From: May Sarmac
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Date: 13 Dec 1996
The purpose of this paper is to examine what sorts of learning took place within myself while working with children at a Latino based community center in downtown Santa Cruz. At this community center, undergraduates assisted the children with Personal Computers and with computer and board games. There were times, though, when I was the one asking the children for assistance with the computers and they were the ones teaching me how to play the games. It is during those times when the roles of teacher and student became interchanged between myself and the children. The contents of this paper will also provide examples of how learning and teaching can occur through play and interaction and how board games were valuable tools for my teaching and the children's learning.
What I learned this quarter from working with the children who participate in the U.C Links program at Barrios Unidos is that there are so many ways to teach without teaching. I also learned that the person who assumes the role of the 'teacher' is not always the 'teacher'. Similarly, the 'student' is not always the 'student'. Through interaction and play, there is little or no distinction between who is the teacher and who is the student.
Even though I am somewhat familiar with Personal Computers, I often found myself asking the children for help on starting games. They showed me which icons to click on or what words to type in. They even taught me how to play many of the games I was not familiar with and some of the programs that was on the computers. I even learned how to load CD ROM games into the computer and how to play those games, like the Lion King. The children showed me where to click if I wanted to play certain games within the Lion King CD, like putting together puzzles or playing a memory block game. When the children did not want to play on the computers anymore, they would ask me if I could play a board game with them.
Out of all the activities we did with the children at Barrios Unidos (e.g.:play games on the computer, color/draw, etc.), playing board games was my favorite activity. I liked it the best because even though the children did not know the rules and objectives to some games, they made up their own rules to make it fun. The rational explanations the children gave me of why they made up certain rules and how to play by those rules intrigued me. Their explanations were well formulated and very rational. Playing board games also taught me that children not only learn to play those games, but they learn cognitive skills as well.
I learned that by playing a board game, like Monopoly, can help children learn numbers by counting dots on the die, counting how many spaces they have to move and counting play money. Using play money also helps children learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide. They also learn the individual value of money and its denominations, for example two ten dollar bills has the same value of one twenty dollar bill. Another thing that Monopoly and other board games can enhance is reading. On some games, when a player lands on certain spaces, those spaces have names on them. When the children would land on spaces with names on them, they would try to read the words by sounding out the letters and breaking up the words into syllables. If the word was too difficult for them to read, they would ask me for help and we would sound out the word together. Cards with instructions on them also helped some children read and enhance their reading comprehension abilities. Whenever I played Monopoly with a child who is learning to read, I would ask that child to read my cards for me or help me read it. Then I would ask that child to explain what the card meant.
Playing with the children at Barrios Unidos taught me how to be a teacher and a student of children. I learned how to teach children by playing with them and having fun at the same time. They taught me that there is much to learn from them and I taught them that grown up people still have so much to learn. Even though I am considerably older than the children we have worked with, those children have taught me that one is never too old to learn and never too young to teach.