty penny more than a standard Christmas party. After hearing the news of how well our area ranked nationally in terms of resident wealth, it would be a real shame if supporters did not come forward from our own community.
So those are my thoughts for today. Take them or leave them. I sincerely wish the museum well in their endeavor and encourage folks in McKinney to let them know if someone local would be interested in sponsoring them.
Please feel welcome to leave thoughts, comments or criticisms below!