OpenSimulator (OpenSim): An open source server platform for hosting virtual worlds.
World of Warcraft (WoW): A massively multiplayer online role-playing game where thousands of players adventure together in an enormous, persistent game world, forming friendships and engaging in epic quests that can span days or weeks.
Sources: Wikipedia.org, WorldofWacraft.com
1. Is Sam typical of kids in your community? Why, or why not?
2. Sam spends a lot of time on the computer, but she also enjoys a lot of other activities as well. Do you think she leads a balanced life?
3. What do you think of how Sam uses her iPod to read her books aloud? Is this a good way to read or to learn new content?
4. Sam's parents and teachers are very supportive of the way she creatively uses technology in her schoolwork. How can you support the students in your life to help them creatively express themselves with digital tools?
5. Does it surprise you that Sam is learning teamwork and problem-solving skills through games? Why, or why not?
Digital Youth Q&A: Sam
Hi, I'm Sam. I'm a 13-year-old girl who lives in Illinois, and digital media is my second life. The digital technology I use, it seems pretty primitive to my eyes, but when I look back in the past, it's way different, like Game Boys compared to DSes or Wiis. It's like, we have changed a lot; I'm just not realizing it, because it's in my life so much.
Edutopia.org: How would you describe yourself as a student?
Sam: I would describe myself as a student who tries, but I'm not an A-plus student. If I pay attention, I can get really good grades, but if I don't pay attention, then I probably don't. If I try a little, I can stay on a B average forever.
Describe your typical day.
I wake up at 6:30-ish. I check my text messages and then go and get dressed and go to school. I have eight periods of classes. And then I come home around 2:30, watch television, take care of my foster puppies, then go upstairs to my computer room, do homework, go on MySpace, chat, text, and GameCube, then read, then go to sleep.
What's up with the foster puppies?
I wanted to foster puppies because I'm in love with animals and puppies. I clean their cage, take them for a walk, feed them, and hang with them so they're used to humans, and then they can be adopted by a family that will make them happier. It's not really that big of a deal to clean up cages.
I've volunteered at Tails since I was ten, and Tails is being sent many animals from the south coast of America, for people who breed dogs, and they have overpopulation. So they send them up to DeKalb, and we take care of them and send them out to other people. And we quarantine them because they could have sicknesses, and we just kind of make sure that they're healthy for their new owners.
You seem to have a good time with your friends Tiffany and Courtney. Tell us about that.
Courtney and Tiffany inspired me to start videotaping, because we would take video clips of us doing really stupid stuff, and then we'd put it into something, and it'd be so cool after we start editing it.
And what they mean to my life is, Courtney puts a lot of influence of music into me, and Tiffany, she's really amazing and funny. We can have fun with a can and a stick, kicking it, and we can make a game out of it. She's really creative. When they are over, you would hear either music with me and Courtney or us laughing at some random thing.
We don't really care what we're doing, as long as we're laughing and having fun. Me and Tiffany still play with blocks, just to have fun. And me and Courtney, we could just draw on something, and we'd make up a different world.
Describe the digital technology you use.
The digital technology I use, it seems pretty primitive to my eyes, but when I look back in the past, it's way different, like Game Boys compared to DSes or Wiis. It's like, we have changed a lot; I'm just not realizing it, because it's in my life so much, and it seems so normal.
How did you get started?
I got started with digital media when I was a kid; I'd just play, you know, Secret Agent: Barbie. And then my brother, he would be playing Halo in a different room, talking on his friends with a mic. And then as soon as he left, I really was like an only child, and when my friends weren't over, I would go on the Internet and explore and have a second life from what I have. And then my mom introduced me to Second Life, and that was my world for a while. I could create whatever I want on that little game.
Do you remember when you first started using computers?
How I started using computers was just, I'd pop a disc in it, and then I'd play a little program that the disc had on it. But now I'm going on Wii and things and talking to real people and playing the game how I want to play it, instead of how it's programmed for me to use it.
Do you remember the first thing you ever made with digital media?
When I was a little kid, I was handed a video camera for the first time. My mom was trusting me with the old video camera. And there was this contest for a video, and we would just make a video and then send it in, and if they liked our video -- I don't know what the prize was, maybe be on a movie.
And so me and my neighborhood friends were making up a story, and all I remember was, we were ducking underneath the trampoline to get away from this big blast, or something. That's when I had a very wide imagination. But we never really put the video into the contest, but we had a lot of fun with running around and pretending something's after us.
