When Students Take Control of Their Learning, Magic Happens: A Timeless Reality!

In the mid-1990’s, the Web became available to the general public and was offered eworld-uyd4nxthrough several commercial ISP’s such as AOL, Prodigy,  and Appe’s eWorld (remember that one!).  Clarkstown North’s website was the district’s first, and one of the pioneering K-12 sites in the country.  It was conceptualized, created, and maintained by a group of students with a passion for this emerging medium.  Using www.chsn.org as their domain, their work was recognized nationally for its innovation and creativity.  The students responsible for creating and maintaining the site were innovators when the web was in its infancy.  The skills they learned most likely still serve them well in their respective professions.

This student driven project from more than fifteen years ago encompasses many of the expectations currently spelled out in the nation’s Common Core State Standards.   The students thrived in an environment that was engaging and purposeful, largely because they had the opportunity to take charge of their own learning.

Below is the introduction I wrote for the original site in 1996.  Today, many of our current students can reach their greatest potential—and master the variety of required standards–when they are given the opportunity to be authentically engaged in their learning and take advantage of modern tools to do so.  In an age of standardization, there is plenty of room for individualized learning, a beacon of light in the otherwise hazy fog of standardized test scores, changed cut scores, and potential unrest that are likely unwanted by-products of the current educational reforms.  Keeping our focus on what matters allows us to achieve the standards without sacrificing the creativity and enthusiasm of our students.

An Introduction by Mr. J. Krouskoff
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In February 1996, @North made its debut on the world wide web. Armed with its own url, www.chsn.org quickly impressed many in the school community. Then amazing things started to happen. Prodigy praised the work done by the North High School students and featured @North as one of its highly acclaimed sites of the week. Driven by their success and a desire to further serve the high school community, the small group of students continued their independent project. Asked by the superintendent of schools to present the site to the Board of Education, they dazzled the school board and a standing room only audience with a masterful demonstration of all the site had to offer. One school board member commented that the students’ VRML section and other elements of the site would have cost “in the six figures” if it had been developed by an outside organization. 

This positive reaction by the school board and the members of the audience encouraged the team to strive for new heights. Still working independently in their basements, garages, and dens, the students created new pages and explored new technologies. Unfortunately, the school district did not have the appropriate hardware, software, or budget to provide the resources these students needed. 

However, when the district announced its intention to have voters pass a technology bond, the team contacted the superintendent of schools and offered to provide whatever support they could to ensure the bond issue would be approved by the district’s taxpayers. To this end they brought their own machines to local elementary schools, presented to the local media, and demonstrated to the community at large in a series of meetings just what a technology bond would do for Clarkstown’s students. 

The bond passed by an overwhelming majority.

As the web site gained popularity locally, it was also drawing national attention. Adobe Corporation recognized the site as superior and decided to feature it in a book. Our site is featured prominently in Kids Do The Web, by Adobe Press. A marketing director from Gateway 2000 contacted the team via e-mail and praised the students for their work. Other nationally known movers and shakers, including a public relations director from Sunburst Software Corporation, a group vice-president from Ziff Davis Publishing Corporation, and even President Clinton himself, commented on the high quality of the work.

These plaudits are testimony to the high quality of the site.

The @North project has evolved into a course on Internet journalism at North High School. The students responsible for starting the site now work with students from all grades, teaching them the basics of html and the intricacies of managing a site on the world wide web. The district has provided them with the hardware necessary to move their work from the garages, basements, and dens where it originated, to a classroom where it now belongs.

Enjoy the site and use it often. It is here as a service to the community, yet it is accessed by people all across the country. Many alumni who currently live in distant states have contacted us expressing gratitude for providing a link with their past. Even more, including graduates from as far back as the 1960’s, have listed themselves in our alumni e-mail directory.

Please feel free to let us know what you like about the site, what sections are your favorites, and what you would like to see in the future. 

Mr. John Krouskoff
Adviser

 

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