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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13 thoughts on “What happens when students take the reins

  1. Vicki,
    I’m so glad you’re doing this! It’s so energizing to see the kids realize they are making a difference right here and now. Do they know they’re being watched and will possibly pointed to as a successful model?

    I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say yep, PBL and authentic learning is tiring for teachers and students alike, but the fatigue is truly worth it!
    YAY! I’m so excited to see how the beta tests work out!

  2. Vicki my dear, you’ve bumped Dan in line

    It was, Oh, Dan, poor Dan,. Now it is: Vicki, poor Vicki, you are just the last in line:

    Dan originally wrote: how he kept the reigns around this one

    You wrote:

    What happens when students take the reigns

    I’ll repeat what I wrote to Dan:

    OK, ALL YOU TEACHER PEOPLE, LISTEN UP!

    There are 3 homonyms
    rain
    rein
    reign

    rain = precipitation. Germanic origin — the earlier spellings do have a g in there (Old English, regn)

    rein = a strap or cord to control an animal. Figuratively, a means of control over something.

    According to my dictionary, Middle English : from Old French rene, based on Latin retinere ‘retain.’

    reign = Middle English : from Old French rene, based on Latin retinere ‘retain.’
    Middle English : from Old French reignier ‘to reign,’ reigne ‘kingdom,’ from Latin regnum, related to rex, reg- ‘king.’

    Orthography isn’t random. It contains meaning. If you mix up rein and reign, you are confusing your students.

    But if you’ve never held the reins yourself, and sometime dream of reigning…well perhaps I am being too harsh.

    Or my sensitivity is due to those years I spent as a junior copyeditor, under the direction of Frau Blücher.

    See eggcorns

  3. I’ve thought about it a bit more.

    As you may know, my daughter is dyslexic. All throughout her K-12 academic career, we spent time disambiguating homophones and figuring out ways of prompting the correct spelling, based on the meaning.

  4. Vicki, this is so inspiring. Your students are amazing, you are amazing, and you are providing such a powerful example of student-centered learning.

    Please tell your students that a lot of people are watching what they’re doing and most impressed with their ideas and initiative. And that you and your administration are also being watched by a lot of people because you’re showing that giving up that teacher-centric role and allowing students to really plan and think and execute their ideas can work in powerful ways.

    I am going to send your blog link to a few listservs. — Pamela

  5. This is a great way to end the semester! So many teachers fall into the trap of doing nothing or watching irrelevant movies. This exercise no doubt gave your kids a great learning experience that was entirely their own; something they could be proud of at the end of the semester, rather than wasting their time.
    Bravo!
    Great Idea!

  6. I love seeing these kinds of reports, with students encouraged to use the Internet in such a relevant way. Kudos to you and your class for paving the way for other classrooms.

    Mike

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