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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