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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Digital Youth Portrait: Virginia

Living in a small town in rural Georgia doesn't keep this 14-year-old from connecting with the global village.
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Digital Youth Portrait: Virginia (Transcript)

Virginia: My name is Virginia. I'm fourteen years old. I live in Camilla, Georgia, and I get fun, entertainment, and ease outta technology. It just makes everything a lot easier for me.

Virginia: Camilla, Georgia, is like a small southern town. You know, we don't get the newest stuff here, and I definitely think people overlook Camilla and the students at Westwood, and people are surprised to hear the achievements we've had in computer class.I first started using computers about the seventh grade, but I really started to get the in depth view on technology when I entered into eighth grade with Miss Vicki's class.

>>Virginia: -- how deep you can go into making your character different, like--

Vicki Davis: Okay, so how you can customize it.

Virginia: Yeah, customizing your character.

Vicki Davis: I focus on teaching them how to learn new software, learning how to learn, using the Wiki, how to blog effectively, collaborating effectively, being very comfortable with just about any technology.

Virginia: She first showed us how to blog.

Vicki Davis: You have to click on object and change your X, Y and Z.

Virginia: And then she went into media and how you can edit videos, and I just got so involved with it. It was amazing.

Okay, here's my iGoogle page. I have my Digi Teen Dream Team stuff right here. Digi Teen is a website my computer teacher created and it was basically for schools all around the world to talk about digital citizenship and do different blog posts with it. I do about one blog a month, with people on Digi Teen. I'm a health freak, so, you know, I have the world's healthiest foods, food of the week. Every other day, I like to go on YouTube and see the top rated videos, and then sometimes I'll go to Spark Notes and read up a coupla the books I'm studying. I love to text message. I use iTunes and that's how I get my music and I share it with my friends. I love to go on MySpace and Facebook and play games like Guitar Hero. It's my favorite game. I love to play basketball.

Azalee: Virginia is an awesome kid. There's a sweet, wonderful, kind girl on the one side, and then,the other side is this fierce competitor, with a drive to succeed.

Virginia: I did really good on defense today. Someone baseline drived me a coupla times, but-- I know, I know. Mom, this ice is like frozen over.

Azalee: Why don't you [inaudible] real quick and unfreeze it? Shazam.

Virginia: When I get home from basketball, I usually spend about forty five minutes checking my MySpace and Facebook, and I usually just reply back to friends' comments and I go look at new pictures they've posted. I love to take pictures. I've tons of them.

Vicki Davis: The thing that makes Virginia very unique that really impressed me when we did our digital citizenship project, was that she realized that she was on Facebook for too much every day, more than four hours a day.

Virginia: I realized I was being very unhealthy online. I started losing my color in my face and I started, you know, eating differently. It was really weird. So I was like, this is not good.

Azalee: They had a fast at our church, that everyone was asked to give something up for three weeks, and Virginia saw this as an opportunity to reflect on the fact that she was wired three hours a day, and so she gave it up.

Vicki Davis: I think that that shows a lot of maturity in ninth grade to keep that balance, because technology is great, but we also have a real life to live and technology should improve our lives, not take away from our lives.

Virginia: Okay, when everybody gets in their wigwams, raise your hand. I'm teaching young elementary kids how to stay safe online.Do you think there can be bad people that would try and hurt you on a website called Wiggi World? I really wanted to make a difference with that situation, so I found this website called Wiggi World, and I was like, "Miss Vicki, this would be a great thing to do." We just got a class going and we're just teaching them, you know, the little aspects of digital citizenship that can go a long way. Things you think you should keep private to yourself online, like not tell a stranger, even if they ask? Mm-hmm.

Student 1: Your email address.

Virginia: You would not tell your email address. What else?

Student 2: Where you live.

Virginia: Good job. The kids have loved Wiggi World. They don't really look at it as learning. They just look at it as playing, you know. Do you think we should give them our cell phone number?

Everybody: No.

Virginia: No. I've learned from the experience of teaching how naïve young kids in the fourth grade are to technology, the dangers of it. Do you have any pets? Do you think that would be an okay question?

Vicki Davis: Digital citizenship is one of the most misunderstood, under appreciated topics in terms of education in schools. Here in the south, we say a little bit of dirt is good for your health. If you want to raise an unhealthy child, you put them in a bubble and you never let them get exposed to germs. But no filter is going to ever be perfect.

Virginia: What is your real name? No, that's not a good question.

