Kids Learn the Ropes of Web-Page Design
By Sarah Grunder, Record Staff Writer
Michelle M., Shanley D. and Josh M. have buried themselves in the world of Harry Potter. The fictional character is the subject of the trio's summer Web site project. They've built pages on characters from the novels by J.K. Rowling, curses, book sales, humor, reviews of the books and even video from a local Harry Potter look-alike contest. The name of their site: "Harry Potter Revealed."
"Mainly (we chose) Harry Potter because we like Harry Potter and we wanted to share our ideas about it," Michelle, 12, said. The students are pioneers on the cyber-education frontier, enrolled in Dewey Chambers Academy for Technology in Education computer camp at University of the Pacific. They have a shot at winning scholarship money for themselves and are also helping train teachers who will coach other young cyber whizzes for years to come.
The summer camp is the first program funded in part by a $2 million grant recently awarded to ThinkQuest, an international nonprofit educational group based in New York that promotes learning through computer and networking technology. The money will go to perfect methods for training new teachers in using technology. UOP professor Sue Eskridge co-authored the grant proposal.UOP will be the lead institution managing the grant. The cost of the camp is $1,350 per student.
Thanks to grant money and sponsors, more than half the students have received scholarship aid. Also, computer-camp students will enter their sites in the international ThinkQuest Internet Challenge contest. Winners receive thousands of dollars in scholarship money.
The ThinkQuest teacher-training program teams educators and scholars from across the country. Many of those grant participants gathered over the weekend at UOP to discuss how the money will be used and to talk about program design. "We are producing new teachers who are 21st century teachers," said Robert Sibley, educational-project manager for ThinkQuest. Sibley said the program will ensure that teachers know both the details of the technologies they will teach and the teaching methods that work for technology instruction.
Computer-camp students worked in teams of three to set up Web sites. Each team had a coach, in most cases a student from University of the Pacific's Benerd School of Education. It's exactly that kind of teacher-student collaborative effort ThinkQuest officials want to emphasize. "Students take responsibility for their learning and make choices in learning," Eskridge said. "Teachers use their knowledge and experience to guide them in a cooperative process. The teachers can also learn from the students."
Devin Katz, a student in a UOP master's degree program, is acting as coach to a group of students who are interested in space. Those students have created a Web site called Blast Off. "They didn't have experience working with the software and neither did I," Katz said. "Its been a learning experience for us."
Eskridge said it can be a challenge for teachers to take a step back and guide, rather than direct, students. "It feels wrong to most teachers; they're used to being directive," Eskridge said. And in the coming century, Eskridge added, it's going to become increasingly difficult for teachers to provide all the information students need. Students will need the technological skills to find information themselves.
Pilar Zaich, 13, is crafting a Web site on origami. Her Web pages are full of information about the Japanese paper-folding technique, including videos, history and product information. "I didn't know anything about creating a Web page," Zaich said, noting that recruiters came to Marshall Middle School to urge her to take part in the camp. "We got to learn how to use Dreamweaver (software) and a lot of other programs I've never used," she said.
* To reach reporter Sarah Grunder, phone 943-8547 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on the computer camp: www.dcate.net
For information on ThinkQuest and its programs: www.thinkquest.org
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