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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Digital Youth Portrait: Dylan

Through his Green Your Lives initiative and a ThinkQuest Web site collaboration, this 13-year-old shows us how he uses tech to improve his community and the world. More to this story.

Digital Youth Portrait: Dylan (Transcript)

Dylan: My name is Dylan. I'm thirteen years old and I'm an eighth grader at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School. When I was really young my mom set me up on the computer with this huge ball mouse, with the most gigantic button in the front of it. And I used educational tools on the computer to help me learn my phonics and my alphabet. I'm not sure if I would know my alphabet if I didn't have technology. At seven fifteen, I go to the high school for my math class. I'm just not gonna talk about Michelle Obama's fashion. At about eight, I go to my regular middle school for the rest of my classes.

Kimberly Tufts: You have three choices on how you would like to represent your reflections in your website coding. And Dylan's gonna be actually picking his technology piece today. Dylan chose to just make a podcast so that he could voice record himself into Garage Band, export it as an iTunes file and then he embedded it into his web page.

Dylan: I've grown to see that the experience I have in middle school are much different than the ones I've had in elementary school.

Peter Keeley: In the fall of 2007, Dylan approached me, asking if I'd be a coach for him for his ThinkQuest project. I had never heard of ThinkQuest before, but when I read about it, I was fascinated. It's a global contest where students form a team and create a website that's supposed to be both informative and fun or entertaining for children, to raise awareness of whatever issue they decide to focus on. Through his other projects, he had already made connections iwht other students around the world that he wanted to be part of this team and he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

Dylan: The project we were working on was called Sentenced for Life and we were working on a website, trying to get more people aware about animal cruelty and how it could be possible to stop it. We used online forums and chats and conferences to communicate with each other. I collaborated with other children from Argentina, Japan and India to work on this project.

Peter Keeley: It's funny, because I'm a child of the fifties. I remember having projects in my class where two or three students said, "We can't work on this at home 'cause we live a mile away from each other." And in Dylan's project, they were collaborating continually. And again, it blows me away that students all over the world can have these daily discussions.

Dylan: I think it's pretty amazing to be able to have a conversation with people from other countries that easily, but honestly, since I've been doing it for a really long time, I've gotten used to that being able to happen.

Krithika: He writes songs. He composes music. He makes ring tones, downloads them. He makdes videos, publishes them, you know, on YouTube. He has karates on Sundays.

Dyland: Three, two, one, go.

Krithika: He walks around with friends, carrying his flip camera. They take random video clips.

Boy 1: Hey, you guys. Eat frozen eggs.

Dylan: Oh, I wish I was still filming.

Krithika: When they go out to shoot it, they have no idea, but when they come back, they would spend twenty, thirty minutes putting it together and sometimes it's just hilarious.

Boy 2: Ha, ha, you fell for it.

Krithika: They come up with something which is really interesting. I think it's made him a very creative person using all these technologies.

Kristin Yeaton: Dylan and two other students have come together. They're three very close friends and they sort of live by the motto that going green isn't a choice. It's a responsibility. He started a website, GreenYourLives dot org, and that sort of holds all of the information that his team is working on currently.

Dylan: The Go Green initative, I'm working with a few teachers. We're making movies and flyers to put up to help get the school district to start going green. And we actually now have all seven schools in the school district doing that. When I talk to people, the communication takes place through this chat box here. I like to use WebX because it allows me to show what's going on on my computer screen to someone that could be extremely far away. That ripple effect was a transition. And I'm showing video to the other people that are in the meeting to get them to help review. Okay, guys, guys, join. For fun, I go online and I play video games where you can collaborate with other people in a completely different location.

Peter Keeley: When I was in school, the expression was "Think globally and act locally," you know, 'cause that was basically the only option.

Dylan: Hello. I invited you to a game.

Peter Keeley: But I look at Dylan and realize that no, these kids can think globally and act globally too.

Boy 3: All right, we got it. Okay, let's go.

Dylan: Yesterday's film is very, very simple. Two of my friends started throwing snowballs at two of my other friends. All right, ready? Three, two, one.

Boy 1: Hey, you guys, eat frozen eggs.

Boy 2: Ha, ha. You fell for it.

Dylan: We usually come up with better plots than that.

Boy 4: Okay, that's good.

Boy 5: Hey, that was horrible.

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Paul Stern

Coordinating Producer

  • Lauren Rosenfeld


  • Steve Jensen

Camera Crew

  • Vox Television

Senior Video Editor

  • Karen Sutherland

Production Support

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Executive Producer

  • Ken Ellis
  • Excerpt of the song Radha Ramana performed by Jaya Lakshmi and provided courtesy of SequoiaRecords.com


Flip camera: A small, inexpensive digital video camcorder.

Podcast: One of a series of digital media files, usually audio or video, made available for download via Web syndication.

GarageBand: A software application that allows users to create music or podcasts.

WebEx: A Web-based service that combines real-time desktop sharing with phone conferencing.

Sources: Wikipedia.org, WebEx.com

Discussion Questions

1. Is Dylan typical of kids in your community? Why, or why not?

2. What skills did Dylan practice or learn through his ThinkQuest project? How can projects like this impact the lives of kids?

3. Does Dylan seem to have a balanced life? Why, or why not?

4. How does Dylan collaborate with his teachers? How could your school or community encourage this type of collaboration?

5. Dylan spends a lot of time collaborating with other kids online -- sometimes for fun, and sometimes for learning. Do you think he makes a distinction between the two? Why, or why not?

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