From: David Scott
Submit: Post Field Note
Date: 14 Oct 1996
Remote Name: tsa-24.ucsc.edu
Over 20 children, 9 educators, and a bunch of computers
This last Friday at Barrios was an example of absolute chaos. You can put labels like "informal" on the environment too if you like, but only if you mean "informal" in the same way as you mean a dance at a biker bar. There are only five computers capable of playing the CD games (which most of the kids want to play); the rest are basically empty of interesting programs. This was creating too much competition for limited entertainment/educational resources, so I decided that I would spend the day putting some other games I had brought with me on those machines. Consequently, I never spent more than five minutes with any one child. I will continue to install more games, but I will try to do it before the children get there because I don't think it is fair to the other educators if I do not help pick up the slack.
There were so many children running around and so many computers with technical problems that it was difficult to figure out where to start. My main concern was with the youngest children, who would be least able to entertain themselves and most intimidated with the environment. Several times I would kneel next to a young boy or girl sitting by herself at a computer, randomly clicking the mouse and pressing buttons. Some were lucky enough to have a paint program running so at least they would be doing something. At one point I was installing some programs on a computer for a kid who looked positively bored, and I felt this gentle tug on the back of pants leg. I turned around and saw the sweetest, saddest face I have ever seen on a little girl. She was holding a box of "Multiplication Bingo", which I figure she had grabbed at random out of the game cabinet because she couldnt read. I talked to her for a little bit, sat her down at a computer and showed her some of the basics of the paint program. I lost track of her after that.
I have a hard time seeing how this environment is benefitting anyone in a more than happenstance way. In order to see if any, and what type of, learning is going on, how about asking a child who is about to go home "What did you learn today? Did you at least have fun?" Maybe this will help focus our goals for participation in the program.
I, like many others in the course, am very concerned about the situation at Barrios. The way I see it, no one is taking responsibility for what is happening down there. I have no idea what Maurices job is, but it doesnt look like he has much authority to me. As a bare minimum, I would like to see the children be assigned to particular educators, with the freedom to move to different groups as desired. This will let the educators know whom they should be looking after, and the children know who they should go to with questions, problems, etc. Perhaps we educators could agree before the children arrive what activities we would like to pursue -- one of us could be monitoring children who are playing certain games that that educator is already familiar with while another could be organizing a board game in the other room.
Hey, at least we got the name tags!
"Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again."