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Brenda's Blog

Using the Net to Go
Beyond the Real
To the Possible


Psychologist and educator, David Elkind describes the thinking processes of young adolescents as "thinking in a new key" and suggests that these evolving skills have the potential to equip 'tweens and teens to "go beyond the real to the possible...." What does that heady promise look like in the classroom?

Thinking in a new key can take the form of technology-supported projects that link learners in different places in a common learning pursuit. Such "telecollaborative" projects have the potential to produce learning magic as students are introduced to authentic and meaningful activities designed to challenge their thinking and to fuel further exploration. Through online investigation, students often are introduced to an interest they never knew they had and are challenged to view themselves as knowledge producers, as opposed to knowledge consumers. Using social justice themes as a jumping off point, projects like these invade student thinking, often causing their world view to expand and their hearts to be touched.

The Change Masters Project lures students and teachers into thinking in a new key by posing two probing questions:

  • As you browsed the morning newspaper, when did you last feel a sense that the world was becoming a better place?
  • How long has it been since you were surprised by hope?

Using inspiring online video footage from the 2005 Live 8 Concert as a starting place, project participants begin a journey of exploring those who instigate positive change in this world, and are given an assignment to be on the look out for "change masters" around them -- those who use their creativity, business smarts, and hard work to create a brighter future for the world; social entrepreneurs who are using the work place to tackle poverty.

After exploring the inspiring project links, students are challenged to look around their immediate environment for world changers from their school, city, or family. Students from around the world are invited to write about local change masters and send their stories to The Change Masters Project, where the stories will be posted in the Change Masters Gallery as a celebration of those who champion social change in our world.

What will be the end result of these investigations? Future activists, biologists, social workers, artists, philosophers, architects, or historians? Only the future will tell.

Who Is Brenda?

Brenda Dyck is a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching preservice teachers, Brenda is the moderator of MiddleTalk, a listserve sponsored by the National Middle School Association (NMSA). Her "HotLinks" column is a regular feature in NMSA's magazine, Middle Ground. Brenda also is a teacher-editor for MidLink magazine.

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Updated 06/02/2009