What other kinds of things have you created with digital technology?
I've created MySpace pages. I've created IMVU pages, which is like kind of like MySpace, but you have avatars instead of your actual person. And I have created videos and songs and pictures, and edited pictures.
What do you do when you need help with technology?
It depends. If I need help with technology about a game I was playing, I would go to my mom. And if I needed help with computer -- technical -- issues, I'd go to my dad, because he's all about computers, and he would help me, and he has the patience to go through my computer and clean out files and put a new card in. He knows how to open up the computer and mess with the wires.
Do they ever turn to you when they need help?
When my mom needed help on World of Warcraft, I got her a player. I got her started. I got her leveling up. I got her all the way to level 17. And then, when I stopped helping her, she didn't play anymore.
How do you use technology to study or do homework?
If I'm learning something about a place, I'd go on the Internet and I'd just search whatever I was looking for. I did the synagogue temple once, and I'd go there, take pictures off the Internet, and take notes and write it down.
The digital stuff I use is helping me for homework -- for example, instead of writing a ten-page essay, I could make a video on it and just talk about it, instead of writing it down and hurting my hand. Or, if my friend knows what our homework is and I don't, I could just text them instead of calling them up and/or trying to figure it out otherwise.
How much time do you spend online?
If it's a school day, I spend just two hours on the computer. If it was not a school day, and if no one was coming over, I'd probably spend 12 hours or more on it, just either on World of Warcraft or MySpace, or listening to music while I draw.
Do you ever feel you spend too much time online?
Some days, I feel like I spend too much time on my computer, but then there's other days where I feel like I should go on my computer, because if I haven't played World of Warcraft for a week, my guild will get angry at me, and they'll be like, "You need to come on and help us. Start leveling off so we can get a better guild." But I only feel guilty, and they wouldn't ever take me off their guild.
What Web sites do you visit regularly?
I visit YouTube, MySpace, rarely Facebook, and Google most regularly.
What video games do you play, and with whom?
I play Harvest Moon Farm on GameCube. I play Guitar Hero on Wii, and Rock Band 2 on Wii, and Dance Dance Revolution with Courtney, Tiffany, and my sister and my mom on the Xbox, and World of Warcraft with all my friends. If they ever come over, I have them make a character, and then they probably never play it again.
What are your favorite movies?
Favorite television shows?
There's a lot of TV shows. My favorite TV shows are Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Friends, House, and Inuyasha.
What about reading?
I've only gotten into reading recently, and I like a few comic book series. I've read one almost all the way through, but it keeps on going. And I also like all the Twilight books, all the Fruit Spastic books, and all the Vampire Knight books.
Tell us how you learn new software.
My method of learning new software is really trial and error. If something doesn't work out, just go back and try something else -- and then just explore it until I figure out what I'm doing. And then, if I get really into it, I can become a pro by even expanding more.
For example, on iMovie, I didn't really know what a green screen was, but I knew everything about Photo Booth. So I have to try this green screen thing out. And so first, I clicked the button, and it went to a waterfall, and then I moved my head, and then it was gone. My thing was gone. And so I learned that you have to step out of the frame, like it says at the bottom, and then you'll take a picture of it, and then walk in.
And then I learned that my hair was the same color as the background behind me, so I was bald. So then I decided, well, it's called green screen. So I put a green screen up, and then it was kind of close to perfect, but not professional.
What gadget or software program do you wish you had?
I wish I had the newest version of iMovie. And I also wish -- well, now I'm wishing I had an Xbox 360, because Kevin and all his friends, and all my other friends, have Xbox 360. That's how they communicate, and they play games on it and connect it to the Internet. And I'm completely out of their globe because I don't have one.
What technologies do you and your friends use to communicate?
Different friends have different ways of communicating. Nick, he's on MSN half the time, and then he's on his phone half the time. Courtney, you have to text her or MySpace her. Tiffany, MySpace or texting, because she can't go on MSN, because it's broken. Kevin, you'd have to text or call. And I've actually have relationships with friends over the Wii. Because of the cell, you can connect it to the Internet.
How would you use any kind of technology to teach a lesson in school?
