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We’ve had a class blog now for a couple of months, but I’ve noticed something recently. I was still the “sage on the stage.” I posted, the students responded. I responded to their response. No one responded to me.

Obviously, something was not working. I could do the same thing with student journals. Yes, the blog made their writing more visible, more public, yet it wasn’t anything that they truly cared about. In order to do this, I needed to turn the blog over to them. Once I had this revelation, I needed to find models of student blogs that worked. Blogs that mirrored the students’ passions. While trolling through twitter, I found one such blog in the Digiteen Dream Team.

To make a long story short, the Dream Team found an incredible learning tool in Lively, Google’s online virtual world. They have created their avatars, performed plays, and even “built” a virtual school. Unfortunately, this tool is being shut down on December 31, 2008. Needless to say, the students are upset. And they’re not taking it lying down.

Matty Bear

Lively Avatar - Matty Bear

The Dream Team is blogging, using wikispaces, and continuing to use Lively to organize protests. The most incredible thing is, unlike the vast majority of people (adults included), they are doing this in a way that is respectful of others, including the corporation involved…Google. Their most recent post shows thoughtful, carefully crafted ideas that demonstrate their thorough grasp of the big picture:

• For-profit companies need to make money from their products.

• Google is a  for-profit company, Lively is their product, therefore Lively needs to make money.

• Solution – Let’s bring money-making ideas to Google.

The most recent post on the Digiteen’s blog is a solution; suggestions on 10 ways that Lively can make money for Google. Their suggestions run the gamut from t-shirts and avatar clothing to charging for company rooms to asking for donations. However, their “pay for eyeballs” idea is the most innovative I have heard of in a long time. Internet marketers, look out, because these students are your future competitors!

Pay for “eyeballs” – Let users “pick” their advertising “bling” of the day — what they support and like — then, the advertisers pay google for each avatar that picks their bling and pays by how many other avatars “see” the advertising “bling” — literally paying for “eyeballs” — something that cannot be done in the real world.

Is this a David and Goliath story? Probably…hopefully…But no matter what the outcome of this particular fight, these ninth graders from Georgia are mobilizing people à la Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody.

Now that’s real learning…and real power.

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