Nonprofit Prophets

Note: Nonprofit Prophets began in 1995 as an initiative of Pacific Bell Education First. It remains online as a resource for those teachers and students who want to use the framework to develop their own community action projects. No support - other than occasion link checking - is provided.

Teacher's Guide

Nonprofit Prophets is a Web-based, collaborative community service project designed to empower students to understand and positively impact an issue they see in the world. This page describes Nonprofit Prophets so that teachers can decide how their classes may participate.

Instructional Background
Overview | Goals | Objectives | California Frameworks

Real World Applications
Commitment | Collaborations | Investigation | Constructivism | Technology-Use

Participating in Nonprofit Prophets
Levels of Participation | Online Resources

Project Implementation
Timeline | Participants' Roles & Responsibilities

Instructional Background

Overview of Nonprofit Prophets

In this project, teams of students work together to select a local or global problem that they want to understand, serve, and solve. Once the problem is identified, students select one aspect of the problem to become an expert on. Students work with actual nonprofit organizations to develop a World Wide Web site in partnership with the organization. The Web site will combine student learning, key features of the nonprofit organization, and a variety of multimedia/interactive enhancements. The technology tasks may be completed by the students conducting the research or they may be "contracted out" to students in other classes, probably at other schools. Various levels of participation are available to interested classes. Ideally, each group would pursue an actual local solution to the problem they are studying.

Return to this page's menu...

The Goals of Nonprofit Prophets

An anecdote shared by a 10-year veteran teacher will help show the need for Nonprofit Prophets. "Two years ago, I was working with a ninth grade student who ended-up getting 5 of 5 "F's" for the semester. In attempting to get him engaged in any kind of learning, I ran the gamut from humor & camaraderie to tough love & consequences. No matter what I tried the student's repeated response was a lethargic and disinterested, "whatever." One year ago I was working with another, similar, student. When I asked him a question, he emitted the phoneme "ev," an abbreviation that he informed me stood for "whatever." Absolute apathy had now been reduced further into a carelessness about even being apathetic!"

Nonprofit Prophets has as its goal engaging students before, during, or after the on-set of apathy. Many experiences in the lives of our students serve to demoralize them. Things like unstable family lives, neighborhood violence, drug dealing and abuse, the undermining influence of popular culture, etc. all take their toll. As teachers we know there is nothing more dispiriting than to work with dispirited youths.

Therefore, the main goal of Nonprofit Prophets is to foster a sense of caring, commitment, and legitimate hope in the hearts of our students by having them address, rather than run from, the problems that confront them. In short, we hope to encourage students to fulfill the following definition adapted from the Mirriam Webster On-line Dictionary:

people gifted with more than ordinary moral insight
who stand out as effective leaders for a cause.

Return to this page's menu...

Objectives of Nonprofit Prophets

In order to encourage students to become prophets for causes important to them, Nonprofit Prophets attempts to boost achievement by having students develop a solution to something they truly view as a "problem." Investing effort, investigating evidence and inventing solutions will challenge students to research, hypothesize, legitimately interact with professionals, and to create learning resources and solutions that will impact the real world. Specifically, the targeted outcomes are:

Academic Achievement:

  1. to investigate the needs of their community.
  2. to create publishable articles, art work, music, video, etc. for a Web page that students will create as a resource for people interested in their topic.
  3. to stretch their capabilities to the extent that they meet the expectations of the adult work world.
  4. to learn a professionally-used technology.
  5. to communicate the acquired learning in authentic presentations to community evaluators.

Attitude & Motivation:

  1. to create a sense of caring and community in students.
  2. to develop positive commitment and identification with their "communities."
  3. to show students that they can use sophisticated computer applications.
  4. to promote self-esteem through interaction with community professionals.

Return to this page's menu...

Curriculum / Frameworks Links to Nonprofit Prophets

This project targets 9th and 10th grade English, Social Science, Health and Earth Science/Biology classes. It could also be used as a focal project in Applied Technology courses.

Soc. Sci.
Other Areas
4th §

Health (Core Teams)
Applied Tech (Core Teams)
Core Teams
Core Teams
Core Teams

(Computer) Graphic Arts
Core Teams
Core Teams
Core Teams

(Digital) Video Production

Core Teams?
Business/Desktop Publishing

    "Core Team" = Nonprofit Prophets was made for these classes!

    "§" = the frameworks support participation by these classes.

    Other Areas = students here could act as "sub-contracted" collaborators.

Return to this page's menu...

Real World Applications in Nonprofit Prophets

Personal Commitment

In order to be successful in life as well as school, students must make a personal commitment to themselves and their values. Too often students merely go through the motions by "playing school." The following elements of Nonprofit Prophets contribute to fostering a high level of personal commitment. A premise of this project is that students will get out of the project a benefit equal to their investment.