Vicki Davis: I engage my students in becoming teachers, because it's presentation skills and it's leadership. But if you want to truly know something, if you have to teach it, then you become an expert.

Virginia: I just love to get up there and, you know, teach the kids. These things are very important. You need to remember them as long as you use a computer. Miss Vicki has, you know, made me see technology in such a new, different light, and she's just introduced me to the vast majority of technology, not just cell phones and computers, but, you know, blogging and actually reaching out to help people through technology. I get to meet so many new people and, you know, share with them my views on everything. I do think [inaudible] technology's improving my life. My mom was very against cell phones. She hated them. We finally talked her into getting a cell phone, 'cause we could never get in touch with her, and it's been so much easier for her. And I always have to show her new things to do with it. She always like, "I don't know what to do on this star thing," you know.

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Carl Bidleman

Coordinating Producer

  • Lauren Rosenfeld


  • Christa Collins

Camera Crew

  • Patrick Gregory
  • Dale Gray
  • Matt Johnson
  • Carl Bidleman

Production Support

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Senior Video Editor

  • Karen Sutherland

Executive Producer

  • Ken Ellis


Wiki: A collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone with access to contribute or modify content.

Digital citizenship: A concept that helps teachers, school technology leaders, and parents understand what students should know to use technology appropriately.

Woogi World: A virtual world that teaches elementary school children how to safely and effectively use the Internet.



Discussion Questions

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

2. What are specific examples of how Virginia gets what she describes as "fun, entertainment, and ease" out of technology? Is there value in that, or is she just wasting her time with idle distractions?

3. How important was the role of her teacher, Vicki Davis, in her development? Who among the adults in your school or community play a similar role with kids?

4. Many adults fear that kids are negatively impacted by spending too much time on computers. What lessons can we learn from Virginia's struggle with what she calls "life balance"?

5. What do you think about Virginia's role as a "teacher"? How can you support kids in your community to become experts who teach others?


Digital Youth Q&A: Virginia

My name is Virginia. I'm 14 years old. I live in Camilla, Georgia, and I get fun entertainment and ease out of technology. It just makes everything a lot easier for me. I just love to experience the different things you can do with it and how it entertains you and what you can do in a project or to make a statement. Describe what a typical weekday and a typical weekend is like for you.

Virginia: I love to hang out with my friends, and we usually come over to my house and play a Wii tennis tournament. We do that sometimes. I usually go to Albany, and we usually go to Putt-Putt, and we play mini-golf and laser tag and stuff. And they usually come over to my house and spend the night.

Describe Camilla, Georgia.

Camilla, Georgia, is a small Southern town. We don't get the newest stuff here. We're getting a lot of improvements lately. We're getting a Walgreen's, and we just got a Burger King. We're definitely growing, and I just love this town, because it's not too big, but it's not too small, either. And there are a lot of activities you can engage in, and community stuff. It's a great town.

Can you describe the people who are important influences in your life?

I have three main people who are the biggest influences in my life. One is my mom. She just pushes me to do anything. She always tells me I can, and she never lets me give up, ever. She always makes me finish anything I try.

Miss Vicki has made me see technology in such a new, different light, and she's just introduced me to the vast majority of technology, not just cell phones and computers and iPods but also blogging and actually reaching out to help people through technology.

And my last one is my basketball coach. She just gets the best out of me, and she pushes me. Anytime I have any spiritual need, like religion and stuff, I go to her, because she knows me the best in that area.

Tell me about basketball.

We have a really young team this year, and our region's really, really good. They all have experienced teams. We have four freshmen continuously playing, and three juniors and a sophomore continuously play. We're going to get through it this year. Next year will definitely be our power year, though. I love the intensity of the game.

Shooting is one of my favorite things to do. I'm not too crazy about defense, but it's really important in basketball. And I love running. I'm one of those few people who loves to run and sprint up and down the court. So those are a few things I like about basketball.

What are your hobbies and things you like to do in your spare time?

I love to get on MySpace and Facebook and play games like Guitar Hero. That's my favorite game. I love to go outside and take pictures of scenes -- like when we went to Puerto Rico, I went crazy with pictures. I have tons of them. And I love to play basketball and go shoot outside.

What do you find interesting about digital media and technology?

I just love to experience the different things you can do with it and how it entertains you and what you can do in a project or to make a statement. I think those are the things that interest me about digital technology.

It sounds like it's a vehicle for communicating.