If I were to have to teach a lesson in school, I would probably make a video or a PowerPoint. Then I would project it on a wall, and just go through stuff and point out this and that, and all the main points of the lesson. And then, maybe, if you had to read a book or something, I would play a tape or get everyone iPod touch, which would be a lot of money, and be, like, "OK, read this." I'm not going to get into the Smart Board stuff, because I have no idea about it. Kevin does, so you can ask him about it.
Do you think kids would learn better if technology was used more in school?
I think, at first, technology would improve their learning, because they would be like, "Oh, my gosh, this is cool. We can read a book on a phone." And then they would be really interested into it. But then, over time, I think it would just become as boring as a textbook to them, because they'd be so used to it. But it's a good thing that technology keeps on improving itself, because they'll never get bored of it then.
Why are your mom's students at Northern Illinois University asking you to come and help them?
They're asking me to come because I have had a little experience with Second Life, and I think, also, I have a kid's perspective on things. And I know how to build, kind of like my mom, but my mom's just a little bit more into the textures and making everything perfect. And I'm kind of on the edge of that. Textures are a little bit harder for me to come by.
What program are you using?
We're using the program OpenSim, like a Second Life thing. It's Second Life, except you have your own little server, instead of a big server with lots of kids running around and swearing and doing a whole bunch of stupid stuff and communicating.
What are you thinking about doing for a career when you get older?
I'm kind of into directing. I've done lots of videos with my friends, and I'm usually telling them what to do, what to do with their faces, taking the scenes, editing, and all that. And that's pretty cool, so I guess I would kind of be good at that if I should do that when I'm older.
But I want to do something with the arts, because I'm way into art and music, and I definitely want to be a percussionist for a while. I would probably be with the same group of friends, making videos. I'd probably have, like, 20 videos on YouTube, and lots of people to watch them. And I could see myself as a famous YouTuber.
Are you planning to go to college, and, if so, what would you like to study?
I would study arts, and I'm kind of good at math, so I guess I'd go to college for math, but I guess it's, like, 20 times harder.
Tell me about your parents.
My mom is very inspirational, and she always makes me seem like I'm doing the right thing unless I'm doing something wrong. Then she lets me know I'm doing something wrong. She's a very motherly figure, but she's more friendly than a parent is usually, and she very understanding.
My dad, he helps me out the most. He's the one that actually goes out and feeds me, unless my mom cooks. And he helps me with my homework the most, but he's really the one that tells me to do stuff all the time, where my mom just is kind of a little bit more easygoing. She gets me to do stuff, rather than just telling me.
Any other important influence in your life?
One of my important influence is my Sunday school teacher. She keeps me in the religious aspect of life. And she also inspires me by helping the community and going out, and she's going to start a farm where she takes kids that have had a hard life and teaches them how to be farmers so they can love and care for plants and animals.
And my sister, she's really artistic and out there and random. So she's inspiration in my life, because she shows me how to have fun all the time. And my brother is out there trying to make something of his life, although he could have gone to school first. But he's out there trying, at least, and that gives me something to look up to.
At the start of this interview, you said, "Digital media is my second life." What did you mean?
My first life would be me with my friends, actually seeing each other, next to each other, and going outside and riding my bike, and painting with my hands and all that. And technology is my second life, because when I'm on the computer, I can really do whatever I want to do. On Second Life, I can create whatever I want to create. And I can be a different person if I want, I guess. And it's way different from my first life, because I'm not actually there.
Are you able to do stuff in the second life you can't do in your first one?
In the second life, there are a lot of people who act much crazier than in the first life, because of their shyness. So you'll see people with weird-colored socks on their avatar, and then that means I can be as crazy as I want.
I'd still be able to fit in, because in Second Life, no one judges you by how you look or sound or act. Well, kind of how you act. And they just judge you on how they see you. They talk to you. They get to know you, and then they decide if they like you.
Would you describe yourself as a shy person?
In the real world, I'm only shy at first, but then I can open up and be friends with anyone. And on the Internet, I'm not shy at all.
Finally -- and this is the first time I've ever asked a human being this question -- how are you different from your avatar?
My avatars are -- well, it differs from avatar to avatar. On World of Warcraft, I'm very helpful with everyone, and I just go around and help people who are, as you would call them, noobs. And in my Second Life character, I kind of feel like I'm a pro, compared to how I am in real life, I guess. I don't really know how to describe how different.
What's a noob?
A noob is someone who's new at a game, or a noob is someone who's very annoying on a game, and they don't really get stuff.