DRAFT. Apps that get assessment!

For the past year, I’ve been fascinated with the The concept of assessment and all other areas, outside of school. Now, because of mobile technology and social networking and a variety of monitoring devices that are accessible, people have a greater opportunity to get immediate feedback to make immediate adjustments.

This is very interesting considering this doesn’t happen as much as we’d like at school. Since we don’t ask the right questions, in many situations, the quest for the right answer derails us from an alternative point of view– the association.

I am impressed and happy to see the early stages of how technology is helping people with their quality of life choices. I think it’s how the essential question now is “how do I leverage connected mobile technology and my social network to help me make better decisions with my health”. From there, the challenge is clear(er) to developers to connect dots between these technology points and more importantly the learning goals.

Automatic is an app that I use for my car. It tracks how I drive and give me a score based on a very easy to understand rubric. Except they don’t call it a rubric. They also provide you with a visualization of the data in a way that makes sense to more people. More importantly, it makes recommendations on what to do to help improve your score. The question for me, with this app, is not am I doing it right, however, it’s “how can I improve, maintain you’re driving decisions.” So, these developers have taken the concept of conditioning and making healthy eating choices and have dot connected it to driving.

Now, they have added another interesting concept: license+. In their own way, it’s badging system that provides students with a victory, which is a badge for a license that showcases evidence that they are a good driver and they have been making smart decisions. It also provides feedback to make adjustments. Also, in a very non-threatening way, it has a series of beeps that shares with you concerns (reminders) and needs that need adjustments..

I just thought I’d share it with you. I think examples in the real world like this one make for good conversation starters. I know, for me, they help me start the discussions around the right essential question.

Just some thoughts. Here’s a link below:


Sent from Marco’s cool iPhone

Marco Antonio Torres
Director of Story



DRAFT. Why Story?

And education, the star of the show seems to be a number. Whether that number is his school performance index or another type test score,

Challenge: Connect young women and technology!


This is a video reflection (lessons learned) from 2002 when we built our Community Inspiration Studio (our learning and creating space– AKA, our classroom).  Every month, we made a video or a photo essay of what happened in our studio.  We posted it and shared it with the world to see.  It was part of our process.  Here is a video I found in a hard drive that had many of these reflections.  I’d like to share this one, in particular with you. As we embark on our journey with our Digital Promise Schools, I look forward to helping them make storytelling a key part of their showcasing process.


Photo by SFETT

Back in 1998, I made a conscious decision to recruit young women into my tech planning and support team.  This would later be the most important decision I made as a teacher and as a community advocate!

These young women helped me organize weekend events with parents to help educate (and market) the power of technology and how it WILL BE THE KEY to give our kids and our community access to more options for success.  It was a conversation about possibilities, expectations (for all of us), and an opportunity to be proactive about being smart, responsible, and respectful.  I made the argument from the start that this journey needed them, and we needed to push ahead with an innovative attitude about learning from that point  here on. They believed in this dream: many gave their time after school and on Saturday’s for a couple of years to help visualize it.

Photo by SFETT

Photo by SFETT

Secondly, I made the pitch for the technology plan at San Fernando High to focus on affect thinking, and NOT solely ON TECHNOLOGY! In other words,–asking, “What can you do with it?,” as opposed to simply, “How does it work?”.  We made LEVERAGING technology the goal, and then “WHAT IT IS” and “HOW TO USE IT” were by-products.  This was key in the “marketing” of our student teams, and what helped make (ultimately) our program into a global model of what learning, learning with technology, and showcasing our stories looks like.  This allowed us to create a powerful student-led team that did more than connect cables and reboot machines– they changed the culture of the school, and the quality of life  for our community!  Empowering girls to support, model, plan, organize, and lead a variety of projects– inside and outside of the community–, had a huge impact on everyone.  Consequently, some of the most influential GIRLS AND STEM (STEAM) projects nationally originate from our school’s program and/ team/ projects.


This was embedded in our DNA in 1998, and as you can see in the video from 2002 (above), we made this our foundation.  Many girls participated in our school’ student leadership;, however, I saw that girls were non existent in most schools’ tech programs. These programs focused on the technology itself, and it became “male dominate,” , as Marisol says in the video. The curriculum made it this way. It was about programming, fixing, Microsoft office, html. This is important, but I wanted to get to those skills to be byproduct. This worked for me, but it wasn’t easy with the traditional thinkers, however.

