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.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

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

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.


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 comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

cameron larson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Can't say anything more than what's been said, well done.

Alicia DiJulio's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This video was really awesome because it did not just show you what the teacher's goals were and what his motivation was but it showed the students as well. The students are so proud of the work they have done and the fact that what the teacher was saying that the end result it tangible it is something the students can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Technology is an great way to spread meaning and messages and it really showed, especially with the sweatshop video which was created by a high schooler yet shown at a national convention in India.

Katelynn Paine's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I thought this video was great. It gave me information from the teacher's point of view. It gave me his goals and plans for this class. He listed his reasons for offering this class. He is right when we says that we remember the projects we do because they are tangible and have an end to them. I also like how they gace the students point of view as well. It showed how happy they are and how proud they are of what they are doing. I think the kids in the video are excited about going to school and being able to work on their projects. It gives them something to work on rather than getting into trouble on the streets.

Mark HIrsch's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I thought this video was really good for two reasons. One being that this teacher's program was keeping kids off the streets. The second reason being that the teacher wanted to really make an impression on his students more than just using a text book. Instead he was giving them real life experience with using technology.

Caroline's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I cannot explain how much I love the idea of this project. For students to have the opportunity to lend their voice to a cause they are passionate about through a multimedia resource is incredible. I am motivated by the joy these students seem to experience, from not only driving their education, but helping others. It provides students with the ability to focus their energy into an area of their interest and it provides teachers with an alternative assessment option. I wish the funding were available for this sort of project in my school; however, I would be lying to say I would not worry about the situations my students might get into while covering their stories. I would imagine that, in order to use this in my school (and probably others), clear boundaries would have to be drawn and projects would need to seek teacher approval before being started.

Adam Trifiro's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Incorporating student relevance into the classroom is an exceedingly important aspect of training students to be productive young adults who are able to critically analyze and improve the world. By allowing students to create meaningful content that relates to the topic area you are teaching, you foster a stronger connection between the material in class and students experiences. Additionally by acknowledging students life experiences and allowing them to share these experiences with each other and a general audience it creates a sense of trust and importance that you, as the teacher, recognize students experiences. Furthermore with proper guidance the students are able to tailor their understanding of the world into academically valid experiences.

I was disappointed to see the note under this video stating that the San Fernando Educational Technology Team is no longer functioning. This was, based on the video, a great organization.

Elizabeth Ruvalcaba's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Adam. SFETT is still up and running. Due to bureaucracy at the school, we were forced out of San Fernando High School about a year ago. I'm one of the former students that benefited tremendously from this program. A few of us former SFETT students have formed a professional development and media production company, Alas Media ( and meet with students at our studio. We're currently in the process of forming a non-profit so that students can still have access to the amazing resources that we had while we were in SFETT. We'll be more of a community center where anyone from the area can come learn skills that will help them successfully make it through higher education and life.

SFETT was and will continue to be a great organization in our community and will continue to transform lives.

Molly Biros's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I found this video to be wonderful. The program not only showed the students how to use their voices through multimedia, but kept them off the streets as well. I enjoyed taking a look at the lab they were working in and getting specific details about the program from the students and Torres. Torres did an outstanding job with these students. He gave them a chance to build self-esteem and have a sense of power. It was incredible how each student took responsibilty for their own part of the project. They all had roles and worked together to form a final project. The detail they put into their projects was tremendous. Torres set goals for the class and each student new what was expected. The program stuck to the curriculum the students were learning and allowed them to build on it. These students were able to discover so much more through multimedia. The video on sweatshops was great. It is astounding to see what one person can do. This student felt passionate about this and brought it to the world. It really goes to show what one voice can really do. Torres should be very proud. I work in a diverse community. I am a Kindergarten teacher and would love to get my students involved with multimedia. Most of my students have never had the chance. I am planning on incorporating a writing/multimedia station in my classroom. I know it will not be on the level of these students because mine are in Kindergarten. However, if we get them started at an early age their voices can be heard. Our students have a lot to say and sometimes they never get the chance. Right now I have some websites for my students to use, and I am hoping to do some podcasts with my students. If anyone has some ideas to share I am all ears. This is my second year teaching and there is so much to learn!

thaobui's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have read some articles about changes in teaching kids nowadays, such as school of environmental studies or school which incorporates a business element in everything from art to English...and in this video, another interesting project based learning _ through digital media. It seems to me that this is really a good idea. Firstly, it helps students approach technology and practice technology skills which are very necessary for young generations nowadays. Secondly, students can have great changes to do what they like with technology such as web design, video editing or film making... they themselves can produce movies, that is extremely awesome. And finally, this project can also help students build up confidence and social or life skills through working in groups, through practicing in making films...specially, one student helps each other's video. I hope that this kind of project can be introduced and adopted in my country.

Karen Kungie-Torres's picture
Karen Kungie-Torres
teacher credentialled K-12, subject area English, San Fernando Valley, CA

Way to go SFETT Alumni and Marco. You're all college graduates or Armed Service Veteran (Wil!) and I'm so proud to have stumbled on this video during my master's coursework research. Abrazos!

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.