A diary of the projects, hurdles, rewards and family life at we recorded at Wise Acres, our former homestead in Horsefly, BC. (Careers and teenagers have forced us back into the city, at least for a little while.)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Horsefly School Computer Club is coming!

Though we've had quite a few years of declining interest, recent numbers may indicate interest in IT careers is growing among college-entry students. I imagine this will rise and fall, subject to the cryptic trends teens follow, but I believe we can still make a difference.

What got me thinking this way was Malcolm Gladwell's conclusion in Outliers that opportunity was as much of a factor in success as skill or talent. Then Horsefly school asked the community if anyone had anything they could teach to supplement their faculty of four. I saw an opportunity to offer an opportunity - let the kids play with PCs in a way their school or parents wouldn't typically support, letting them hack the hardware without fear of breaking things, learning while getting their hands dirty. My vision was a shop class with PCs.

photo credit: Electronics Club 1986 by ExtraKetchup

So far, we've had two after-school PC Hardware classes for the "seniors", which in this school are 7th to 9th grade. I start the sessions with some foundational theory but I've found that slides and theory can only go so far before eyes glaze over. I then follow the theory with the hands-on work, where (so far) we've added and removed RAM, added and partitioned harddrives, and unplugged and replaced cards and cables.

My plan at this point is to run this program for a few more weeks, then open the doors to an after-school computer club. There's been a lot of interest from the "intermediates" (4th-6th grades), and the seniors could then act as mentors. With guidance, they could be introduced to programming, open-source software, architectures, and virtual machines, before they ever hit high school.

The principal has been very open to integrating the program with their curriculum, e.g., crediting the participants for blogging as writing assignments.

I've had amazing support from my employer - EMC's Community Involvement team has provided access to old hardware and t-shirts for the club.