Photo by SFETT

Photo by SFETT

We fought for a studio, stage, and a community approach with a CLEAR understanding that technology WILL play an empowering part of giving us learning options, a voice (the girls, the community, and our school program), and a stage to put us on the map.  IT WORKED. Companies from all over, as well as other learning institutions, leaned on us for guidance on their technology integration journeys. We even had Caltech system engineers visit us to see how we set up our servers for high-speed interactions. What a sight it was to see several of our lstudents walk around with the system engineers and explain our network to them.


Photo by SFETT

We had to do everything ourselves.  From creating an interest, to raising money, to winning over support, to even building our learning spaces. We had little to NO support at all along the way from the school system.  I knew I had to have an army of students and their parents to help me get the support needed nationally to make this work.  We learned as a team, worked as a team, and ultimately,– we won as a team.  The student ownership was clear from the start.  I didn’t even have an office in our new space. The students had two. They managed the classroom, which they called the Community Inspiration Studio, The CIS., They cleaned it, updated it, taught parent classes, offered professional development opportunities for teachers, and celebrated their produced stories with the world.  For a community like ours with a context of struggle and a history of many social failures, we shined like a Phoenix.  Why? Because of the students– my women leaders. Not only were they helping me, they empowered me to ask and fight for a lot more.  I look forward to helping our Digital Promise Schools tell their stories on how the connected tablet project gives the students a running start with learning technologies available to them in their tables.


I am so happy to have found this video and share it with you.  It’s definitely a victory in my past that came out of many lessons learned, and that started with a clear need to improve our quality of learning in San  Fernando. This is our goal at Digital Promise.  To address these issues head on, help create opportunities, model possibilities for better inclusion, help remove barriers to necessary connections to better solutions.  If you want success, use your best asset:, your students. Recruit young women! They were my natural leaders and the necessary voice to help make a serious change in many people’s thinking about what we needed to be doing. It is our goal at DIgital Promise to make sure we help our schools make the connections to resources like Latinas and Stem (http://www.latinasinstem.com) and DIY Girls (http://www.diygirls.org).  Both of these profesional groups have origins in San Fernando High School.

Looking at the video this morning is like looking back at a home video of me planting seeds.


Plant your seeds now.


Photo by LA Daily News

(November 1998. LA Daily News front page story on what the digital divide really looked like in LA.)

How to make a HOW TO video look good!


We’re going to shoot our video like a cooking show producer directs and produces their “how to” shows. So, if you’re thinking like a cooking show producer, You’re on the right track.  We’ll be ready in no time!!!

It’s a simple recipe.

1. Plan the video. There will be two pieces needed to be shot. Stay tuned for the specifics.
2. Write a quick script-ish of what you want to show.
3. Shoot the main video (A Roll): It’s the explanation.  Also, use a tripod on the recording device or make sure it stays as still as possible! USE A TRIPOD!
4. Shoot the close ups (based on the main video commentary).This is also known as B Roll.  This is the second part that you will shoot, capture.
5. Using an editing tool like iMovie, you’re going to assemble the two clips together.  A roll below, B roll on top.


iMovie: You see the Blue tracks are the video and their connected audio.  The bottom blue track, AKA the A roll, is the video with the audio description of what I’m doing. The top one, AKA the B roll, are the close up (CU) shots of what I’m saying to help provide necessary details. The Green track is the song.  The small home plate-looking things above the video track are Markers that I added (using the M key) to help me see where I need to add the B roll.  They’re just guides.

6. Fix audio levels (between -10 – 0), add a music track in the background (make sure its at a much lower level than the speaking audio).

7. Add text, if needed.

8. Export, upload to the global stage.

9. Get a producer chair with your name in it.

Let’s watch how the completed movie looks like?

Let’s watch how this process looks like?

This process should help move the description and instructions much faster.  It keeps the video interesting and it also provides the nessessary details needed to TELL your stories.  Use this as a tool and guide to make your very own “cooking style” video.


How to make an iPad/tablet roll out a success. Learning from two schools in Vista, California.

a Digital Promise Story.

