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.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

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.

Get Video
Embed Code Embed Help

You are welcome to embed this video, download it for personal use, or use it in a presentation for a conference, class, workshop, or free online course, so long as a prominent credit or link back to Edutopia is included. If you'd like more detailed information about Edutopia's allowed usages, please see the Licenses section of our Terms of Use.


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.



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?


Digital Youth Q&A: Nafiza

My name is Nafiza, and I live in New York. This year, in the Global Kids program, we are covering injustices in the educational system. We divided into three groups -- the United States, Brazil, and Tibet. Each group is going to focus on capturing a one-minute film on one child's struggle to attain a higher education. Tell us a little bit about yourself, starting with when you were born.

Nafiza: I was born in 1990, so I was born in the year of the horse in the Chinese calendar. I came to the United States when I was about 8 years old. I was born in Bangladesh. Since I came over here, I've lived in Astoria, which is very close to Manhattan.

Describe a typical day in your life.

On a typical day, I wake up and I turn on my computer. I check my email, I check the weather online, and then I go brush my teeth. I change for school. I have breakfast. I come back and check my email again, and then I head out. I go to school, and during lunch, my friends and I meet up and either go to the park and listen to music, listen to music on the playground, or head to the park and walk around.

When I get home from school, I will check my email again, and I spend some time going on to Teen Second Life or playing Dance Dance Revolution, Need for Speed, or some other kind of game. And then I most likely will come over to Global Kids. What we're doing right now is filming in Teen Second Life, so it's good to go on beforehand so I can set up for what we're going to be doing in the program.

After I get home from the program, then I have to do homework. I still check my email when I get home, and I have to check Facebook when I get home. And then there's text messaging somewhere in there, which just goes on constantly, checking my voicemail -- all of those things.

What digital-media tools do you use?

My cell phone is my alarm clock. And my ringtone on my alarm clock is a tone from this animated movie called Spirited Away, so it's really soothing to listen to when you wake up. My iPod is in my pocket while I walk to school. Of course, I can't use it in school, although people do use it in school.

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. I have to start relying on something that has better battery life.

I listen to a lot of Japanese music and Korean music. It's because I'm very into Japanese animation, and I also watch a lot of Japanese and Korean films, dramas, and psychological thrillers, so it makes sense for me to have a lot of Japanese and Korean music. But it's mostly either rock or techno.

I have a PlayStation 2, so I spend a lot of time on that. I spend a lot of time on Dance Dance Revolution, which is awesome. And my favorite games, as far as PlayStation 2 goes, is Need for Speed, and also Mortal Kombat. I also like old games such as King of Fighters, which kind of died out a while ago when it comes to popularity, but it's still fun. Racing games and fighting games are awesome.

Throughout most of the year, I had Facebook deactivated, but then I promised that I would reactivate it before the school year ended. I also have a MySpace page, which I've had for quite a long time, but I don't use it as much as Facebook.

I think you can use social networking to learn, especially because I think, in general, any kind of communication with other people helps you gain knowledge and even learn about different cultures. If you go on Facebook, there are a lot of cultural groups. So maybe there's a group where people from Japan will tell you about what's going on over there, and you can learn from them.

It's a good way to also keep track of what's going on around the world. For example, after what happened in China, there was a relief group created, so it's a great way to keep in touch not only with people you know from high school but also with people around the world.

Tell us about your involvement with Global Kids.

I think, when I first started with Global Kids, it was definitely a new environment. And when it comes to anyone starting in a new environment, they generally start out a little timid and shy. So, at first, I was a little more reserved and quiet, but I think because I was involved in so many different programs altogether, it helped me become a little more active with the program much faster than other people would have been.

I was doing the after-school program we have with Global Kids along with the Virtual Video Project last year, and the after-school program was very different from the Virtual Video Project. The after-school program is very hands-on interaction, whereas the Virtual Video Project was online-based interaction, because even though we were facing one another, we were really facing the laptops facing each other.

So, it was very much based on interaction through the computers. But we have a guideline that says "People before computers," or "PBC," which means that if someone else is speaking, you lower your laptop and listen to them first before you look at your laptop.

Still, it's very different from typical Global Kids programs, because it is very online focused. After I became active, I did various programs, such as the Council on Foreign Relations Summer Institute, which was an introduction to U.S. foreign policy. It was a great program, because you got to meet so many foreign-policy experts. It was great, because it was only three weeks, and you met so many people.

I am the only returning student from last year to come back to the Virtual Video Project this year. So, this year, I am helping a lot of the students, especially now that we're doing editing. I am helping a lot of them with little things such as how to turn the camera and how to edit. I have taken on more of a leadership role than I had last year, when I was also a student learning.

This year, we are covering injustices in the educational system, and that's going to be our movie's premise. We divided into three groups -- the United States, Brazil, and Tibet. Each group is going to focus on capturing a one-minute film on one child's struggle to attain a higher education.

At the end, we're going to put all the stories together, and it's going to be about the three students that were struggling to attain education all grown up now and speaking out at the United Nations and talking about their struggle. By sharing their stories in front of the United Nations, they're trying to promote change, and they're trying to promote equality in the educational system, especially in their countries.

What have you learned by doing this particular project?

I'm working on the Tibetan struggle. There are a lot of injustices in China going on with Tibet. I didn't know specific things. For instance, Tibetan students have to pay in order to get an education. Also, Tibetans aren't allowed to learn in their own language, nor are they allowed to learn about their own culture.

So, it is very unjust, and it seems like the Chinese government is trying to completely erase the Tibetan culture, which is terrible. Tibetans should be able to preserve their culture. I think by learning about it, they would be better able to preserve it.

Are there any parallels with other countries you know about?

There are so many. I can definitely say that when the British took over my country, Bangladesh, a lot of our culture was removed. Now, we use a lot of English words versus words in our own language. So a lot of the culture has been erased because of imperialism.


Comments (2) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe 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.

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.