Digital Youth Q&A: Cameron

Learn about Cameron's life in this in-depth interview.

Learn about Cameron's life in this in-depth interview.
Cameron

My name is Cameron, and I live in Indiana. I have my own Mac, and I just love making movies and stuff like that. I'm a very visual learner. If our teacher describes something that maybe I don't understand, I go back and look at it. Then I picture it, and I think, "Now, what would that look like if I put it on film or on the green screen?"

See Cameron's full portrait.

Edutopia.org: What is your typical day like?

Cameron: I wake up around 5:30. I eventually get on the bus, and school begins at 7:40. First, we do writing, then math, and then have lunch.

Then I produce the announcements, a day in advance, for the whole school to see about current events, the lunch menu for the day, and other important news. Then I have language arts, and the bus drops me off at my house around 2:45.

On Mondays, I go to my sister's dance class. While I'm there, I bring my Mac and work on my recent projects and movies. On Tuesdays, I have hockey practice. On Wednesday, I'm free, and that's when I come up with new ideas, projects, movies, and special effects to do.

Thursdays, I do an after-school program called Tech Club. We are making a documentary on how we are a four-star school. We will then present it to the school board. After this, I go to guitar lessons. I then rush home, eat dinner, and go off to hockey. On Fridays, I'm free unless there is an early hockey game. Usually on weekends, we have hockey trips or games. For away games, we go to Chicago and St. Louis. I always bring my laptop in the car and fiddle around with it.

What was your first piece of technology?

When I was four, I had this little red computer. It had only little mini-games on it, but I loved it so much. I played every single day.

My first project or technology thing I created was in the fourth grade. I made a Web site on Canada, because that is where I'm originally from. The summer before fifth grade, I got my Mac laptop. I figured out that my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Esterline, had her master's in technology. That's what really started me off.

At my school, we have a Mac cart with all these laptops we can do things on, so whatever I was working on at school, I could also work on at home. That is what started me off with making movies and Apple's GarageBand.

I go on YouTube a lot and do tutorials, such as how to do the green screen effect. YouTube is one of my main sources.

One day, I saw an Apple iPod commercial on TV, and I loved it. So I went on YouTube and searched out all those commercials. There was this one tab on how to make your own iPod video, and I thought that was just so cool, because I'd already made tons of movies and stuff like that. It said you needed a green screen, so I went out and I got nine green poster boards. I put thumb tacks on my garage and stuck the poster boards to the wall. It's not very high tech or anything, but it works as a green screen.

The next thing I needed was a program. I searched all around Apple's iMovie, looking for something that would support the green screen, but unfortunately, it didn't have it. I looked all over, and the one application that was affordable to me was Apple's Final Cut Express. That really got me doing new things, including iPod videos, lightsabers, and teleporting effects. And I'm still working on some.

What is your favorite book?

My favorite book would have to be Fablehaven. It's a book about these kids who go to their grandparents, and they own this mystical land and everything. I'm really into fantasy. I make a lot of movies with special effects, some things you really couldn't do in real life, but you can make it look like it's happening in real life by doing the movies.

What is your favorite movie?

My favorite movie is Jumper. It's about this person who discovers that he has this power, and he can teleport from one place to another. I made my own little mini-movie in which I was on the couch and there was a glass of water. I tried to put an effect in there that would be like teleporting. I came up with fun stuff.

What is your favorite music?

I like all types of music. My favorite band would probably have to be AC/DC, because I play the guitar and I like rock.

Tell me about the music video you made.

I took three shots, one of me playing a piano of the song, one of me playing the guitar of this song, and one of me singing the song. I muted out all of the sound, and I stuck the guitar playing over here, the piano playing over here, and the singing right here. It looks like there are three of me, like clones. And then I added the track in as the music. It was called "257 Weeks."

I didn't think it was exciting; it was just singing the whole time. And so what I did was minimize it a bit. And then I put an iPod as the frame and someone holding it. That's the music video I did.

What other things do you like to do?

I've played hockey ever since I was three. I've been on skates since I was two. And so that's a big passion. And I'm from Canada, so hockey is big up there. We travel all around the country, from St. Louis to Chicago and Ohio.

And then I also play the guitar, which I recently started this summer, and I just love it. I have a great teacher, and it's a lot of fun. Also, I want to improve my hockey with technology. What I am going to do is record myself doing a hockey wrist shot and then a slap shot. I'm going to put it in slow motion and then point out the things that I might need to work on. Like, if my hand is up higher, what would happen to my shot?

What is the Washington Project?

Last spring break, I went on this People to People Leadership Forum with tons of other kids. They were from all around the country, and we went there to learn about the memorials and leadership and past presidents and things like that. So I got the other kids' contacts -- their email and their cell phone numbers -- and I still keep in contact with them today. We share pictures. It's really good to see what's happening in Georgia and in California.

I also use Apple's iPhoto a lot for touching up pictures, such as a Christmas picture we used for our Christmas card. My mom thought it was a bit dark, so I adjusted the lighting just a little bit. I do all sorts of projects like that. I also love making music on GarageBand, recording my guitar and stuff like that.

What are you going to do this summer?

Have you ever cut grass? I have cut grass. It's -- I don't think it's my thing. So, instead, this summer, I'm going to send out a neighborhood email saying that if anyone would like all their picture memories combined with songs, I can make them a slide show with all sorts of transitions and text. I'm thinking about charging from maybe 10 cents a picture or however I'll lay that out. So, that's going to be my summer job.

The reason I'm doing it is because I would like to someday eventually upgrade my things. Right now, my little MacBook can't hold so much. And it's processing, but it's kind of slow. I would like to upgrade to something more advanced and then maybe get some more advanced programs, such as Adobe's After Effects or Apple's Final Cut Pro. That's a lot of money. It'll probably take a couple of summers to do that, and a lot of chores.

