Figuring it out matters!

INSPIRATION: our challenge from today (roll out) on

Dear Team,

Call me a dreamer. It sometimes is perceived as a good thing but it’s also considered a tough thing to some. I know. Others, in my past and now, have told me that dreaming can be uncomfortable.  It’s scary NOT to be in control. I know it. For me– I love the “what-if” attitude about it. I love to discover, be surprised, and also the safety of familiarity along the way. It helps me connect with the relevance of the why, it inspires me to see and feel the meaningfulness of the possibilities, and it gives me fuel to see the value of the applicability of it. 

Dreaming helps me see beyond the obvious.  That’s why I joined Digital Promise. I want to help you make and tell that story!
This Lego commercial is my manifesto right now. As you all roll out, you’re really rolling out your own new possibilities. It’s more than handing a tablet that is connected to the Internet to a student. It’s a portal to options and possibilities. 

Is it scary? Yes! Is it worth it, YES! is it the right thing to do, HECK YEAH!  This is a beautiful and scary time for the system of education.  It’s scary if the adults feel they can manage and control it all. It’s beautiful if it shifts the control and ownership of the learning experience with the students and their families. This is what you’re all doing– you’re including students and their families into this new story of what learning needs to look like from now on.

Watch, listen, and experience this Lego commercial. I love what it says. Can you see this as your story that you want to tell? Are you learning and helping others to FIGURE IT OUT? If so, do you have evidence of what this looks like now? Do you have pieces of it? If you don’t, what questions should you be asking so that you can generate the necessary evidence to show the world this new face of learning at your school?

Be inspired. Inspire others. Clarify where needed. Model every chance you get. Help others grow. Share that experience!  The last line of this Lego commercial says: “I’m about to make something that will make you proud.” This is so important. Pause and think about this sentence. Be the change! Do Epic stuff! 

Dream. Select the necessary questions, resources, and people to help you with new ideas or enhance the ones you have now. Connect with other dreamers! Reflect on your victories along the way. Please share your lessons learned through the process. Make sure your needs and concerns are heard so that others can help turn them into a lesson learned and ultimately into more victories for you. This will get you and your school the narrative needed to be the change and do epic stuff. If we don’t, the traditional system will continue to miss opportunities for many of our children and the traditional system will continue to limit how we measure a wonderful learning experience.

Start your story now…



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 ( and DIY Girls (  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 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!!!!!

How to be a super storyteller: the Digital Promise storyteller.


[ The SUPER Storyteller ]

A storyteller today is a mobile storyteller. I once heard from one of my favorite photographers, Chase Jarvis, that the best camera is the one that is with you. What this means is if you don’t have the ability to capture a moment, share that experience, collect evidence, then there was a missed opportunity. So much of being a storyteller is being there, experiencing it, internalizing it, we creating it, and sharing it.

However to be an effective storyteller, you need to be three things:

  • A producer.
  • A director.
  • And a technician.

A producer sees possibilities, they make the necessary connections between activity and interest. in other words, they see the promise of what is happening and seeing how others can benefit from the potential story. They figure out a way to isolate and frame the story opportunity.

The director figures out how to create, curate, and cultivate the process to tell that story. They help others with direction on how to capture it, how to get it done. They create a process that simplifies the journey map. A really good director inspires the technicians to feel connected to the project and help them be the best they can do what they do. I guess you can say that they could director is a good head coach, manager/ leader.

Finally, a technician someone who knows the tools and resources needed to help produce the story. They know how cameras work, I know the value of audio, to understand the power of timing in the post production process. They have a great sense of the technical options available to them to affectively communicate the potential and the possibilities from the producer and the process and workflow from the director. They get it done. They make it happen.

In the past, and in most cases, this is, at least, a three person team. This is a fish that can walk, swim, and fly! This is why I call this person the super storyteller, The superproducer!

Assess your skills and see where your strengths are. If you’re better at one of the three, figure out a way to find others who can complement you. Or, figure out a way to learn the other skill sets to help you evolve into this super storyteller.



Storytelling your journey: The stuff. Part 1 of 2

[ draft ]

Explorers are cool!  Explorers who travel with a map maker is even cooler! Explorers who travel with a storytelling mapmakers ARE THE COOLEST! Why? Because they create a buzz!

What does the explorer, mapmaker, and storyteller backpack look like? I’ll show you mine.


Lets chat about what I think a story can be:

  1. Victories (big or small)
  2. Lessons learned (pluses, deltas, reflections)
  3. Needs and concerns (what questions do we still have)

How do we collect, create, and showcase those stories:

  1. Text (blogs, journals, social media tools).
  2. Audio
  3. Video
  4. Photos
  5. A mix of media.


  1. iPad/ media tablet: A very rich, media creating device.   There are so many tools to help capture stories and evidence. Audio, text, video, and animation.
  2. iphone/ smartphone.  There are so many tools to help capture stories and evidence. Audio, text, video, and animation.
  3. DSLR / Camera: Quality is key for me.  There are times where I need QUALITY images and video and thanks to DSLR (or mirror less cameras with interchangeable lenses), I can get great images that utilize existing light more effectively than video focused cameras.  Most DSLRs now record great HD video and (FOR ME) the depth of field control (the area in focus) is AMAZING!!!  That’s the process of controlling what is in focus and what isnt.  It provides a better focus on what you want to people to focus on.

nikon DSLR

  1. Microphone / audio recorder: Many times video doesn’t work.  Sometimes people are too nervous to respond to a video camera or you’re not sure if you have the appropriate release for them.  There are many mice and audio devices you can use.  Using your iPhone/ ipad/tablet can do the job for you, too.You can record ambient sounds of  the activity, interviews, edit them in an editor like garageband or audacity and share it out (NPR style).
  2. Tripod of some sort.  Please USE a tripod when you can!  Moving video can be nauseating.  KEEP AS STILL AS POSSIBLE, if you don’t.  When using an iPhone/iPad/ or other smart device— you can look into solutions for mini tripods and claps to help you with that!

iphone tripod

  1. A notepad (in any format): I write and draw and map out my stories, my collected media assets, my production notes.  ALL DIRECTORS DO!!  Storytelling is a process in assembling, dot-connecting, curating and strategizing.  Notes, many times for storytellers, are very visual and a notepad/notebook, or even note taking tools are critical.  Being able to share those notes is even better.  I can talk about that on a later sharing!  Simple: Use your notebook! Share your notes!
  2. A Stage: Vimeo, Youtube, Blog, GoogleDrive, iLife theater.  I don’t know what the parameters are for the schools but you need a stage— ITS YOUR PORTFOLIO!  Its a place that showcases your verbs, what you did, what you’re doing, and what you’re gonna do!  This is an area that is not super strong with schools.  Making evidence and showcasing the victories, the lessons learned, and any needs and concerns are critical to what the story is with you.  Rumors, perceptions, and other forms of outside determined forces DONT HAVE TO paint your picture, tell your story.  Think of a place that serves two purposes:
    1. Identify your stories.
    2. Collect your stories. Create them.
    3. Curate and Cultivate the stories— What can be an out facing story, what is inside facing!
    4. Share and showcase.

There are many tools for the job and TODAY is a great day because there are many tools that can help enhance the story making and sharing experience.  Explore!  Share your tools, your storytelling strategies!

iphone tripod