Vista, Ca
boy and iPad
Happy, proud young man. Photo by Beth Duncan


An Overview
A wonderful big idea + A thought out plan + Buy-in from the school community + And, a constant reminder as to why they’re doing this made this iPad rollout a super success!  Before I go on, I need to give a HUGE SHOUT OUT to the Learning coaches at both locations, the administration, and the many volunteers that made this day a celebration and not just a ardous task for everyone!

The iPad rollout was A HUGE VICTORY for Vista School District’s Rancho Minerva and VIDA middle schools this past weekend! It was a model for other schools to learn from. Although it was one of the hottest days in history for Vista, California (FYI: they’re about 15 min from the beach, too), it didn’t stop the crowds from coming and being a part of this celebration for learning!  As I pulled into VIDA middle school, there were families posing with their new iPad, as if they were picking up a puppy from the pet store and introducing it to their family. I got out of my car quickly and helped take a family portrait for the different families. I can tell that the schools did a wonderful job communicating the importance, the possibilities, and the value that this journey will provide not only the students but their families at home, too.

Make it a Celebration
Both schools had music, activities, stations for little sisters and brothers to interact with middle school students and the iPads. I also enjoyed seeing community members volunteering at these events as well. There was a group of students from a local college there helping parents with questions about the university and the process of getting ready between now and then. The food trucks came in handy as well. One of them was a Hawaiian shaved ice truck that, I believe, did very well, considering the almost 99° temperature. I liked the selfie station and the I photo station in the library. The kids ran some of these fun stations!!! Also, VIDA had a student store outside, selling branded clothing and other cool school stuff. I bought a cool cap! They appeared to have a steady stream of people ready and willing to buy something: from shirts, to bags, to even school branded headphones.


Make students a critical part of the event
A humongous plus for these events was the use of the students. At both schools, there was a large group of students wearing distinctive shirts that said “How can I help you” on them. The students were everywhere answering questions from parents and  they were a huge help with translating where needed. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Every chance I saw one of them, they were either jumping up-and-down, smiling, and laughing. As parents, nothing can be better– happy children!!!


Create volunteer excitement
At the schools, everyone volunteered. They gave up there Saturday to do this, to be a part of this, they were there from as early as 7 AM until 4 PM. I didn’t even mention the countless hours the teachers and the students put into this celebration the night before as well as the previous weeks leading to the event. You can see it everywhere. there was evidence everywhere of the thinking that went into making sure today was going to be a great day. Every student, parent, and teacher I interviewed shared with me how happy, excited, and proud of their school to have been selected. They all see this as a necessary component to help meet the needs of their children.  Also, They recognize that there will be bumps along the way, however, this is part of the learning lessons journey they have to and are willing to take.


Celebrate your cheerleaders
At Rancho Minerva, I was shooting some time lapse video inside the library and it was such a pleasure to listen to the library staff greet the families, explain the process to them, and congratulate them. Two of the library staff kept reaching out and tapping the kids on the shoulders as if they did something worthy of a shoulder tap. It was beautiful to see that shy middle school smile pop up time after time.


Plan clear stations
Even though, the lines, at times were super long, the energy levels stayed high. The schools did a great job making sure families had their questions were answered throughout the waiting process. Rancho Minerva and VIDA Middle Schools had very clear stations. Parents knew where to go and what was next. If you’re in a position that will be organizing a roll out like this one, you need to consider what the different stations look like. At Rancho Minerva, the stations were titled, iStart, iDocumentation, iGet, iInsure, and throughout the school, there were iNeed help stations as well. Both schools really thought through the station planning very efficiently and very effectively. The student helpers helped connect parent to the right places.


Document and story tell your victories
Lastly, I appreciated the storytelling and documenting student teams. They demonstrated how important it is to capture the stories of the day and share them with the world. A look local news team were so impressed with the quality of work of these students storytellers that they asked them to send B roll footage, coverage, that they had been shooting over to the station for a 4:30 PM broadcast. Their teacher, Beth Duncan, was a wonderful cheerleader for her teams as well. This is something all schools need to consider and plan for as well. Vista is about 2 1/2 hours away from me and I don’t even remember any of the drive home yesterday because of how excited I was with what I saw and what I experienced. I want to thank Rancho and VIDA, our Vista schools, for making me love my job even more!

Next stop: Learning!!!!!