It can definitely show people who don't know me personally who I am through pictures and different colors and videos I make. I love to make comedy videos. For a project in Miss Meg's class, we did a Romeo and Juliet skit, and I dressed up like a boy, and we did a rap song. We wrote it. I just love to show people the goofy side of me through technology, I guess.

How did you get involved with digital media?

Well, first I had a little Game Boy, and I played that. I have all the versions of Game Boy. I have the first one that was this big block thing, but now I have the DS. My mom introduced me to those, but I really started to get the in-depth view of technology when I entered the eighth grade in Miss Vicki's class. She first showed us how to blog, and then she went into media and how you can edit videos. And I just got so involved with it. It was amazing.

Has your use of technology progressed since the eighth grade?

Now, I do about one blog a month with people on Digiteen, people all around the world. And I do get on Facebook and MySpace, but I wouldn't say a lot more than I used to, because I used to be crazy about it, but I've limited that.

When did you first start using computers?

I first started using computers in about the seventh grade. We had a computer, but I never really paid any attention. My mom just used it for schoolwork. Then I started playing the little Minesweeper game that comes with the computer. That was in about sixth or seventh grade.

How's that progressed or developed over the last few years?

When I first got my cell phone, I didn't text very much. I just used it for calls. And then my friends really showed me how to text message, and then I just got addicted to it. I love to text message. And then I just got introduced to IM, where you can instant message people. I love that, too.

What's the first thing you created using digital media?

The first time I actually made something with digital media was in the eighth grade, when we wrote this story about how this person was having trouble with how to type correctly. So we got different people to act out skits and stuff, and then I put them all together. We used animoto to create that movie, and that was the first real thing I did with media.

Tell me about your Romeo and Juliet video.

Our literature teacher told us to make a video or a board game or something along those lines that recreated the Romeo and Juliet story in our own words. Our group wrote a rap song about Romeo and Juliet going through the story and about the different love scenes. I was Romeo, and my friend was Juliet, and we did an intro at the beginning and then we rapped through the whole song.

What else have you created using technology?

I've done so many things. To study, I use games on ProProfs. I make flash cards, and it can shuffle them up. And then you can go to, and you can make different games. I've created a bunch of games on that. I tell my classmates about them, and I study and post them in a blog on our Digiteen Web site. Everybody can play the games.

I've created so many videos for Miss Vicki in our class. The most recent blog I'm very proud of is the rights-and-responsibilities blog that I did with so many people from around the world on Digiteen. That's one of the most recent blogs I'm really proud of. We've blogged about this man in Australia who got convicted for teaching kids how to blog. We did a lot about that.

And we've recently done a Lively protest. Google Lively is shutting down, and we got all our avatars there, and we tried to protest. We held an online protest. That's another one of the things we've done recently that's been really effective. We actually had a Google reporter in the Lively room at the time we were doing the protest. I guess they were interested to hear what we had to say, but we didn't get any feedback.

So now we've opened OpenSim, and we're going to work on that in the next class, and it is ten times better than Lively. A man actually gave it to us that saw our Lively protest. He saw all the work we've done. So we're really excited about that, and that's one of our big next steps.

What do you do when you need help with something related to media and technology?

I go to Miss Vicki. She knows everything you could possibly think of about technology and media, and she's just been really helpful. She invested her life in technology, and I wouldn't be where I am today in technology if it wasn't for her.

Describe how you use technology to learn, study, or do homework.

To study, I use ProProfs. You can go in there and create flash cards, and it can shuffle them up. And I am a flash card user. I cannot just look at a piece of paper and study. I have to have something keeping my interest, so I use ProProfs for the flash cards. And then has all these games you can play, which are really cool. I'm always looking for something else to do, and that really keeps me keen on studying.

What media projects are you working on or experimenting with?

For my media projects, we’re working on OpenSim, Hippo OpenSim. It's a new virtual world we work with. It's amazing. You can start from scratch and create something completely new. It is way better than any kind of virtual world I've ever been in. And we're going to use that to teach the seventh-grade students digital rights and responsibilities and digital citizenship. We're going to put real-life scenarios that they might encounter on the Internet and see how they react.

How much time do you spend online, and what do you usually do when you're online?

When I get home from basketball, I usually spend about 45 minutes checking my MySpace and Facebook pages, and I usually just reply back to friends' comments and look at new pictures they've posted. The main sites I like to visit are MySpace and Facebook, but about every other day, I like to go on YouTube and see the top-rated videos and look at them. And then sometimes I'll go to SparkNotes and read up on a couple of the books I'm studying. Those are some of the things I do online.

