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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Digital Youth Portrait: Olivia

Without the means or easy access to the newest high tech tools, this resourceful and strong-willed young woman considers technology her lifeline. More to this story.

Olivia: My name is Olivia. I'm seventeen and I've lived in San Francisco my whole life. I don't have a computer. I don't always have a cell phone but technology is like my lifeline. The places I go to get access for computers is either at school, downstairs in my building, or if I'm at a friend's house.

Candace Dinh: How many of you guys have access to a computer in your home? Okay.

Olivia: My school is a continuation school, or you could call it credit recovery.

Candace Dinh: How many of you guys know how to upload videos and upload pictures? Okay. So before I give you guys an assignment, we can actually all go to the computer lab, and then whoever knows how to do it can demonstrate.

I think about one third of the students in the classroom have access to a computer at home.

If I gave you guys an assignment like create a video, would you do something like that, as a final project?

Everybody: Yeah.

Kyle Moneypenny: Find the area of one side.

The majority of them don't have access to machines. The assumption is, "Well, they don't know how to use them then." Well, as soon as you plop them down in front of a computer, they're on MySpace, they're going to Facebook, they're sending emails. I mean, so it's clear that they've had access.

I'd say Olivia, I think she's kind of savvy and I think she's curious about learning new things. And I think soon, you're going to have high school classes and other jobs and things like that where a main form of communication will be through IMing and social networking.

Olivia: This is my MySpace page. I got like a picture right here, so a little context of me. Pictures, a music video, me and my sister. Miscellaneous comments that people sent me. And my mom, she's a big poker fan, so she wanted me to do her page all poker. So I got these little falling aces. This profile, like the background, we made it ourselves and I put all the family on here. It's pretty cool. And I made a MySpace for my mentor Dawn.

Yeah, he's cute.

Dawn Kruger: Yeah.

Olivia: He's at the--

Dawn Kruger: Olivia and I were matched back in-- oh my goodness, it'll be eight years in November.

Were we at Pier Thirty Nine? Was that where we were, having dinner? Where were we?

I'm her big sister in the Big Sister, Big Brother program.

Olivia: Dawn, she's just a real understanding person and no matter what I was going through, she was always there to just like back me up.

Dawn Kruger: She's amazingly creative. She's helped me with my MySpace page, which I never would've had before.

Olivia: And so one day, I was all like, "Let's make you a MySpace," and she was like, "I really don't need one." And I was like, "Well, let's just do it for fun." And so we made one.

Dawn Kruger: Oh, you know what, do they have like a beach or something like that?

Travel. Try travel. What's travel?

Oh, that's what I'm talking about, right there. That's where I wanna be.

I consider myself relatively savvy when it comes to computers and cell phones and things like that. But I have to say that Olivia introduced me to a whole new world.

Olivia: Oh my god. What? Oh.

Dawn Kruger: See, that's where I'd like to be. Oh my god. How do you do that? That's ridiculous that you're so fast. I can't possibly. My thumbs don't work like that.

Many other kids, they just have that access. They have their own computer at home. They can do that. They can go to school and use computers and have teachers that'll tell them how to do these kinds of things. But she's really done a lot of this on her own.

All right, let's see what you sent me. What did you say, Olivia? "When are we gonna see an R rated movie?"

She didn't have her own computer, but what she would do is, she would go to the Apple store and she would, you know, take her photos there that she would post on her MySpace page, and she'd update it there.

Olivia: Cheese.

My cell phone, I use it almost every second of the day when I'm not in school.

Yeah, so just call me back, right? Bye.

I use MySpace on my phone, just to check if I have messages. My iPod is important to me. I thought I would never have one, but I got it given to me from the Big Brothers, Big Sisters event.

I got about 284 songs on here, mixed oldies, reggae tone, R and B, rap.

I think it's just like my life 'cause I feel like if I don't got it, I'm like off track, or I don’t have a good day, because I need music to keep me up. My neighborhood, it's a lotta drugs going on over there. My mom wants to get out, but it's kinda hard in the situation.

Romi: Take a picture. Take it?

Olivia: The people that live with me is my mom, my older brother, my grandma, my two younger siblings.

Romi: Here, hold the dog right there. Big household, little apartment, but at least we have an apartment to live in.

And you always press this one right here on the side. That'll take you straight to the photo gallery.

Boy: Here, give it to me.

Girl: No.

Olivia: The computer in the basement is used for anybody that lives in the building.

Girl: And let me see your boyfriends.

Olivia: They're there from nine in the morning till six.

Girl: MySpace too, okay?

Olivia: Here, click on this.

When I'm downstairs on the computer at home, I'll probably spend about four, maybe five hours, either searching up something I found interesting on MySpace, or emails.

Dawn Kruger: Olivia has, up to this point in her life, been incredibly resourceful, not just when it comes to learning about technology and learning how to get to technology, but really overcoming obstacles. And I think that that's just gonna translate, and I think she's just gonna do great things.

Woman 1: It's my great honor to present Big Sister Dawn Kruger and her Little Sister Olivia.

Olivia: Because of the support I have gotten over the years, I am now in the top three at my high school.

[cheers and applause]

Olivia: And just last week, I got the great news, I passed my high school exit exam.

[cheers and applause]

Dawn Kruger: I have to say, after seven and a half years, I have learned a lot.

I've learned what MySpace is and how to communicate on it.

I've learned how to communicate by text message and by doing that, I learned what acronyms like LOL and OMG mean, and how to short just about every word in the English language to three letters and or numbers.


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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Carl Bidleman
  • Lauren Rosenfeld


  • Steve Jensen

Production Support

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Camera Crew

  • Mike Elwell
  • Hugh Scott
  • Lauren Rosenfeld
  • Carl Bidleman

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Senior Video Editor

  • Karen Sutherland

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area

Executive Producer

  • Ken Ellis


Instant messaging (IM): Real-time text-based communication over the Internet.

Social network: An online community of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.

Sources: Wikipedia.org


Discussion Questions

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

2. Olivia doesn't own a computer, yet she says that "technology is my lifeline." Does this comment surprise you?

3. What are the creative ways Olivia gets access to digital tools?

4. Olivia has taught many adults how to use digital media. Are you and the other adults you know open to the idea of kids as teachers?

5. After seeing this video, do you think a socioeconomic digital divide still exists? How can your community make sure all kids have access to digital tools?




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