What did you get for Christmas? A camera?

•December 27, 2012 • 1 Comment


I just got back from the dentist. My mouth is still numb and I’m trying not to drool on the keyboard. An hour earlier, while waiting for the novacaine to take effect, I overheard a couple of technicians talk about what they got for Christmas. One said to the other, “My husband got me another camera. That’s the third camera I’ve gotten in the last year and a half and most of the time I just use my phone!” This woman was new to the office so I refrained from asking the question that any red-blooded public educator that is trying to keep an under-funded media program together would ask: Would you consider donating the ones you never use to my program?

Of course, I didn’t go there but I started thinking about all the digital media tools that are still in working condition that get left in drawers because of the purchase of next best thing. Those 2-3 year old digital still and/or video cameras would work well with our 6-10 year old computers. Then I started thinking about how most people are very generous and supportive when they see a specific need that they can help with, especially one that helps the development of children and youth.

I decided that it’s a good time to revisit my neglected blog as a way to back pedal and ask everyone and anyone the questions I wanted to ask that technician. Do you have any digital cameras (especially video) that you no longer use that are in working condition? Would you consider donating them to Studio 19 (my media program at Slauson Middle School in Azusa, CA)? You can also help by sending a link to this blog to anyone you know that might be able to help.

Thank you for taking time to read this and help spread the word. More awareness of what we are trying to do builds more support. I’m excited about the possiblities this class creates for our students and excited to see what the next year will bring! Happy New Year!

Here is some contact information.

Kimball Coburn, Jr., Media Teacher

Slauson Middle School, 340 W. 5th St., Azusa, Ca 91702, (626) 815-7300


(By the way, if you are looking to move out your old iMac, I could use that as well!)


I Love This Kind of Stuff.

•November 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Really. What do you think?

Update – “I’m Back!”

•November 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Studio 19 Logo

“I’ve been busy” is a terrible excuse for not keeping up with something you enjoy. I like the idea of blogging, but… I’ve been busy. Busy has been mostly a good thing. Life is good. My family is well. I have wonderful students.

Now, let’s get caught up.

In my last blog, I talked about starting a multimedia program at my school. I think our first year was successful. Students worked in “Studio 19” in a 21st Century Learning/Project-based environment. We used media tools such as MS Office, Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements, and Audacity to create presentations, displays, and videos. We finished the year with our first annual La Pantera Student Video Festival and Awards Show with a red carpet entrance, tympani drum rolls, and scaled-down Oscar-style “Pantera” trophies. Those students did a lot of writing, designing, and problem-solving.

As good as it sounds, we can do better. Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements, a digital still camera and two Flip camcorders were donated from generous sources, but the six computers we have are several years old and could barely handle our work load. We had to limit the number of students due to lack of equipment. Support from the school district was felt in the form of moral support, but not financial or technical. This was also very limiting, and at times, highly frustrating.

Year two has begun. Unfortunately, there has been no change in the equipment/technical/financial department. But, at the heart of all this are my students. Maybe they’re not all creative geniuses, but I enjoy being someone who allows them the opportunity to become one.

A Call to Arms!

•June 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Summer is almost here and I’m excited. Yes, of course I’m excited to have some time off and to hit the beach. But, I’m also excited about putting together a new program for next year. Next year, I’m scheduled to teach a leadership class, a print media class (newspaper/yearbook), and three multimedia classes. As great as this sounds, I know it won’t be easy. I have seven sometimes-working computers, limited software, students with little experience, and no budget. I am, basically, starting from scratch. That’s actually part of the excitement of it. I would love to see something really take off! I plan on looking for and writing for any grant opportunities I can find online, but I’m thinking, so is everyone else.

In the past, friends have been great resources for my students. Charles Cappleman at CBS brought a group of my students into the CBS Television City boardroom and talked with them about the future of media and, more importantly, about being lifelong learners and creative, collaborative problem-solvers. Peter Smith at NBC arranged time to take students into the studio for a live newscast and a detailed tour. Collie Coburn (my ever-supportive brother) gave up several sleepless nights in his studio helping me edit and mix slideshow soundtracks (pre-digital). Rob Courtney (music and film), Ed Hume (graphic design), Eric Tramp (film), Randy Booth (advertising), Hai Muradian (song writing), Matt Snyder (music history), Sean Loether (music history), Chris Maury (make-up), Sam Carruth (poetry), Chris Bonomo and Sara Spradlin (dance), and even my mom and dad (art and music) have shared their creative talents and insights with my classes. Unfortunately, it’s been several years since I have been able to take a field trip. I haven’t had a good opportunity to invite these kinds of guests. Language Arts has become more about isolated bits of information needed to pass a test and less about the arts.

Now that I have been given an opportunity to create a program, I feel a good kind of stress (challenge) that’s rooted in freedom. So, this is where the “call to arms” idea comes in.

