In 2007, each IT class was given a different project in the use of web 2.0 The grade 3/4 class was one of our school’s larger ones with up to 30 students. After searching for a suitable global project, we applied for them to join the kinzexchange project established by a Canadian teacher. This involved buying a webkinz pet and maintaining a shared blog – assuming it was like the teddy bear project. Despite the huge popularity in USA and Canada, no shop in Australia sold webkinz.
We enrolled for the project, only to find out that we had to buy a webkinz which no shop in Australia sold yet. Searching ebay produced some private sellers in Australia so we duly bid for and were successful in buying Patch – a dear little dalmation puppy. Patch came with a computer code that once entered into the webkinz site, gave him a birth certificate, personal likes and dislikes etc and allowed entry into a virtual world. Students are then reponsible for his health and wellbeing and need to provide him with necessities, including food, exercise, shelter etc. Patch starts with a certain amount of money, but as money is spent, students can gain more money through games like activities. That world can also include other webkinz pets. The arrival and stay of Patch has caused much excitement amongst both students and staff. It has provided talking points amongst the students, given them motivation to maintain written journals and a focus of care and responsibility. Students have taken him home on weeknights and weekends. Students who normally would not join in classroom discussion or talk to many others become quite animated and willing to say what Patch has been up to. The classroom teacher of grade 3/4 has now taken on the project and that has provided her with new technological skills.
It has allowed our students to learn more about Canada. Terms like “fall”, “thanksgiving” and monarch have appeared on the blogs. The project is actually run by a teacher who has a younger grade but the grade 4 teacher at that school emailed us asking whether we would like to become pen pals (via snail mail). So the students have now exchanged letters and Christmas cards. The Canadian school does not have ready access to computers yet, but a computer technician has now been employed and it is hoped that we can videoconference with them and try other web 2.0 activities in 2008.
A sample journal entry:-
When I got to Nat’s house, he showed me around. I got to drive the car around the house. I met his family and then it was time to do the lambs. I fed Prince Charming. I rode Fiona and scratched the cat’s tummy. I had a great time outside but it was time to go inside.
I got chased by Dino Raptor the robot and it bit my tail. I went on the motor bike and I went fast, so fast I went overboard. Fetch was played with Scruffy and the I went sailing into the bath tub to get clean. After that we went on the play station 2 and I won. It was then time to go to bed. I wish I could go to Nat’s place again.
Some security tips:-
only the IT and classroom teacher know the password for the website address.
Students have limited time each day to care for Patch online and enter his virtual world.
Monitor students periodically to ensure all is well.
This has been an exciting project to be involved in with these young digital natives.