Technology Reviewers Club

Earlier today I was tossing around an idea on Twitter about having a “club” that would try out new tech tools for feasibility prior to full scale introduction to all of my students.  Part of this comes from the frustration of account creation for 100+ students when not every service is used extensively or by every student.  The other part of it comes from the reality of our school’s new proposed schedule for next year.

The Basic Idea

Kids could be pulled from throughout the building: 6th, 7th, and 8th grade.  Tools that would be used throughout the course of the year could be introduced to them.  These students would need to be somewhat tech-savvy already, prepared to reflect on the ease of use of the tool, benefits of use, negatives, and overall usefulness large scale.  Each student would start with a blog through Edublogs service.  On their blog, they would post their thoughts and reflections about using each tool.  Initially, I would be suggesting the tools that students would be using.  Some tools might be web-based, others might be open-source or otherwise available on school hardware.

The students would serve as my guinea pigs, trying out the tools from the student perspective.  They would look for pitfalls, best use scenarios, and general ideas about each tool.  When the tools are rolled out later in the year, they would serve as my “experts” to help out the new folks.  By pulling students from throughout the building, I could share ideas across all grade levels.  The amount of account creation would be minimal initially (just for the club members) so if the value isn’t there, the investment is low.

Next Steps

Some other thoughts for the “club” would be to prepare screencasts or tutorials for the use of the tools in the classroom. We could possibly set up a Google Site or a wiki where this information could be stored. This club would be a good place for quickly trying out up-and-coming web tools for communication, collaboration, and content creation.

Scheduling

This might be difficult to pull off as an after school club, but our school is looking at a new schedule for next year.  Our normal morning advisory time is being shifted to the end of the day. Partly to accommodate the students who leave early for sports, keeping them from missing as much class, partly to start the day with academic material, and partly for the opportunity to begin “Club Days”.  These would be weekly or bi-weekly (hasn’t been decided yet) and would be a 30 to 45 minute block of time for teachers to hold clubs during the school hours.  Many of the clubs would rotate each 9 weeks, some would be yearlong and others would run for a semester.  I think this kind of schedule is great for those students who are unable to participate in after school clubs, and ideal for the Tech Reviewers Club idea.

Is anyone out there currently doing something like this? I’d love to hear thoughts and ideas for this type of group.

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“Scare-Free” Internet Safety

Our school will be providing a parent night in a couple of weeks where some of the staff will be discussing with parents the topic of “Keeping Your Children Safe Online.”  I have experienced and seen reports of enough of these sessions that have turned into fear-mongering sessions that I would really like to see something different in our building.  Tonight I sent out a request for the ONE site folks would share if they had the opportunity to show a non-scare tactic Internet Safety site to middle school parents.  I got a number of responses back and thought I would share them here for anyone else looking:

Would love to know of other sites you all have used in similar presentations at your schools.