What happens when students take the reins

With a week and a half left in the semester and Flat Classroom under their belts, I allowed (with Administrative permission) my computer science to propose and carry out projects that will either promote internet safety or create a website that will improve the communication and connection in the school.

The student projects are outlined on the Wildcat Web 2.0 project.

Three days into the project and they have blown me away. Here are some things they have planned.
  • Private school wide social network for parents, students, grandparents, and teachers - The students decided immersive learning is the best. Additionally, they wanted the elementary students to participate. After a meeting with me, I set up the site, they joined and I made them administrators (yes I did.) They customized the look, added RSS feeds, and have just done a tremendous job. They are in the process of setting up groups for every class.
  • Google Map with all of the area schools so that people can generate their directions. The two students on this project have worked diligently to make this map.
  • Flickr Group - This will be used to feed photographs into the school website and all other locations. This moderated group is administrated by a student and I.
  • Airset Calendars - We're beta testing airset calendars for classes, teams, and more. While we already have RSS feeds, students want to have their assignments texted to them before they leave school as well as their schedule. Interesting!
  • One team of students is using a Webkinz to prepare an internet safety seminar for elementary kids. They've adopted Mr. Moo the Safety Cow as the pet. (Maria Knee in New Hampshire is already doing this with her students.) They are preparing a 20 minute overview of online safety using the webkins to demonstrate the skills.
  • Internet Safety Seminar via Elluminate - Several progressive students have asked to host a parent safety session in elluminate during class Tuesday and we're going to make that happen. Parents will be given a tour of the Ning and questions will be addressed from the students. This is going to be a new experience and we'll see how it goes.
  • Wiki News Site - Students want to write the news, however I control the News Blog. So, we're beta testing a news wiki where students write the news and propose the articles for inclusion in the official school news blog. Then, I'll post the article on the blog. We're discussing now whether we lock the articles after posting or leave them open.
  • Complete Website Redo - Probably the thing that is taking the most time and is why I'm literally off the grid, is that the students want a complete redo of our website to integrate these things. This needs to happen anyway, so we're working on this as we speak. (Boy, I'm rusty!)
  • Internet Safety Videos - Several students wanted to create videos to promote internet safety to be shared in the Ning. This would give reasons for parents to go in and use the ning and help acclimate them to online spaces. So, Internet Man (IM) and his sidekick Web Wonder will take on the evil Dr. Spam V. Iris in the adventures of Internet Man! It is going to be funny and educational.
The amazing thing is that I could go on and on. The students have done an amazing amount of work in three days. After one period of brainstorming, I saw how the students were thinking and called in the principal and curriculum director to listen in on the student's planning sessions. We're beta testing a lot and the curriculum director and principal will give approval before services are offered to the entire school. We plan to roll these things out in phased approach to prevent culture shock.

My students are so excited! And I wanted a low key, relaxing way to end the semester after Flat Classroom. It is exciting, hyper, and very very energetic and engaging! I cannot keep up.

This is an extremely meaningful rich Information Technology experience where my students are launching a service. If you look at their plans, they have timelines and deliverables. Today they presented their first milestones to the class. I'm very proud of them. (And very tired!)

Consider giving your students an opportunity to contribute to your internet safety program and Internet education program as advocates and leaders. Expect a lot, hold them accountable, and have very very high standards. You'll see that they are more than capable and will match your energy level.

OK, I've got to go relax!

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