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

In many schools computer literate children tutor other children, less knowledgeable at computer and internet skills, in these skills and in other skills, such as reading, as well.

The process of reading acquisition, lies right now at the center of the Israeli educational scene. In a few schools older children (classes 4+) tutor the first graders in reading and in some of the cases the children use the computer as a mediating tool to accelerate the acquisition reading.

In one school (the Alon school in Mate Yehuda) a group of fourth graders tutored , this year, the first graders in reading, while using the computer, in the following specific areas:

- letter recognition

- discerning final letters from letters in the beginning and the middle of the word.

(In Hebrew there are two sets of letters, according to the place of the letter in the word. If the letter is in the beginning or the middle of the word its shape differs from when it appears at the end of the word. This is true of the following letters: KAF, MEM, NUN, PEH, and TZADI) Understanding the role of punctuation: the function of the period and the spaces.

In addition to the above the "young tutors" also taught the younger children how to write a very short "paper" using WORD, and how to download pictures and to combine them with their writing.

Children tutor children in other schools

In 2000 I initiated a project in the Alon School in Mate Yehuda where I served as an academic adviser. In this project pupils from Alon School educated in the use of the computer and the internet teach pupils from other schools, in the Mate Yehuda region, who have not yet learned these skills. The pupils are taught the basic skills needed for the preparation of a digital text, power point presentations, and the use of the internet. These skills include: Introduction to the computer and its workings, how to manage files and folders, how to use hyper- links between different information sources, the use of various graphic elements, use of the internet and information retrieval and its use as a means toward a goal; Basic knowledge of the three programs of Office: word, power point and excel and Introduction to the Internet as a means for gathering information to be used in conjunction with other information sources.

Reviving the Youth Movement: Computer Youth Movement

In Israel, many of the youth movements, with the exception maybe of Bnei Akiva, a religious youth movement, have lost much of their appeal for the youngsters. Combining the ideas of the youth movements with the ICT might prove very beneficial.
In light of the aforementioned projects, the Israeli Ministry of Education is building a Computer Youth Movement. The goals of the movement are to involve as many youngsters as possible in the information revolution and the meaningful use of the ICT by contributing to others in their community .In addition, the movement aims at training the youngsters as leaders in the ethical, social and legal problems of the IT world and initiating innovative programs in the various fields of the ICT and implementing them in the community.

What these programs have in common

All these programs in which children impart of their knowledge of the ICT also teach the values of caring, sharing, cooperation and volunteering. These programs improve school's social climate and open up new avenues of expression and excellence for young computer savvies .The programs help create a cadre of young ITC professionals and assist in minimizing the digital divide, caused by the introduction of the ICT into our lives.
The idea of sharing knowledge is an integral part of my philosophy. I strongly believe that pupils who are skilled in the use of the computer should be sharing their skills with others who are at the beginning stages or who haven't been introduced at all to these technological skills.

What these projects also share is the principle of connecting between seemingly "foreign" elements. A close look at the projects listed in this paper will reveal that almost all of them are based on the creative idea of combining populations that usually don't "go together". The Israeli society is a torn society. Each group, secular, religious, Arab, Druze, in enclosed within itself. Projects of this kind foster meetings from a very young age of groups that otherwise would not meet. The goals of these programs lie beyond the teaching of the ICT, they include the development of the values of responsibility and giving of oneself, the development of the values of patience and tolerance and teaching others in a technological environment and overcoming the differences of culture.

An end note

There is no doubt in my mind that the new technologies are offering us new ways for learning and bridging gaps in society.
I strongly believe that our children could and should share the knowledge they have acquired, whether through us, or through others, with other children (and adults) less knowledgeable.
The new technologies prompt us to redefine many aspects in our life in general and in school life, in particular. There is a shift in the role and place of children: Children mastery of the computer and the language of high- tech put them in a new status, unknown in the past. In many schools children become "young computer technicians", as they maintain school computers and in many others they serve as "young computer teachers" and tutor other children in various subjects. These" Computer Children" who tutor other children , adults and seniors, who build amazing Internet sites do what they are doing not because they are looking for a reward or for monetary compensation. Their compensation lies in the experience of giving to others.

Not only do the new technologies redefine the role of students but they also usher what might be a new pedagogy which places much emphasis on the inter- personal element ,and on human values :children who tutor others, be it children or adults, learn the values of tolerance, patience, giving and understanding the other.

Impact on Society

The Postmdern era is often characterized by individualism and alienation. In a world where each is to his/her own , and people are takers , there is fear of the other and much loneliness. In one of his stories, the late Leo Buscaglia (http://www.buscaglia.com/felice.htm) tells about a person he gave some money to so that the latter could complete his studies. In a few years that person came and wanted to repay his debt.Buscaglia told him to give the money to someone else who needed it and thus to start an ever-widening chain of giving.I believe that our youngsters have started such a chain, it's now our turn as adults to join this chain of giving.


(1) The description of some of the projects listed in this paper (tutoring teachers, expert groups, help desk, working with children in special education and the computer youth movement) is based on information supplied by Dorit Bachar, The Ministry of Education.

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