After working in a quiet corner on-screen for the majority of my time, going into a class of fourth graders during their last class of the day and talking about the internet with them is like walking into a room of golden retriever puppies with your hands full of Scooby Snacks; so much energy and enthusiasm, you can't help but get just as excited. Now I get why my teacher-friends do what they do!
Marc, Saagara's CTO, and I have been going to Pattengill Elementary School in Ann Arbor, working with the students in Mrs. Blair's class to create websites using Google Sites. The kids were split into groups with the goal to each make a website on a different educational topic (science, math, reading, etc.). Marc structured the project perfectly, giving them a list of steps to keep in mind while going through the process: brainstorming, research, design, implementation, testing, releasing, and closing/reflecting. While his focus was more on the technical side of web construction, I covered the design aspect (AKA the fun part).
To get them in the zone, I had the kids design a website with me...in under a minute...for Lady GaGa. We drafted the perfect site for her: a prosciutto stiletto as her top banner, top ten fan facts, and links to social media. At this point, Thanksgiving Break was coming up very soon, so Mrs. Blair instructed them to do their research and find the information, the links, the videos and photos, everything they wanted to put on their site. I was totally blown away when each group came back from break with a mini-stack of papers and notes on soccer players, sea creatures, history and geography facts, and more, PLUS citations on where they found the information and images on the web!
Seeing how well they did research-wise, I refreshed their creative gears by laying out another sample site about one of the group's topics. Having them see it on the board was one thing, so I had them actually cut out blocks of information using construction paper and paste them on a plain sheet so they could visually understand the structure and solidify their ideas even further. Each group made a layout and presented it to the class.
At this point, (to their unfathomable level of excitement) the kids were ready to hit the screens! Marc and another Saagara programmer, Greg, and I helped the kids gather their information and structure their sites.
To celebrate their hard work, the students had a mid-day party on the last day before Winter Break (complete with apple-cranberry juice and Goldfish) and presented their websites to each other and their parents. Marc, Greg, and I attended and (much to our surprise) were formally acknowledged and given thank you cards and gifts. Working with these imaginative, passionate, and brilliant minds was such a rewarding experience for me; not only did it get me up and away from my desk, but it reminded me of the wonderful things that come from the combination design and creativity and the boundless imagination of kids.