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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Students Speak Their Minds Through Digital Media

This program helps Latino students deliver powerful messages through video and the Web. More to this story.

Students Speak Their Minds Through Digital Media (Transcript)

Narrator: This short documentary by a San Fernando Valley High School student portrays the stark reality of growing up in his neighborhood north of Los Angeles.

Student: This one right here, this is my house. About two years ago there was a drive-by. I was playing out with my little brother and they were shooting the bullets from this point out to the building over there. You can still see the bullet hole by the window.

Student: See if you could get a little bit of the tree.

Narrator: But these days, thanks to a unique video-production class, the shooting at San Fernando High School involves video cameras, and when students hang on the street corner after school, they're often outside their teacher's house, tapping into his wireless Web connection on his laptop.

Student: That's cool. You actually get a signal.

Narrator: The program that has made a dramatic difference in the lives of hundreds of San Fernando High School students is housed in Room 307, the Computer Inspiration Studio.

Student: So I'm going to save it, and now let's just say I'm going to make some more pages here.

Narrator: Here, students can take fifth- and sixth-period classes in everything from Web site design to video editing. They also spend time here after school and on weekends working on digital projects for core classes like social studies and economics.

Student: We're going to have extracurricular going up, and that can be blurred.

Narrator: The program, which now includes some 100 members of the San Fernando education technology team, started in 1999 in a janitorial closet with three students, one laptop and a social studies teacher named Marco Torres.

Marco: In fact, we have a camera now. You guys can go out and shoot.

If I look back at my own education, I remember the projects I made. I remember the hand I made in kindergarten, you know, in the plaster. I remember the volcano I made in third grade. I remember the games I won as a baseball player, because they were projects. They were things that had an end to them, something tangible, something that I can say to my mom, "Mommy, look. Look what I did."

Student: The main page.

Student: The main page colors and...

Marco: And I know it's important, so when I do projects for kids, I try to give them some insight that has meaning. It's not just disconnected information. I mean, for me as a teacher it's my moral obligation to make information real and connected, and if I'm not doing that, then I'm not teaching.

What's our plan?

Narrator: Torres' students have already produced some 200 digital movies, which stream over the Web site the technology team created. Team members also volunteer to teach other students, teachers and community members in free Saturday-morning computer classes. "Mi Barrio" Producer Cesar Larios, who graduated last year, volunteers at the school, passing out to others the knowledge he gained here.

Cesar: We all have to work together in order to get ahead, so when I learned something, it's my duty to go and help somebody else to learn it, and then that person will pass that knowledge to another person, and we'll continue until everybody knows it. So, that's really critical, working together.

Student: This will record, right?

Student: Yeah, just like...

Student: [screams] kind of thing?

Student: Yeah.

Student: All right.

Student: You'll have to sacrifice yourself for the team.

Student: All right. Just like...

Narrator: In addition to picking up technical skills, students learn lifelong skills in the collaborative process, working in small teams to help complete each other's video.

Student: That's better. I got to see your face there.

Student: And obviously in the future if you get a job you're going to have to learn to work with people, and this is a place where you can actually get to learn to work with people, because you get in groups and you know you have to push each other to get that done in time.

Ruben: I've been working on all year long.

This part, I'm working on this project, I received a lot of leadership skills being in charge of all the deadlines and making sure everybody did their work, put in the committees and just tell them what parts to do of the movie, and also just by working on this program you learn mathematical skills, like you have to know all the rotation of all the different axes, just in case you want to move the snowman 90 degrees.

Elizabeth: Since we all took parts in doing little things, I did a sled and carpet and stuff like that, and it actually takes a lot of time, but since there's a lot of us it goes pretty quick.

Narrator: While the projects range from comical animated shorts to serious documentaries, they all conform to a set of production standards and assessment rubrics that Torres calls the "four P's."

Marco: The first P is planning, most critical part, and the planning, that's where kids write things like the script, a timeline, storyboards, very, very important. I must be able, as a teacher, to sit down and visualize what it is that they're trying to do before I hand them a camera.

Student: Every time I shot the shot that I wanted in my storyboard, I would cross it out, and I had a storyboard that this was 20 pages long, and then I'd go crossing out and you'd see progress going on.

