The official release of Teentek.com

OK, so it’s all I’ve been able to do to hold off these past three weeks to announce something that might just blow up in my face….feel free to laugh if it does.

After reading Will’s post, Discovering Content, I’ve decided it’s time to bring Teentek.com to the masses. This will be a long one…so be prepared, but let me tell you how this site came to be and tell you as of yesterday I have no clue where it’s going.

Some of you might remember that last year I wrote about an elective class that I was asked to teach. Here is what I was thinking then.

Media 2.0

The class would consist of everything 2.0. Really bring all these new tools into the hands of the students and let them experiment with them. At this point I envision a blog with a title Tech for Teens or something like that. The students would create podcasts about technology tools, do how to screencasts for teens, talk about research skills  and other sites besides Google to use for researching homework. I would love to have a weekly video podcast doing like a CNET style review of the latest teen gadgets. The new cell phone, the new mp3 player, or the hottest new online game. Of course being in China would mean looking at the option of having the site both in English and Chinese.

So this summer when I returned to find that I had 19 students with a waiting list I was pumped. We started off talking about the web, looking at tools, and trying to find what our niche would be in this crowded web world. I swear I have 19 of the geekiest kids at our school. On the first day I asked them their name and what kind of technology was their passion. From there we needed a name for the site, something that would be catchy that teenagers could find, remember and want to come back to. We ran around a bunch of names and came up with teentech.com. Then we looked up on the Internet only to find that that domain was already taken. So back to the discussion we went, but they didn’t want to leave the name..it was them, they had a tie to it…that’s when one of the girls said:

“Why don’t we call it teentek.com…you know like you spell tek when you are IMing or texting on a phone.”

Everyone agreed, I tried to pick my mouth off the ground and bought the domain and the hosting space out of my own pocket that day. (Yes this domain is owned by me, not the school…so I can take it with me when I move on…hopefully guaranteeing its existence for a long while)

Next we came up with some goals…being Middle School kids and food always being on their minds our goal came to be:

By the end of semester we want to generate enough money through ads to buy our own pizza party.

A good goal and we’re looking into using Google Ads and one kid is researching selling Ad space, how you do that and how it works.

We then installed Drupal at the site. By the time class was out and I got home one of the students had already posted our first post on the site…I still can’t believe this is a 12 year old writing this.

Title: What is Technology?

Technology: 1 : the science of the application of knowledge to practical purposes : applied science

2 : a scientific method of achieving a practical purpose

-Miriam Webster’s

Once upon a time, technology was a way of using tools to solve
problems. Now, in the 21st century, it’s way of communication and
information gathering that is central in almost every part of our
lives. Economy, entertainment, communication. Without technology, the
rate at which these things happen would slow down to a snail’s pace. So
what exactly IS technology, you ask? Technology is the way we use tools
to communicate and gather information, at a basic level. These include
cellphones, video games, and most importantly, computers.

The day after installing Drupal a student approached me and said:

“Mr U, I saw you installed Drupal for the site so I went out downloaded some themes and started hacking them.” (The kids 12!)

Come to find out this kid is totally into programing, and hacking scripts, so yesterday I made him the Administrator of the sites…all the students agreed he would be the best one to do it. 20 minutes after he got home from school and logged in as an Administrator for the first time he sent me this e-mail.

Hey Mr. Utecht, I just wanted to note that TeenTek has had almost 1000
viewers now! And we’ve only been open for a month! There are some
friends in China, Philadelphia, and Canada that I asked to visit, but
on the Clustr map it shows a dot in Europe! Isn’t that cool?

So that’s it, a site ran by teens for teens. We only have the class 40 minutes every other day so it’s moving slow, although the students are doing a ton of work at home on the site. Next week we go over the podcasting equipment and they’ll learn how to run that, then on to creating videos. We are still learning A LOT of what it takes to run a site like this. Everything from good writing to linking to sources, to using the Drupal API to post content. Some things to look for in the near future:

  • The logo should be finished by next week and then we’ll create a banner for people to put on their site
  • The overall theme has been agreed upon now our administrator starts hacking and I don’t have a clue what he has in mind.
  • More discussion on writing, reading, and the inter-connectiveness of the web.
  • Oh, yeah, they did decide that I could have an account to post stuff and came up with my name as Captain U

As Will wrote the other day:

The shift with doing something like this is more than just safety, however. The real shift is with the stance of the teacher. This idea forces us to move away from delivering content as we have for 100+ years and instead move toward assisting students to discover content on their own.

