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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Digital Youth Portrait: Jalen

In school, at home, and in the Digital Youth Network, Jalen thrives as an artist, animator, and digital-media creator. More to this story.

Jalen: I was, I think, three years old when I first went on the computer. ^MUI was five when I got my Game Boy, used to play that every day. It was just so fun, so I equally use my Game Boy and my computer, so I get an hour to play each so that I would do basketball during the time that I wasn't doing technology. And when during the times I wasn't doing anything I would just lay down and chill.

Zoey. Zoey.

At seven years old, that's really when I started drawing a lot. I like it. It's fun, and the people compliment on my drawings, so I think that's kind of fun. And then at 10 years old, when I went to 5th grade, I made my first comic book. And after that I went into sixth grade, and that's when I got my laptop, and then I started using that more often. I joined the DYM program.

Akili Lee: If you know your account, pull it up on your laptop.

The Digital Youth Network was really trying to look to see how now the students are really inundated with all this new technology. How does that impact how kids socialize, and then how does that, in turn, impact how they learn as well?

There's a project called "Editing Project 1." Everybody got that?

The kid can come in and they can do digital music production, graphic design and animation, game design or digital video production.

Why do they go slow motion? Why were they going slow motion, though?

Akili Lee: The kids on their own are jumping across from all these different mediums, so we really need to kind of explore all of them as well and try to support kids to become better producers and consumers, and critique is within all these different pieces.

So Remix World is kind of like MySpace, kind of like Facebook mixed with a little bit of YouTube as well, so you can go on there. You can post your own videos that y'all make. You can post the music that you're making. I saw that you were remixing a song online already.

I did.

Akili Lee: Remix World is a contained social-networking site that's only open to our students and our mentors.

So the rest of the kids in the school can actually see what you guys are doing, and you can also go in and you can comment and critique on what everybody else has done.

So, the idea is that students for us are already spending all of their time on all these different social-networking communities around the Web. Why can't we re-appropriate those kind of tools and then there's more formal educational context?

Jalen: I post up videos, poems and just whatever I thought was, like -- that my opinion was it was cool. I would post up on the Remix World to see what other people thought. Sometimes on YouTube I get worse feedback than the Remix World. Well, I'm okay with that, though, because I know there's a lot of people on YouTube that're better than me at what I do, because they've been doing it longer and they know how to do it better. I accept that and I'll try harder to make mine just as good as theirs.

That's one of the shoes I've created. First I just took a layout of the normal Nike Dunkers just plain white, and after I add in colors and different, like, images. When I created this shoe I was thinking of Halloween, so I put in some 3D pumpkins almost all across the front of the shoe.

Scoop: Have your seat. Do your thing. Sit back and get out of your way.

Jalen has always been creative, always, and he did that. In his mind kind of thinks a little different. He's very open, and to see him fall into something that can connect with where his mind goes sometimes and be able to have him do something tangible, it's amazing to see that.

Jalen: "A Division to Our Own" was a movie that we made in the summer. I enjoyed it. I was a graphic artist, so technically what I did was I created all the posters.

I decided to use fingerprints, because that's your identity, and I put them in different colors for different races like that.

You can sit wherever you'd like.

Jalen: The movie was technically about a class, which was in Room 201, and how races were segregated and that they then discussed about racism.

At the top it says "what divides us," so they're all divided apart, and that there on the bottom, it says "what unites us" and then they're all in one circle.

Tracy: It feeds into his academics. He's reading. He's learning and he's figuring out how to incorporate all of the technology into that. And I think it's teaching him different ways to think about things and to figure out problems, so I see him becoming even a better student as a result.

Jalen: Sometimes we have assignments like book reports and stuff, so what I usually elect to do for my book report is make a comic, where I have, like, little squares where I could put, like, some pictures in there and have the speech bubble coming out and it says, "Hi. This is a book report from Jalen Jackson," yadda, yadda, yadda, all that stuff that you need in the book report. And sometimes we have to do PowerPoints. Sometimes we do games, all that stuff.

Akili Lee: Jaden has been in video games for a couple of years now, so last year they were using a tool called Scratch.

Jalen: Scratch is a program where you kind of make your own characters, and after that you edit their actions so that they could probably, like, run maybe or anything.

Akili Lee: Then all you got to do is tell the program that when I press left or something that I want it to do the walking animation.

Jalen: Yes, and after that I put it into my game.

Akili Lee: Jalen is typical in the sense that I think he embraces exploration, but I think he's a little bit more unique in the sense that he takes it a step further on his own very often, so he decides that he likes anime, but now on his own he decided that he was going to learn how to create an anime music video.

Jalen: The idea was cut up different clips. Then I pick a really good song that I think will go good with the clips, and I thought I'd just put it all together.

Scoop: He's really into this, and me sitting there literally creating a video, a music video. First four or five hours and he have a three-minute video together. Six months later, four or five hours he'd had four or five, four videos together, so it was like, wow. And he's very, very, very passionate about it.

What's television class going to be like, Jalen?

Jalen: I think we're recording this week.

I need some sort of outline what you guys are going to do on your show.

Jalen: They want us to be able to make a movie using all those skills of writing. They want it to have a good storyline.

So president [ lesson ].

Jalen: They want it to have a certain amount of vocabulary that'll be appropriate for a seventh-grade level, and they want it to be at least something that would be interesting to watch.

Right now I'm editing the clips shorter so that it kind of looks more like a movie and not just like pictures just floating out of the air. So I'm going to see how that works out first. [ Laughs ] The stuff goes faster as I [ inaudible ].

Tracy: Jalen's a silly… …12-year-old.

Scoop: And he's proud of being silly.

Jalen: Shut up. Give me my game.

Tracy: And he likes being silly.

Scoop: He likes being silly.

Jalen: [ inaudible ] our show too.

No, he doesn't.

Jalen: No, he does.

Tracy: He always has an idea, always has an answer. If I say, "Jay, can you not do that?" it's always a good reason for why it should be done. So, I mean, he's a typical 12-year-old.

Jalen: Thirty minutes. So, now I am eligible to play video games.

What I want to do when I grow up is I want to be a cartoonist and a video game maker and artist. Technically they all come together, though. So, I think that this -- all of this graphic design, gaming, all of this stuff that I do will contribute to my cartooning and gaming one day, all these technology programs that I do.

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Maria Finitzo

Coordinating Producer

  • Lauren Rosenfeld


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew

  • Kartemquin Films
  • Jim Morrissette
  • Zak Piper

Production Support

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Executive Producer

  • Ken Ellis


Remixing: The process of taking samples from preexisting materials to combine them into new forms.

Scratch: A programming language that makes it easy to create interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art.

Anime music video (AMV): A music video consisting of clips from one or more anime series or movies set to songs.

Anime: Japanese animation.

Sources: Wikipedia.org, Scratch.MIT.edu, RemixTheory.net


Discussion Questions

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

2. How is Remix World facilitating collaboration and reflection? What are some publicly available online tools that could accomplished the same goals?

3. How does digital media complement Jalen's interest in graphic design?

4. How would you describe the attitude of Jalen's parents about their son's passion for digital media?

5. What skills does Jalen practice or learn through his movie and animation projects? How can projects like this impact the lives of kids?




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