Which video games do you play, and who do you like to play with?

My main favorite game I like to play is Guitar Hero. I am addicted to that game. I can't play on expert yet, but I'm getting there. Some of the games I like to play on the DS are Mario Kart and all the Mario games. I like to race my little brother in this four-wheeler game. I'm not sure what it's called, but we always get really competitive with that. And we get really competitive with the Wii sports, with tennis and bowling.

What kinds of television shows and movies do you like?

I like to watch E! News to get the celebrity updates and stuff. I like to watch the news sometimes and just see what current events are coming up. And then I like to watch Nickelodeon. I love Drake & Josh. That has to be my favorite show.

What are your favorite movies?

My favorite movie that I've seen recently is Yes Man. I love comedies, and that was the best movie. I love Jim Carrey. He's hilarious, so I love his movies.

Talk about your aspirations of having a comedy channel on YouTube.

My friend and I have always talked about doing it. We do funny stuff, and then we're like, "Oh, we should've gotten that on camera. It'd be great." I just haven't had the time to do it lately because of basketball season and everything interfering. But over the summer, I'd really like to start that and have a series on YouTube.

What kinds of reading and writing do you like to do?

The only series I've ever gotten really into is the Harry Potter series. I've read each of those twice over, and I used to read the Lemony Snicket series, but I never got to finish it. Our library didn't get the last two books, so I haven't finished that series yet, but I'd really like to.

The only other reading of books I really do is in our classes, because we always have a book to read in class. I don't really have any time to do free reading. I read other peoples' blogs, and Spark notes that I find online.

Do you have a favorite book?

I don't really like to tell people this -- or brag about it -- but I do read my Bible every night, and that would have to be my favorite book. I just got this new true-life one from my youth pastor, and it has different real-life stories in it, and those really, really inspire me. You know how sometimes you're reading and you don't really understand the information? These stories really explain it, and that's been really helpful, and it's become one of my favorite books.

Where do you get your music, and how do you like to listen to it and share it?

A lot of my friends use LimeWire, but I don't like that at all. I use iTunes, and iTunes recently got this new software called Genius, and it can recommend songs. I like mellow, cool music, and Genius gives me all these new songs I've never heard of.

That's how I get my music, and I share it with my friends who have the same musical taste, and they love it, too. I bring my iPod to school, or I make my friends a CD and I say, "Hey, listen to this song." And I'll tell them the name. I'll write the name on the front of the CD, and they'll go home and search for it and get it, too. Sometimes, I spend up to an hour finding new songs. I'll find this new artist, and I'll listen to all his songs.

Do you have a favorite type of music or a favorite band?

My favorite type of music would have to be inspirational, and my favorite artist would be Matt Nathanson. I recently found him off of Genius on iTunes, and he's amazing. I've bought both his albums. They're really good.

How do you use your cell phone?

I use my cell phone as an alarm clock in the morning for prayer breakfast, because my mom doesn't get up that early, so I have to set it, and it wakes me up. And I use it for texting. I text a bunch. I use it to call my mom to pick me up from basketball practice. I also use it as a calculator sometimes in math. My math teacher lets us bring out our cell phones if we don't have a calculator, and I use it as a calculator, too.

What gadget or software program do you absolutely wish you had?

The Mac. I've always wanted a Mac desktop, anything Mac. It's all about music and media, and it's supposed to be amazing. My friend has one, and I always go over there. The mouse is really cool, because it has a little ball in the middle.

How do you like to communicate with your friends? What technologies do you use to communicate with them?

Two of the main technologies I use to communicate with my friends are texting and my Facebook IM. That's one of my favorite ones. All you have to do is click -- click and see if they're online, and, if they are, you just click a little green button and you can talk to them really fast.

People who go to other schools in my region, kids my age that I play sports against, I don't really get to see in person. I can talk to them over Facebook and MySpace and ask them, "How did your game go?" I can find out basketball information and get to know them. So I can have friends from all around where I live.

Do you think you have a different relationship with technology than adults do?

I definitely think I do have a different relationship, because I always hear from adults, "Oh, we didn't grow up with those things. We don't know how they work." And I've grown up with it. I know how it works.

My mom was very against cell phones. She hated cell phones up until about two years ago. We finally talked her into getting a cell phone because we could never get in touch with her -- and I already had one.

