Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Power Point

I started doing some volunteer work this past Monday, tutoring local middle school students who are in an after-school program at the local community college. These are average American kids, from a medium-sized city school system, who have various academic abilities and come from a range of ethnic backgrounds.. Its a great program, and I've been enjoying my first three days working with this very energetic bunch of kids. The agency that runs the two hour per day after school program of 36 kids, has it divided into two sections each day: one hour for homework and one hour of "enrichment activities". So far, I have sat in on two of the enrichment activities, and I am impressed.

I am impressed by several things: the quality of the program, the responses of the kids to ethical questions posed to them during one particular enrichment activity, and the students' ability to get around the internet and use computer software. They put me to shame. After we settled into seats in the computer center, the enrichment teacher had them look up "Haiti" on the internet, to see what they could find out about this country and the prior day's earthquake. Whiz, bang, done, faster than a speeding bullet, they found all kinds of websites, photos, and videos. Then the teacher asked for suggestions as to how they might help the victims. With its seaport and aiport in shambles, this island nation is virutally cut off from all but essential aid. According to the Red Cross and other aid relief agencies, donating money is the only thing Americans can really do for Haiti right now. So the students are going to create some "donation cans" and see how much money they can collect in a week's time. I will have to report back with the donation results next week.

The second thing these students blew me away with was their computer savvy. Several students needed to us the internet to finish their homework - reports are expected to be typed and printed, with research done for these reports on the internet, in middle school. After our Haiti search project had been completed, the students went back to working on their long term enrichment project, called "Where in the World". They each had chosen a country and had to research it online and then create a Power Point presentation pitching their country as if you would a product, a tourism product. Believe me, they could teach me a thing or two. Just who was the tutor in this class anyway? After class, I asked one female student, exactly when did kids learn Power Point these days? She replied that she had learned it a year ago, in sixth grade, in her computer class. A year ago, at the age of twelve. I didn't learn it until....well, perhaps we shouldn't even go there.

After an hour at the computers, it was back to the regular homework session. I worked with one student who asked for math help. After the computer session, I was wary; what would he be working on, advanced calculus? But no, he was working on simple fractions - at least that was something I could help with.

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