  • Students should have no excuse but to hold a strong personal commitment to the problem they choose to investigate.
  • Interdependency with team members will require students to work cooperatively and to be responsible for their piece of the project.
  • Because this is a real world project, resources and obstacles will vary. Students who are committed to their team, project and the topic will persevere through inevitable frustrations.
  • Because student teams will be "contracting" some of their work out to other students at other schools (i.e., graphic arts, video production, etc.), the core team's commitment to creating a quality product will elicit the best from "sub-contracted" students.

Return to this page's menu...

Human Collaborations Permeate Nonprofit Prophets

Through collaborating and depending upon people, students will become more connected with their peers, local professionals, and communities. Teachers should leverage these important collaborations as ways to engage students in the inherent "human-ness" generated by the project. Students should view Nonprofit Prophets as more than merely an intellectual endeavor that uses a lot of technology. People are what Nonprofit Prophets is really about. Among the people students will be collaborating with are:

  • fellow classroom teammates.
  • students in other schools.
  • students at different grade levels.
  • community representatives.
  • college students and professors in related fields.
  • government and political leaders.
  • professionals from local and distant nonprofit service organizations.
  • business professionals.
  • other colleagues students discover through the course of the project.
  • mentors who share a dedication to solving an important problem.
Return to this page's menu...

Authentic Investigation

Too often school learning is using packaged texts to pursue the artificial process of "discovering" someone else's answers. This project requires that students explore a wide and ever expanding array of information sources. A special resource page entitled Resources for Investigating Problems/Researching is provided to support student work. Ultimately, students will add their own learning to the body of knowledge that exists on their topic available to the world on the Internet.

  • Students will use the internet to investigate potential topics.
  • Students will explore an array of resources, references, and tools (Web and gopher sites, e-mail correspondence, newsgroups, listservs, etc.) on the internet to learn about their topic and to make contacts with experts in the field.
  • Students will test their hypotheses with consultants, mentors, and peers.
  • Students will receive feedback from a variety of people in the real world (consultants, professionals, peers, students of different ages as well as Web surfers who happen upon the projects).

Return to this page's menu...

Student Construction of Meaning and Cognition

Like authentic investigation on the topic of the students' choosing, the manner in which students interact with the available resources and material impacts their learning. A constructivist learning model informs this project as students have access to a rich, contextually-based collection of resources. From this array, students must make sense, or "construct meaning." The cognitive model's emphasis on examining the schema of experts to scaffold the learning of novices also contributes to this project. Once students have constructed their own meaning or schema for the topic, on-going interaction with experts will allow the younger learners to test their developing understanding with that of their mentors. Specifically:

  • Because students care about their topic, they will be likely to employ more effective "habits of mind." (see the Dimensions of Learning by Robert Marzano and others)
  • Because students are exploring the real world, the information and perspectives they receive will be varied. This will require the students to construct their own understanding of the topic.
  • Because students will have contact with real world consultants & experts, the students will be able to pursue and follow-up on the pieces they need to fill in their own personal cognitive schema on the problem.

Return to this page's menu...

Technology Infusion

In Nonprofit Prophets, technology is used as both a tool for pursuing high quality learning and an instrument for creating cutting-edge products. Thus, the technologies used fall into two main categories: research and production. In order to research their chosen topics, students will make frequent use of the following internet resources.

  • World Wide Web Resources Pages
  • on-line encyclopedias and/or databases
  • e-mail and listservers
  • videoconference-based workshops, interviews, consultations, and evaluations
  • real-time Chat and Web discussion boards
  • Virtual field trips

Once the students have acquired a foundation of information, they begin the process of creating their products. Students may work individually or in pairs on the specific tasks mentioned above to bring their project together.

Students will work as individuals or pairs within a collaborative group to complete one of the specific tasks/technology products below:

Return to this page's menu...

Participating in Nonprofit Prophets

Levels of Participation

Core Teams: see the Frameworks matrix above.
  • Core Teams - conduct research and work with partners from nonprofit organizations.
  • Core Team - conduct research and work with partners from nonprofit organizations + develop the World Wide Web pages.
  • Core Team - conduct research and work with partners from nonprofit organizations + develop the World Wide Web pages + complete other technology jobs.
Support Teams: these could be English, science, social science or health classes other than the core grade levels or elective classes like Applied Technology, Graphic Art, Computers, Video Production, Photography, etc.
  • Data Gatherers / Researchers
  • "Contracted" Technologists
  • Feedback Providers
Interested classes can participate at any number of levels of involvement because this is a collaborative effort that will rely on many pieces coming together. Part of the project manager's task will be to make sure all the participants are aligned and the pieces fit together. Then it becomes the students' real world task to complete their commitments to their partners.

