(written by Russell Van Riper, from newsletter)

As a student, I sat through my share of computer literacy classes, with most having one instructor talking out into space, explaining confusing command menus, projected blurry against the wall. Very easy to get disoriented, disengaged, and lost in a wandering mind.

The Waveplace pilot in Immokalee was very different once we got into our flow. Problems at the start were solved with professionalism and skill by the mentors. The greatest distraction… kids being kids… was handled purely by the teachers craft, especially helpful was Mary Villa’s depth of knowledge of the children as individuals in the community. Mary’s connectedness to Immokalee has helped stem potential discipline problems, as well as tailor one-on-one instruction time to the individual learning styles of particular students. This kind of knowledge can only come from being involved in the community, not something that can be written into the Waveplace curriculum, but something that Waveplace is useless without.

During week three, it was recognized that the basic skills needed to write scripts, add animation, and use the XO as creative tool had been covered, but there was a great degree of stratification within the large group of students being served. It was decided to split the class up according to need. Stations for Writing, Drawing, Scripting, and Animation were set up at different tables with each teacher teaching according to their own particular strength and students self directing (with guidance) from station to station as their stories developed. The structure was loose, flowing, and conducive to the creative nature of the work.

By week four, the teachers realized that lessons 1 through 15 had more or less been covered in an adhoc manner as dictated by the students. The children had created stories of various complexity, complete with scripts, animation, and independent flourishes, with some students clamoring to use features no one, not even the folks at Etoys, have fully developed.

I must say that I am impressed.

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