I think this is what this class has to offer. It’s not graded for how much content we cover, there are no real goals of the elective except to allow students to explore something new, something different. Isn’t that what education should be all about anyway? About learning? Every day these kids amaze me with what they know, what they think, and where they want to go. I just have to remember to stay out of their way, guide them along and allow them to grow. Please pass the site along to others…mostly to teens as that is the intended audience.

Enjoy! :)

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11 Comments

  1. wow, jeff. That’s all I have to say. wow.

  2. This is fabulous, Jeff. You must be so proud of these kids. And I didn’t miss the bit you kind of slipped in in passing: “although the students are doing a ton of work at home on the site”. You have achieved what Kathy Sierra calls the koolaid point (see: http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2005/08/physics_of_pass.html) with these kids. You have engaged them and they have taken ownership. Way to teach!

  3. Very cool, Jeff. Very, very cool. And while your at it, just for all the skeptics out there, why not have them keep a list of all the things they are learning in the process. And then see how many of those things are testable, and how many of them are just “I learned how to” type things. We may be surprised!

  4. This is truly inspiring. When you start the year off with a clear set of 2.0 priorities, it is amazing how fast you can make progress. Instead of doing grammar worksheets, do something like this. You have had a brilliant beginning to your year. It is absolutely no surprise to me that you have a waiting list to get into your class.

  5. Wow, that is very impressive stuff! I can’t believe that this is what 12-year-olds learn/do in school these days. Good luck to you and your class. I’m sure you’ll be able to get that pizza party — and then some!

  6. So I’m a college student just browsing through blogs related to education and technology, and this one really caught my attention. My class is trying to decide how computers and technology can be integrated effectively into a classroom to promote learning for students. I think in this day and age, it is crucial for students to have a solid grasp on all the different aspects of technology and how they can use it to better their lives, and just make things easier.

    What I loved about your blog, Jeff, is that your students are getting that opportunity! If I had been able to have a class like that in high school, I know it would have helped me. I mean, I’m not totally deficient when it comes to technology, but I could use help with a lot of things…I would have no idea how to start up a website, for one thing.

    Getting students out there and not just teaching them about everything the internet has to offer, but also putting them to practice doing it, will put them far ahead of others when they’re trying to get a job. Many students don’t have a grasp on how to go about finding and doing things using technology beyond google or IMs or what have you.

    I’m going into high school English education and I would love to be able to have a site created by my students showcasing their work and being critiqued not just by me or their peers, but by the world at large. That type of help could really make improvements sky-rocket. I think students would be excited and they would put more effort into their writing if they knew everyone (literally) would have the opportunity to give them feedback.

    So congratulations Jeff on making this successful class! You’ve got some very lucky students and I look forward to watching how things progress for both you and them! Best wishes!

  7. Amazing Jeff-
    I am a High School Computer teacher in NY and I will show your TeenTek site in my class. I am just beginning to start the deveolpment of a Media 2.0 for my school. this is so inspiring!

  8. Great site Jeff…. I can’t wait to see where it goes. Very cool..

  9. In Reply To 10. Educational Technology and Life ยป Blog Archive ยป The official release of Teentek.com – September 22, 2006

    I saw your comment on the site and approved it ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I haven’t learned UNIX. Maybe I’ll try it.
    I’ve never really touched a Mac before but I know it all looks really pretty.
    I frequently get mad at Windows because it’s so insecure and there are so many bugs… and sometimes it takes forever to find something.
    Still, I have lots of fun messing around with regedit and hexedit.
    Can you modify the Mac OS X beyond all recognition? If so, I might consider getting one ๐Ÿ˜€

    P.S. The first Hardware Heaven video podcast will be about regedit. Watch for it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. The teentek site is fabulous. The kids are really getting into their writing. It’s interesting for adults to view to see what’s important to teenagers and you are giving them a “voice.” Keep up the great work. I’ll be checking back often.

  11. Wow …. absolutely fanstastic Jeff! You’ve managed to do what we all try to do with our kids: empower them to learn for themselves.

    I’m going to share the site with all my students. I’m also going to be involved in a learning technologies symposium at a local university in the new year and will point to your post and site.

    You’re redefining what it means to be a teacher in the new century in many of the same ways Clarence talks about at Remote Access — teacher as network administrator. But I think you’ve taken it one step further — teacher empowering students to become network administrators.

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