Marco: The second P is production. That's when the kids go out and either shoot or start to collect the information needed to do the project.

Student: We could actually get a far shot of it. That way we get the [inaudible] and the trees.

Student: The shadow and we get the whole trees and we get the whole...

Marco: The third part is the presentation. This is when they actually present the information.

Student: The style is very important.

Marco: And then the final P is assessment. I call it "assessing with a silent P," and assessing with a silent P involves the kids to develop rubrics. What does it mean to have a good project?

Student: Good evening. This is Carmen [speaking Spanish] Cruz-Diaz, and I'm reporting live from Channel 307.

I think it's the movie that I'm most proud of, because it's my first movie that I got to direct and film and edit and use a green screen in, so that's the best movie, I think.

Student: Where have I seen this before?

Student: Obviously I'm learning, because I look back at, "I could've used a different shot for that," or, "I could've done this," but the best thing is, you know, go on and make another movie and then just, you know, make it better.

Narrator: Of the videos students have done to date, none has had a greater impact than the documentary Consuelo Molina produced as a project for an economics class.

Marco: She wanted to talk about some of the consequences of the world economy and the protests that were happening in Washington, Seattle, around the World Trade Organization, so she decided to focus on sweatshops. She knew that if she had done this project traditionally, in front of a class, the information would've died there in the class. And she took this documentary and posted it on the Web, and several people have found it. The Women's Human Rights Conference in Paris saw it and asked her permission to show it. And other places like in India, there was a teacher who asked if he could show it at this national conference.

Consuelo: It's a big issue, but, yeah, at the same time it's a high school project, so I don't think -- I wouldn't have thought that people from Australia or different people would've reacted to it the way they did. I guess a little voice can make a big impact.

Marco: This is a connection that I'm looking for. This is that bridge, the digital divide.

Click on that for me.

Student: This one?

Marco: Yeah.

And the more I can create opportunities for relevancy, the more connections are made, the brighter our hope light shines.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

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Associate Producer:

  • Leigh Iacobucci

Camera Crew:

  • Michael Fitzgerald
  • Dave Doubroff
  • Rosa Ruvalcaba
  • Marisol Garcia


  • Karen Sutherland


  • Susan Blake

Additional Footage courtesy of

  • SFETT, Cesar Larios, Natalia Hernandez, and Consuelo Molina

Editor's Note: Though the San Fernando Education Technology Team is no longer active at San Fernando High School, some of the former participants have created their own company to tell stories through media, and continue to foster the program's goals by working with San Fernando students on Saturdays to produce the iCan Film Festival. Marco Torres has moved on from San Fernando High School to become an educational consultant.

Comments (15)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Scotia Saunders's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It it people like you that make our kids good! Teach on my friend! Teach on! You are an amazing human being and as a fellow teacher I applaud you with my highest regard for our wonderful profession. Not only do you inspire the kids you teach but you have truly inspired me, as well as others I am sure. Your warmth and passion is so give teaching a great name. THANK YOU!
Most sincerely,
Scotia Saunders

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This video and the content are absolutely inspiring. I agree that the things children learn are found far more in what they do than in rote. What I loved about this video is the fact that children were sitting on the curb using the teacher's web and even more than that they were able to share this with others. Amazing!

misscrista's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for creating this resource for all to read and see. I, as a teacher, have eyes open wide and will continue my education in order to serve my students in the world we live in TODAY!

Kymber Mingle's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a Preservice teacher at A.S.U. West I was truly inspired by Marro Torres and his approach to education and technology. I loved seeing the children excited about learning. Mr Torres has opened the door for so many children keeping them off the streets while helping them develop life changing skills that will no doubt help the in the future. I hope to be as influential as a teacher as Mr Torres. He is an inspiration to all future educators.

Matthew Robert's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What I found most interesting about this clip is the power and obvious self-esteem that the students found merely by being given a voice, and more importantly a receptive audience. If every teacher could inspire their students to speak up about the ills they are confronted with a more just society would emerge. By exposing social evils, or just sharing a laugh, dialogs are created and as those build on each other positive change is a nigh inevitable result.

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