Resources for Participants in Nonprofit Prophets

Students and teachers involved in Nonprofit Prophets have an array of resources available on the internet and through video conferences. These resources have been linked throughout this Teacher's Guide and the Nonprofit Prophets' homepage. The main pages are listed below to assist the teacher by collecting resources in one place for ease of teacher perusal. They are also listed at the bottom of each page in this project. Three main Resource Pages have been created:

  • Resources for Investigating Problems/Research. Students may want to use the links on this page to find a topic, research information, or make contact with experts. Notice that sample lesson plans from AskERIC are linked to each category. Many of these target younger students, but the activities provide good starting points / models for class-use. Consider the lessons as springboards for brainstorming or examples, not the activities designed for the topic.
  • Resources for Technology Jobs. This page lists the seven possible technology jobs students could perform. Each listing identifies a mentor, outlines the required tasks, notes the technology requirements, and offers links to supporting resources located on the Internet.
  • Writings and Linked Resources. These are possible writings / analyses that teachers/community partners/students may want to pursue. Each writing task comes with a prompting question and an online example from a real Web site. A selection of links to Web sites with handouts on editing, revision, and style are also offered.
These pages have been developed to save some surfing and to give ideas/first steps to teachers and students. What you find on these pages provides a structure upon which you, as the classroom teacher can individualize and customize for your students based upon local interests, abilities, time and technology constraints.

In addition, teachers and partners may find the following readings / resources of interest.

  • VolunteerMatch: VolunteerMatch is the nonprofit, online service that helps interested volunteers get involved with community service organizations throughout the United States. Volunteers enter their ZIP code on the VolunteerMatch web site ( to quickly find local volunteer opportunities matching individual interests and schedules.
  • USAID's Training and Education pages offer resources, activities and rationales for acting locally.
  • The Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change is presented by The King Center (requires flash & Real Audio).
  • Starting a New Group: presents strategies on getting a grassroots program off the ground.

Return to this page's menu...

Possible Timeline for Non-Prophet Profits

As mentioned above, the exact timeline will be set by the teachers of the core teams meeting at the "Prophets' Summit." As a possibility, major milestones in the project might occur roughly as follows:

This said, Nonprofit Prophets could carry over the course of a school year or even be passed on from one graduating class to the in-coming group of students. One excellent example of something like this is the Child Slave Labor News.

Return to this page's menu...

Roles & Responsibilities in Nonprofit Prophets

Just before the project begins, a series of agreements among partners and collaborators will need to be in place. This way everyone knows who's counting on whom. It is the project manager's job to make sure that everyone is connected with appropriate partners to complete their responsibilities. The main roles and responsibilities involve:

Role & Responsibilities of Core Teams in Nonprofit Prophets

The main responsibilities of the Core Teams include:
  • Selecting and researching a problem they want to investigate and help solve.
  • Working professionally with professionals from a nonprofit organization to complete the writings that both students and their adult colleagues think would be needed/appropriate for a common Web page.
  • Complete all the writings, reviews, quizzes, questionnaires, etc. needed for the Web page.
  • Getting feedback and revising the writings until they are ready for publication.
  • Developing any technology jobs taken on by the Core Team (creating the Web page?).

Role & Responsibilities of Technology Teams in Nonprofit Prophets

The main responsibilities of the Technology Teams include:
  • Receiving training (from teachers, parent mentors, peer mentors or self-taught from online tutorials).
  • Being clear on the tasks and due dates required by the Core Teams.
  • Completing a prototype by an agreed upon date.
  • Revising the technology product based upon feedback from the Core Team and the nonprofit professionals.
  • Having the product ready by launch date.

Role & Responsibilities of Teachers in Nonprofit Prophets

The main responsibilities of Teachers include:
  • Facilitating the students' contact with representatives in the community (remember, personal contact, more than e-mail, and video conferencing, is essential for the students to really feel connected to a community of caring individuals).
  • Creating/facilitating the daily lesson plans/activities that support the content area learning you are using Nonprofit Prophets to convey.
  • Organizing access to the needed technologies (based on the level of participation your class(es) intend to complete).
  • Conduct/facilitate/arrange general technology training that students need.

Role & Responsibilities of Partners from Nonprofit Organizations

The main responsibilities of the Nonprofit Partners include:

  • Clearly identifying the goals and needs of their organizations related to creating a World Wide Web page.
  • Providing timely responses to student questions/needs (1 week turnaround)
  • Appreciating that they are working with students, thus the goal is not merely to get a World Wide Web page, but take the opportunity to help students.
  • Modeling ethical behavior and positive interpersonal skills whenever possible.
  • Developing a Web page that meets their organizations' needs and the students' capacities.
  • Providing honest feedback to the students so that the joint project is truly valuable and can be used.
  • These ideas are summed up in a "Letter of Agreement" that can be viewed and/or printed or edited for reference.

Teacher's Guide | Topic/Research | Tech Jobs | Writing Tasks | Homepage

First launched February, 1996
Last revised February, 2005
Created by Tom March, tom at ozline dot com
Applications Design Team/Wired Learning