"How 2B dIFfeReNT: Helping Teens Cope": A Secondary School Web Project

Stephen MacKinnon
Athens District High School
Leeds and Greenville Board of Education, Canada


The World Wide Web (WWW) is a powerful new communication tool. How can this tool enhance education? What can students do with this tool? How can the Web help young people maintain and enhance their cultures and develop their own identities? A WWW project undertaken by a team of secondary school students at Thousand Islands Secondary School in Brockville, Ontario, Canada, attempted to help teenagers from around the world. The goals were the following:

The project started with student Purvi Desai, whose family came from India to live in a small town in Canada. Purvi served as the project's team leader and as its heart and soul.

The original idea was to use the Web to share some of the incidents from Purvi's life in order to address the issue of racial tolerance. This was quickly expanded to include the stories of other teenagers who face being different in other ways. The goal was to help teens from around the world cope with their problems caused by being different.

The ground work for the project involved seeking out other "different" teens and soliciting their involvement. Their stories were written and rewritten.

The project team consisted of the student project leader and two other students with specific technical responsibilities. One became the HTML expert, and the other worked on the graphics manipulations.

The site plan included several interactive components to the site. This interactivity was viewed as one of the key aspects that would make the site meaningful to teenagers. Visitors are invited to submit their stories of coping with being different. These stories would then be built into the site as The Story of the Month. Another option presents the user with an incomplete story and asks the user to suggest solutions for the situation. The usual site feedback button was included as well.

The students chose several design components to make the site "cool." The name "How to Be Different" was transformed into "How 2B DIfFerEnt," using different capitalization each time. Graphics appear on almost every page, laid out beside the text. HTML extensions like the BLINK tag were used.

The result of the project is the How 2B diFfErent Web site: http://schoolnet2.carleton.ca/english/lang_soc/different/diffmain.html. This site is one of the model high school sites to appear in a comprehensive Web tutorial "Harnessing the Power of the Web for Classroom Use" (http://bonita.gsn.org/web).