From: Jess Thyne
Submit: Post Message
Date: 11 Dec 1996
I learned so many things at Barrios Unidos, that it difficult to put it all down in one paper. In looking back through my postings, I see that my initial hopes for this class was, Im more interested in practical uses of knowledge than the academic/hypothetical understanding that most of my classes are focused on. I feel that students absorb material better if they are able to have some hands on experience. When I got the flyer for this class in the mail, I could not believe it was true. I hope that I can see for myself what the nature of learning is. I have read a lot about it, and Im very excited to be a part of the ongoing effort to help children learn about new technology around them. I have not thought much about the issue of guiding with the tools of technology, it sounds fascinating. (First assignment, 10/4/96).
I wanted to see first hand what the nature of learning was in respect to technology. Now that the class is over, I see how utterly narrow my goals were. I have learned much as to how kids learn, and how to help them whether with motivation, tips on how to play a game, or just being there when they need a friend to play games with them.
In addition, Ive learned specifics about technology in general. Ive learned how to use technology better myself, through the use of the class web page. The page taught me to not fear the web, but instead to embrace it , and use it as a wonderful forum for discussion and group participation. Ive even used the web in other aspects of my life now that I have been exposed to it through this class. Through guiding kids at Barrios Unidos, Ive seen how technology can be used both effectively and poorly in the classroom. Some of the games were very useful in teaching the kids skills, while many were not effective at all either because they werent interesting or fun enough, or they were not at the level of the kid playing them (too easy, or too hard). Learning how to motivate these kids to enjoy, or even notice the games that were well suited for them was another experience for me. I discovered many techniques for motivating kids that I think would transfer over to non-technological contexts, such as modeling, top-down/bottom-up, and the ZPD theory.
The thing that I least expected to learn, but I got to witness first hand, is the difficulties with starting a new program. Barrios Unidos started out so incredibly chaotic, that Im amazed that I or any of the other students made it through to the end of the quarter with our sanity intact. I have great deal of respect for the people who run Barrios Unidos for putting up with all the problems with new programs. Watching BU progress from chaos to relative organization, has taught me that organizations who seem to be well organized, were once in the beginning phases, and have only through great efforts, and luck, made it to where they are today. At first, I criticized the folks at Barrios Unidos for the problems we faced, and for not anticipating better. Now I realize that the problems we saw at Barrios Unidos were normal for new programs, and that no amount of planning can fully eliminate all possible problems.