Think for a minute about how you operated your computer in order to read this blog: you turned it on, logged in, opened a browser, and typed in the web address. Along the way, you used the mouse or trackpad to point and click, and you successfully used the keyboard to type the characters of the URL. These are simple tasks for most computer users, and you probably went through the steps without a thought. Americans have been using computers for years, learning at a young age (at least for my generation). We have performed thousands of typing and mouse actions, and these skills have become second nature to us.
This week at Camp Sky, I was given the job of teaching computer lessons to our student campers. Using a basic computer literacy lesson plan written by coordinator Madam Susan Stancampiano, fellow counselor Madam Alex Martin and I instructed one of the computer labs at Kamuzu Academy. Each student bird team received two computer lessons, offering many their first opportunity ever to touch or to use a computer.
So, how exactly does one teach a group of teenagers how to use a computer for the first time? The answer: very slowly, with lots of patience, and with several other volunteers in the room to provide assistance. Our first lesson began explaining the parts of the computer: the monitor, the CPU, the mouse, the keyboard, etc. (We logged into the computers before the students arrived, figuring that the Ctrl + Alt + Delete command might be a little too complex for first-time users.) Next, we demonstrated how to use the mouse, discussed the different types of mouse clicks, and taught the students how to click and drag. I’m willing to bet that you have never seen a group of students so excited over opening and closing the recycling bin window and right clicking on an empty desktop.
After the students had some practice clicking, we had them open Microsoft Word and try their hand at typing. They practiced typing the alphabet in order, using the backspace key and space bar, and typing some numbers. We then showed the students how to change the font, size, and color of their text. That’s where the real fun began – most campers chose to continue typing in 72 point, brightly colored text. We divulged the correct number of spaces to use between words and after punctuation, and we also tried to distinguish the shift key from the caps lock key. By the end of the first lesson, most students had typed out a few sentences on their own, and they were all mystified to see their own words appear on the computer screen.
During the second lesson, the students were able to practice these new skills again, as they typed part of their English class compositions. We taught the basic format for a school paper: putting name and date in the upper right hand corner, making the title bold and aligning it in the center, and using the tab key to indent the first line of the paragraph. Students were also able to print one page of their work, to take home and to prove their new computer skills to friends and family. Needless to say, this cheap piece of paper is worth much more to them.
The students also briefly browsed the Internet and caught their first glimpse of the world wide web. They were tasked with entering the Camp Sky blog address in the address box and finding themselves in post pictures. Some savvy students were assisted in creating their first email accounts. We cannot wait to see how this new found computer interest will motivate students to seek further computer training and technological information.
Teaching the computer lessons was both exhausting and incredibly rewarding. Though we were prepared with a lesson plan, teaching first-time users forces a lot of additions and changes on the fly. I was impressed by how quickly many of the students learned, and also surprised at the wide range of skills they displayed as computer amateurs. Some showed impressively quick typing skills, while others were typists of the hunt and peck variety. Regardless of skill level, all of the students cherished the lessons.
Our use of technology is something that we very often take for granted, especially in the United States or other developed nations. How many of our schools in the US now rely heavily on classroom laptops, smart podiums, and online homework assignments? For many of the CDSS students at Camp Sky, technology has thus far played a negligible role in their education. Their schools are lucky to have electricity, much less computers that are available for student use. The opportunity for students to have at least a small amount of computer training is just one of the ways that Camp Sky offers the students inspiration and extra preparation for them to continue their education after secondary school.
Post written by Counselor Devyn Lee.
Post written by Counselor Devyn Lee.