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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Digital Youth Portrait: Justin

This teenager learns advanced 3-D modeling, simulation, and animation at school. As a hobby, he combines his obsession with gaming and a passion for filmmaking to create animated movies made with recorded gameplay. More to this story.

I'm Justin. I'm sixteen years old and I use technology because it allows me to express myself like, to the fullest extent. Maybe six or seven I got my Game Boy,

Where I had the original Pokemon and yeah, that was the beginning for me.

Clyneice: He was introduced to technology fairly early. Because I was consulting in technology, I had my own computer, so the home computer became his computer. So he was a second and third grader with his own computer and I think that helped a lot.

Justin: If it's an A day, I have two tech classes. So I'll do programming and my interactive media class, three D modeling animation.

Christopher Dasenbrook: This class is about using mind to create the assets for video game simulations and informative pieces.

Computer voice: You're on my side of the arm rest. We're not gonna have problems, are we?

Christopher Dasenbrook: He's actually one of my best students. He has a very deep understanding of how things physically interact, but not only that, characters, dialog, story creation. He does very well.

Justin: One of the interesting things about animation is that it's not just animation. You need to know a lot of different things, like biology, to see how things move so you can make them move correctly. So he's trying to sneak. I still have the little kinks in it, but... So, you know, timing is essential. This is what actually controls pretty much all the animation. So I have my timeline and, you know, all this right here, all these little circles and the arrows and these, they're controls that you use to animate him.

Gideon Sanders: First things first, I want you to take out a piece of paper. I want you to answer this question.

What do you see as the greatest divide between East and West?

Justin: I love history, 'cause it's almost just like a storybook.

There are important people and heroes and bad guys and, you know, all that good stuff.

Gideon Sanders: Okay, I want you to go to www dot Nation Master dot com.

Justin: Nation Master.

Gideon Sanders: The great thing is that the students have an acumen for technology, if it's tapped into. Luckily, our students here have the opportunity and some of the resources at their fingertips in this school to really work with the technology.

And what I want you to do is click on the tab that says statistics. I think it's the second--

David Pinder: Bill Gates once said, "It's difficult to prepare kids for the next five years jobs, because they haven't been invented yet."

And so what we said in our vision was, we want to become the highest performing school in the nation, through the use of STEM technology education, science, technology, engineering and math, innovative master teaching, and then obviously a curriculum that changes to prepare kids for the competitive global market.

Gideon Sanders: I think if we don't tap into the technology resources and skills that the students have, we're missing the boat as teachers. So I try to foster it as much as possible. Giving them opportunities to do projects that use their technology skills, such as putting together videos and then uploading them to YouTube.

Student 1: This place is where we come to make a difference.

Gideon Sanders: I like trying new things. It stretches me as a teacher and it really does provide the students with a different kind of experience.


Justin: You know, we just kinda pick a place, we just spar.

Sometimes you need to let out a little anger or frustration.

Much bigger than me.

It's fun, 'cause I just love proving that I'm better than these two.

Justin: Hello, family. What are you making?

Woman 1: Cookies.

Justin: So, this game. This is a great way to just kind of blow off steam, but it's not something you would really obsess over. Not like World of Warcraft.

I played it because I've just heard so many good things about it, and everyone's like, "Oh my god, this game is wonderful."

And I was thinking, "You know, maybe I'll just try it out."

You know, I've kind of--

I'm kind of into the whole MMO thing.

But the reason definitely why I quit is 'cause I got nothing done. I didn't write scripts.

I didn't read. I didn't do anything. I'd just get home have to do my homework, just jump on this and just play it till I had to go to sleep.

Clyneice: Pretty much, I just talked to him about how important it was to not spend six hours and eight hours

And I think I talked to him about that kid somewhere in Asia that played forty eight hours straight and then died.

Clareice: It's tough.

Clyneice: So we talked about, "You don't wanna go too over focused. You don't wanna be too extreme." And he'd go, "Mom, you know, I really have this balance.

I got everything covered." So and I do feel that he has that.

Justin: This is Spore, and in this game, you model your own little alien creature and you kinda live through the stage of civilization.

So this is my creature right here. I can manipulate him as much as I want. I can grab hold of his spine, move his arms and do all sorts of things with him. It really is a good way to kinda teach the very basics of modeling.

Clareice: You try to get a balance between, how much are you, you know, micromanaging their lives?

Especially since they don't want you there. You know, when they start hitting seventeen, eighteen.

Justin: This is Michael.

To the dungeon.

Michael: Ah, bang.

Clareice: I think as a parent, you still have to make sure, because the digital opens the world.

Clyneice: Yes.

Clareice: It is just so all encompassing that if you stand back too far, you-- they'll get lost.

Justin: Well, that's crap.

My Xbox is definitely the most important part.

It's where I play the games that I film

For my machinima purposes.

The secret is turning pure game play into something that looks kind of like a movie and, you know, you'll have shots. You'll have music, you'll have, you know, dialog, actual dialog. I've written scripts for these sort of things.

What I have right here, it's a camera, kind of a camera, and through this

I can view everything that we just recorded.

And I can pause the action

and I can rewind it and whatever. I edit it,

you know, mix it all together, add special effects, add the sound effects.

You know, anything I need to amplify the cinematic experience. I can upload it and people will look at my stuff and you know, there are actually some decent film critics and I think of myself as one too, so I can look at my work and be like, "You know, that cut right there, that wasn't a really good one. Maybe if I'd gotten it from an angle." But I feel that I do improve over time

Clyneice: I do feel that, especially for Justin, technology is a good thing. I think it helps him to find something he can be passionate about, something that potentially see him in a career in. And so I do feel that as long as you've got some oversight and you're not allowing them to be totally kids and get into dangerous areas, that it's one of the most wonderful things for them, because this is the direction that the world is going in.

Michael: This is RPG Maker XP. It's a program that lets you build your own RPG.

Justin: And RPG is a role playing game.

Michael: Yeah.

Justin: So it kind of gives you like the standard kind of setup. And you can add in your own sprites or sound effects. He customized this and made it really unique.

Michael: Yeah, so you just pour all your dreams out right here. It's mainly for us.

Justin: For us, yeah. There isn't really a crowd of people out there waiting for us to-- give us our [inaudible].

Michael: I mean, this is a little community.

Justin: I mean, it's enjoyable to just do this and then kinda play through. It's like, you know, "I made this."

Michael: Yeah.

Justin: It's just a good feeling.

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Coordinating Producer

  • Lauren Rosenfeld


  • Karyne Holmes

Camera Crew

  • Brian Buckley
  • Brett Wiley
  • James Pride
  • Ken Ellis

Production Support

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Senior Video Editor

  • Karen Sutherland


Machinima: A term derived from machine and cinema that refers to filmmaking created through the real-time recording of computer games, virutal worlds, or any already existing three-dimensional digital environment or virtual world.

MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game): An Internet-based role-playing computer game that allows for millions of players to simultaneously engage in game play within a single online virtual world.

Maya: A three-dimensional modeling, animation, visual-effects, and rendering program.

Sources: Twinity.com, USA.Autodesk.com


Discussion Questions

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

2. Justin had his own laptop at a young age. Is this a good idea? Why, or why not?

3. Would you want to attend or teach at a school like McKinley? Why, or why not?

4. How would you describe the attitude of Justin's mother toward his digital lifestyle?

5. Is machinima a valid art form with learning potential? Or is it just kids goofing around?




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