It's kind of weird for a daughter to have one before her mom, but we finally got her to have one, and it's been so much easier for her. And I always have to show her new things to do with it. She's always saying, "I don't know what to do on this darn thing." So I have to show her new ways to use it.

We tried to get her to play Wii one time, but she wouldn't do it. She thought that she'd be embarrassed on it because it's so new and she didn't know what to do with it.

Are there things you think adults need to learn and understand about technology?

I did a blog about this. Yes, I definitely do think there are things adults need to learn and understand. Because of the pace at which technology is growing, they're eventually going to have to learn one way or another, and they need to learn all the aspects of it and how they can use it to make everything easier, because that's really what it does. It makes everything easier. And I think that their lives would improve if they started using technology and if people would show them how to.

What do you think the downsides of digital technology are?

The downside to digital technology is definitely how it affects health and wellness. People nowadays are surrounding their whole lives with technology. They go home, and they go to the computer all day, every day. That's not healthy at all. Everybody needs some outside time.

I realized I was being very unhealthy online when I first got my MySpace and Facebook. I got so overwhelmed with them, and I would get on for two, three hours a day, and this was over the summer. I realized I was so unhealthy. I started losing the color in my face, and I started eating differently. It was really weird, so I was like, "This is not good."

Our church's youth leader was actually starting a fast, and he said, "Anybody who wants to should give up anything they are really addicted to, just for three weeks. It'll really help your spiritual relationship. Any time you feel the need to, just pray about it." And I joined in on that, and that really helped me. Now, I realize that overusing technology can be very dangerous.

Are your interests in digital media related to your plans for the future?

My plans for the future are to go to Georgia and start my own orthodontist place, and I want to bring new technologies into orthodontics that never have been used before, like maybe find a way to create a software program with which people can schedule their appointments online and do everything online. All they have to do is walk in, and we already know what they want, canceling out the waiting room. That's one thing I plan to do -- get rid of the waiting room in orthodontics.

Tell me about the class you teach.

In that class, I'm teaching young elementary school kids digital citizenship. We're just teaching them how to stay safe online, because I've heard so many stories about kids who've given out personal information.

I found this Web site called Woogie World, and I said to Miss Vicki, "This would be a great thing to do. We need to do this." So we started teaching a class. We started this about two months ago, and the kids have loved Woogie World. They don't really look at it as learning. They just look at it as playing. And I thought that was really great, and we're just teaching them the little aspects of digital citizenship that can go a long way.

What are you learning by teaching?

I'm learning that the kids these days just are so naive about technology and the dangers of it. My little brother, he didn't know that people would actually try and harm you on Web sites like Woogie World. That really hit home that he might be one of those people in those stories you hear about.

I really wanted to make a difference with that situation, so I talked to my teacher, and we got a class going. And it's gone uphill from there. I got a little bit of a natural teaching gift from my mom. I love to get up there and teach the kids, and I love to ask questions and see how their responses compare with mine.

Do your peers use technology in the same way that you do?

I'm pretty even with everybody else on MySpace and Facebook. But definitely with virtual worlds and blogging, I'm a little bit above some of my peers, but some of my peers are right there with me. They love to blog, and they love to get their voice across through the Internet. I'd say I'm a little above everyone else with the blogging and the virtual worlds, but with social technology, I'm about even with everybody else.

How much do you think you've developed this interest in technology because you have someone special like Miss Vicki?

Without Miss Vicki here at Westwood, I would not know about anything blogging-wise. I would know about MySpace and Facebook. I'd know about a few games, but I wouldn't have the really in-depth view of technology. I wouldn't know how to edit movies and use Microsoft Word. I've learned so much about that, and that really helps me with papers and stuff. I wouldn't know anything beyond the social aspect of technology without Miss Vicki.

What are your thoughts about being literally connected to kids and other people all over the globe?

It's definitely a culture shock. Miss Vicki has taught us this part of digital etiquette, knowing different cultures and what not to do to try not to offend people.

I've been shocked to hear about some of the cultures that some people have. And people from Australia actually have been leaving comments on my Digiteen, and they're like, "What sports do you play?" And they tell me about all these different sports they play, like netball. I learned about that, and cricket.

And I definitely think people overlook Camilla and the students at Westwood because we're such a small school. People are surprised to hear about the achievements we've had in computer class and the protests we've held, and all the blogs we do and how we touch other people in different countries.


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