If you can help in any of these ways, you are a great resource!

  • Are you aware of funding opportunities (that you wouldn’t mind sharing)?
  • Can you help secure more/better equipment?
  • Can you help secure software?
  • Can you help secure digital cameras (still and video)?
  • Can you help with miscellaneous items such as microphones, green screens, Cds, DVDs, and flashdrives?
  • Can you help arrange a field trip?
  • Can you visit my classroom?
  • Can you send positive, hope-filled vibes?
  • Can you send a link to this blog to anyone that might be able to help?
  • Does any one know George Lucas, Steven Speilberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc.?
  • Does anyone know Kevin Bacon?

I know it’s a long-shot, but wouldn’t be great if something came of all this?

Why not?


Because I’m 50

•May 31, 2010 • 3 Comments

I really did not want to make a big deal about turning 50 this year. I still feel like that guy, fresh out of college without a fully developed frontal lobe. I may not look like that guy anymore, but sometimes in my mirror at home, I can still see him. The problem is, sometimes I purposely ignore reality. But reality keeps tugging at me – actually more like poking me in the chest. Even though I don’t want to make a big deal out of 50, reality points out annoying little things and like a bratty sister reminds me that it’s because I’m 50.

Me: The fine print is blurry.

Reality: Because you’re 50.

Me: My knee gets sore from sitting in a movie theater.

Reality: Because you’re 50.

Me: I can’t sleep if I’ve had a cup of coffee after noon.

Reality: It’s because your 50.

Me: I can sit under an umbrella on the beach for hours and not go in the water.

Reality: It’s because you’re 50.

Me: I enjoy a good  jello salad.

Wait!!! Stop! Stop! Stop! I have always enjoyed a good  jello salad! Don’t even go there. I’m really ok with being 50. I don’t need to be 22 again. But don’t stereotype me because of a delicious side dish or, sometimes, dessert.

By the way, lime jello with pineapple and walnuts is my favorite.

Freshman at University of the Pacific

The Dead Sea Squirrels

•May 26, 2010 • 3 Comments

This is a great name for a band. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for it. The credit belongs to a rather large group of students at the middle school where I teach. There was a lot of confusion the other day when several classrooms went on a walking field trip to see a display of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Apparently, many of those students thought they were going to see the Dead Sea “Squirrels” and yes, they were a bit disappointed.

I have always found middle schoolers to be quite entertaining and I certainly got a chuckle out of this situation. As funny as it was, it also hurt. Had these students never heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls? I wince to think that I am an educator and I am part of a system that has become more about test prep and less about cultural literacy. Cultural literacy leads us to be active members of our world. Culturally literate people have a sense of purpose, passion, and joy. When we bypass their need for cultural experience, we contribute to a dull future.

Am I saying that all my students are culturally illiterate? Of course, not. But too many of them live very limited lives. They don’t enjoy good stories. They don’t go to concerts, art galleries, or see plays. They don’t participate in religious activities. They’ve never been to the beach, the mountains, or just about anywhere outside of Azusa. Their games don’t involve much in the way of wordplay, or intellectual exchange. They don’t create. They don’t imagine possibilities.

Some people say that cultural literacy is really the parents’ responsibility.  I can understand why they might think that. I know in my own experience, my parents were my best teachers, but that doesn’t mean that school shouldn’t do all it can as well. I know we have to take the test score situation seriously, but doesn’t it make sense that fascinated, purposeful, broadminded, and focused students might score better? Maybe we’d have a few more of those if we acted on our value of cultural experience.

Even though a few field trip students were disappointed about not seeing dead squirrels that had once lived in the sea, I’m sure they went home enlightened (and embarrassed) when they learned the significance of this ancient document. Words on a page  – pretty cool.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

•May 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I just turned 50 and I’m still working on it.

If you had asked me that question when I was five years old, I’d tell you I wanted to be a Beatle. My parents have tapes of me with my plastic guitar, singing my version of “Hard Day’s Night”. (My lyrics were a little off.)

In first grade, I traded my guitar for my brother’s drums and it stuck.

I went to college with some clothes and my drumset. I played in a few bands but I worked at KUOP-FM. I wrote and recorded promos, produced a couple of shows, and did a little on-air talent.

After college, I ended up back behind my drumset. Being a rock musician in L.A. doesn’t always pay the rent, so I also worked as a substitute teacher. I was encouraged to consider teaching as a career. I liked it. Everyday was different. I was doing something positive. I decided to get a credential and use my talents to teach.

Really, it was never about being a rock star. I wanted to be creative. I wanted to be an example to someone else. I wanted to be myself and to be valued.

Twenty-two years later, I’m still a teacher. Of course, I also still play the drums. And I’m darn good.