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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Digital Youth Portrait: Nafiza

An active participant in New York City's Global Kids organization, Nafiza explores international issues through gaming and virtual worlds. More to this story.

Nafiza: Technology, I technically use it from the moment I wake up, because my cell phone is my alarm clock. Like my iPod is in my pocket while I walk to school. Oh, and I have to check Facebook when I get home. My favorite games are like racing games and fighting games. I spend a lotta time on Dance Dance Revolution, which is awesome. And this is my avatar as she typically will look. And I think initially, when everyone goes into Second Life, they try to make their avatar look like themselves, like especially facial features wise, but I like the ocean very much. I thought I'd have a very oceanic kind of eye color, so I thought that was a good way, you know, to have my eye representative of me.

Barry Joseph: Nafiza has been amazing.

I met Nafiza two years ago when she joined our virtual video project, which is a programing which the youth make animated movies about global issues.

Video character: She's wearing a Dalai Lama necklace.

Video character: You're suspended.

Barry Joseph: So for example, one project might mean that they build something in Second Life, but then they'll photograph it and move it up to Flickr and then bring it from Flickr into a digital comic program, output that as a PDF, and then put it up in a blog entry on the blog. So the virtual becomes the central place for gathering and to organize what they're learning, but it's all about interconnecting all these different mediums together as part of a seamless educational experience.

Student 1: Currently I'm working on getting the movie down to one minute, trying to put the scenes together, 'cause there's a--

Tabitha Tsai: Now the exciting part about their film making of that, they're not using real life cameras. They're using everything virtual. So they're using Second Life,

which is a virtual community, as a platform to learn. They're learning about computers and all the software embedded and they're learning to work with each other.

Nafiza: -- and after he notices that he can't get equal access to education in China, he decided to leave with his mother--

The virtual video project we're doing is injustices in the educational system. And we divided them into the United States, Brazil and Tibet. So each individual group is going to focus on capturing a one minute film on the struggle one child has when they're trying to attain higher education.

Video character: At this rate, we can't afford to keep you in school. The tuition is already too expensive for us Tibetans.

Video character: It's just not fair.

Nafiza: I am helping a lot of the students with little things like how do you turn the camera, how do you edit this, how do you cut this? So I have taken on a more leadership role than I did last year when I was also a student learning.

Barry Joseph: Every year, something new is coming out, and then something new is replacing something else. And they grow and they expand and they reconnect. That's gonna keep happening over their lives. And what we need youth to be able to do to be digitally literate, is to be able to not just know how to use the tools that are currently in their lives, but how they can take advantage of the latest tools when they come out, teach themselves and figure out how to apply them for their education or for being civically engaged.

Nafiza: There's just so many topics and world issues going on out there, it's hard to choose one--

Last year I was judging the Games for Change contest, and through that, I got to know about a lot of different games, like Karma Tycoon dot com and Darfur is Dying. And they're basically games based on the different struggles that are going on, and you know, what's going on in Darfur. It's a very complicated issue. It's not just ethnicity. It's also, you know, border issues. So it's a really good way to, you know, introduce little kids to the topic and give them a touch of reality. Let's see.

Barry Joseph: Nafiza very quickly became one of the young people in the program that people look to for advice and support. We're able to see her confidence of her ability, to use the program as a space for her to not just do great things by making an amazing movie that's been seen by over 10,000 people, but take up a role amongst her peers and within the society where she can see herself as a leader.

Nafiza: My iPod is like my entire life, especially in the summer, and whenever it dies it's like, recharge, listen to it while it's charging, unplug, walk around, do something, listen to the iPod. But, you know, I have to start relying on something that has better battery life. Yeah.

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Coordinating Producer

  • Lauren Rosenfeld


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew

  • Orlando Video Productions

Production Support

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Additional Footage and Still Photographs Courtesy of

  • Global Kids


Teen Second Life: An internet-based 3D virtual world where people ages 13-17 can meet, create, and socialize using voice and text chat.

Avatar: A term referring to the digital representation of a user of any virtual world, computer game, or other Internet-based online community.

Global Kids: An organization committed to educating and inspiring urban youth to become successful students as well as global and community leaders.

Comic Life: A desktop publishing program for the Mac used to design comic strips.

Digital Literacy: The ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate and create information using digital technology.

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

Sources: Twinity.com, Teen.SecondLife.com, GlobalKids.org, Wikipedia.org

Discussion Questions

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

2. Is it surprising that Nafiza spends so much time playing video games? Why, or why not?

3. Nafiza uses technology "from the moment she wakes up." Is she over-connected?

4. What skills is Nafiza learning by participating in Global Kids? How is Global Kids changing her worldview?

5. Why do you think kids like Nafiza enjoy virtual worlds like Second Life? Do virtual worlds have any learning potential?

Comments (2)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Suzanne Arkin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a Board member of Global Kids, this is the first time I really got a complete understanding of what these amazaing kids can do in this outstanding and amazine program.

I don't know where Nafiza is going to college, but make sure her favorite choice sees this. she comes across as a first rate student and leader.

Barry gets top hurrahs from me.

And enormous thanks to the George Lucas Foundation

SeanProctor's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Video Name: Digital Youth Portrait: Nafiza

Grade Level: High School though the subject is in 12th grade
The students were making a movie using an online world as a way to communicate. Students created avatars and held meetings. The world was akin to an MMORPG or the Sims. They used editing technology and uploaded images as a pdf file.

The students were able to interact socially and learned how to make a movie. Also, the skills learned in order to produce said movie are practical and will have value outside of the assignment.

I was surprised to see a video game being played that I would recognize, even though she didn't play Mortal Kombat efficiently. I enjoyed watching the video though.

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