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Learning and Growing by Giving : Children as Agents of the ICT
Prof. Edna Aphek

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Children and the New Technologies

"The kids really do know how to use the Internet and they want it to be exploited in the ways they know it can be exploited. Outside the classroom and outside of any formal instruction, the Internet is a key part of their educational instruction." Pew Internet and American Life Project August 2002

It's a well-known fact that children nowadays master computer skills at a very early age and often better than adults. Our youngsters also master many qualities usually attributed to grown-ups.

In a book called Growing Up Digital, Don Tapscott describes the youngsters, whom he calls the N-Generation (net generation), as: Tolerant, Curious, Assertive and more Self assured Emotionally and intellectually open. "The Net Generation", summarizes Tapscott, "is a generation that combines the values of humanism with social and technical aspects".

Educational systems have been investing much time, money and energy in teaching teachers computer and internet skills, often without spectacular results.

This process of teaching grown-ups a skill in order that later on they would teach it to youngsters, coincides with traditional and old assumptions - that the older teacher is the ultimate source of knowledge.

There has been a shift in the role and status of children caused by children's mastery of computers. Children speak the language of High-Tech as their mother tongue whereas older people are "immigrants" in the land of technology, not familiar with its language.

In a world where many children speak the language of computer and the internet as their "mother tongue", where many of them possess the qualities that make good teachers, it would be most appropriate and only logical to put children's mastery of computer and internet skills to use for the benefit of society at large in various ways and by means of different projects.
The digital divide has been looked upon in many countries and rightly so as a major problem. We, in Israel, try to look upon it as a "probotunity". I learnt of this term from the Brainstorming site

This term probotunity means looking at a problem as an opportunity.

The opportunity is there, in combining the deep thorough knowledge of computer and internet skills, at the hand of our youth with the giving of this vast knowledge to others.
The following is a number of on- going projects in Israel .In all of them, young children, computer and Internet savvy, give of their knowledge to others, be it their peers, other children, their teachers or senior citizens. By so doing, they themselves are empowered: they take upon themselves new responsibilities and acquire new meaning in their lives, by extending themselves beyond themselves.(1)

These "computer kids" serve as "computer Trustees" in their schools and in the community. By Computer Trustees we are referring to a multi-age group of volunteering students, computer oriented, with high EQ (Emotional Intelligence), responsible and willing to give others of their time and knowledge. These students aren't necessarily the traditionally "good" students.

Supporting teachers and students

In this project initiated by Dorit Bachar, students tutor and coach their teachers in computer and internet skills on one to one basis. They serve as their teacher's private tutor and help the teacher and work with him/her according to the teacher's pace and needs.

These youngsters also serve as trouble shooters in school, at the computer lab and during class as they solve computer problems encountered in the classroom. A survey conducted in 2002, by NSBF in 90 schools in the US reports that , "Fifty-four percent of the schools surveyed said that students provide technical support and 43 percent said students troubleshoot hardware and software problems."

Computer Trustees serving as telephone helpdesk for the community

The youngsters' knowledge and mastery of the ICT is very impressive. They also seem to enjoy immensely their new role as tutors, teachers and coaches. They do it at home with their family and they help their friends over the phone. Now they are also serving as a helpdesk for the community: giving telephone support in the afternoons, providing the public with hardware, software and web support.

Constructing School Web Sites

In many schools, worldwide, students build their school's web site and often maintain it. They help in creating databases and assist teachers in uploading educational materials to Internet sites

Tutoring Special Education Children

The computer in addition to being the playground of the children of the Information Age also serves as a meeting ground for children coming from different backgrounds and educational frameworks, who might not have met but for the new meeting place, the computer. In this project Computer trustees tutor other computer trustees, who have learning disabilities or study in special education classes: Together they clean computers, install software, create work sheets, surf the web, etc.

Forming Expert Groups

This program is geared to connecting industry and business with the school. In this project a few students from each school and a teacher are trained by computer experts in the industry. They learn how to program and develop new software. The trainees, in turn, teach what they have learnt to all other computer trustees in their school.

The Intergeneration Connection Program

This program , initiated by Prof. Edna Aphek, aims at minimizing the intergeneration gap and the digital divide by having school children tutor seniors at computer and internet skills and at the same time write together with the seniors a digital "mini e-book" based on a chapter from the senior's personal history.

The cooperative work of children and seniors enables youngsters to enhance their inter-personal intelligence through a process of teaching-learning and at the same time enables seniors to overcome the digital gap and become connected, involved and active. The program also helps in debunking unfounded myth and prejudice, and creates heart-warning intergenerational connections.

And last but not least this program which combines the old and the new helps us in preserving knowledge at risk of disappearance

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