How much time do you spend online?

I'm constantly on the Internet. I mostly go to a site called Miniclip.com, which has tons of online games. You can play with people from around the world. I own a Nintendo Wii and a Sony PlayStation 2. I love those. I have Rock Band, which is a lot of fun. I actually get to play the guitar and do the drums.

I love video games, but I try to keep my balance on it and not play too much. Throughout the day, on my computer, I probably spend an hour online. At night, when it calms down, I spend 30-45 minutes.

And then how much time do you spend on homework?

I spend a lot of time, as much as I can, doing my homework and studying for quizzes. I have a really busy schedule; it's hard to fit in everything. I also have to practice for guitar, 30 minutes a day. But for homework, I spend as much time as I can so that I feel confident about my answers. I spend, if I have a lot of homework, around 45 minutes. If I don't have that much, I still have upcoming tests and quizzes, so I spend at least 20 minutes doing that.

With gaming online and the Wii, I spend about 45 minutes a day. And I'm on my Mac for at least an hour to an hour and a half a day. And that's sometimes including the online games.

Do you use a cell phone?

I use my cell phone a lot on hockey trips, because it’s a really good way to communicate. Sometimes, your parents are not there, and you need to tell them where you're going, and stuff like that. But then, sometimes, there are texts that just say things like, "Yo, hey," you know. So those fill up the in-box quite a bit.

But I love my cell phone. I think it's a great way to communicate. And if my parents need anything, I can call them. Or if I have after-school programs, I can call my parents' phones and ask them to come pick me up.

Do you have an iPod?

I do have an iPod. I love music, and I listen to all varieties. I use my iPod a lot on the bus in the morning and the afternoon. I usually bring it, and then, in the morning, I just listen to it or listen to it with a friend. A lot of times, to get focused before hockey games, you put on the headphones and listen to some music.

Do you listen to AC/DC?

Yup -- you know, to get me pumped up.

You said you sometimes look at an assignment and figure out ways to use digital technology with it. Tell me about the project you did for an assignment on integers.

I'm a very visual learner. If our teacher describes something that maybe I don't understand, I go back and look at it. Then I picture it, and I think, "Now, what would that look like if I put it on film or on the green screen?" Like I said earlier, I do the announcements.

During election time, we did our own little poll in the school. We were tracking numbers and interviewed some people. I went to my house, and I thought to myself, "Well, wait a minute. Wouldn't it be cool if I was at the real election?" I got a shirt and a tie on, went in front of my green screen, and said, "Hello, WIS, this is Cameron Murray reporting to you from Washington, DC." I talked a bit about the election, but what was really cool, I thought, was when it hit me about what you can do with the green screen -- you can go anywhere in the world you want just with that green screen.

OK, so, about the integer movie -- what came up was that Mrs. Esterline knows about my technology skills, and I've helped her before with some of her computer problems. She was teaching this lesson, but she thought that it wasn't very exciting just on the whiteboard.

She said, "Could you make a video of you holding a sign that says, 'I'm walking forward' and another sign that says 'I'm walking backward'?" And then I asked, "What would it be used for?" She said, "I could show that and then rewind it. Then I could teach that a negative number times another negative number equals a positive number, and a positive number times a negative number equals a negative number." Visually, me walking backward in reverse would equal me going forwards.

I made this video called Rewind, and I did tons of stuff -- I jumped off a swing and then I reversed it so it would look like I was on the ground and then I just came up onto the swing. I poured one glass of water into another. When I reversed it, it looked like the water was coming up from one glass into the other. I told her that I could just rewind it for her in the video. So I duplicated the clips, and she just thought that was awesome, because it was much easier. It really helped her out.

You've seen a lot of things that are probably not appropriate, I assume. Are there some parental controls over your computer use?

My parents give me a lot of trust. I earned it because, if I see something bad or wrong, then I just exit out of that site. I really don't understand why someone would put that on there. But, obviously, there are some people who would. A lot of video games are rated M, but some people my age are playing them. I don't really believe in that, because they're rated M for people 18 and older for a reason. I think that guidelines should be put there.

What do you think of this school?

I think that this school has progressed already. What I really thought was interesting in Tech Club is that we are doing a documentary on how we're a four-star school. We went back to a teacher that retired last year, and she has seen the school change over some 46 years. We got to see some of the pictures, and we heard all of her stories. I thought that was really cool to see the beginning and then now and then consider what the future might be like.

The school has progressed in technology a lot. We have two Mac carts that are filled with Mac laptops. It's just progressed so much that we can do so many more things, such as make movies.

What are you going to do in the future?

Well, I would really, really, really like to learn more about technology so that I might be able to teach others. I want everyone to understand that this is probably going to be the future. In fact, it might be totally different than it is now, and technology will be part of that. So if kids learn about technology now, then they'll understand it when they get older.

What's it like to teach older people how to do this? It's fun. What's interesting is that they're older but they know less than you. It's fun sometimes doing it the other way around. Instead of your teacher teaching you, you get to help them out on something.

I can't really predict what the future will be in ten years, but I know that I will be doing something with technology, whether it's in college or anywhere. I think that the world will just change so much with technology. And that's why I've gotten into it a lot. And so, when I do get ten years down the road, I hope that there is something out there that I could do that would really help some people maybe understand things better, or entertain them.

I love, love, love, love movies. I love watching them and then going onto the special features and watching how they made the movie. I would love it if I could go down the paths of movie producing, directing, or editing. If not that, then maybe work on a TV show or help someone learn by teaching technology, something along those lines.

Ken Ellis is executive producer of Edutopia video.

This article originally published on 5/27/2009

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