An after-school computer club can offer many benefits to middle or high school students. Students have a constructive activity to do after school. They enjoy spending time with their friends. Whether they are novices or experts, students can improve their computer skills and fluency. Media-based activities such as animation, web sites, and video offer opportunities for self-expression and creativity. Programming activities like Lego robots develop analytical skills and creativity.
Subjects like reading and math take many years to develop. Once a student get behind it is tough to catch up. But students of all academic levels start on a level playing field with a new activity like robots or animation. It is especially rewarding to see students who are struggling academically succeed and blossom in a computer club as previously untapped talents are revealed.
If a group of boys and adults wants to start a Boy Scout troop they contact the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA provides them with a complete program including activities, training, guidelines for adult leaders, awards, books and pamphlets, etc. This program has been tested is known to work. Troops that implement it will be successful.
To my knowledge there is no similar source of program materials for after-school computer clubs. Each coach or advisor must reinvent the wheel - discovering which activities and events will engage student interest and provide effective learning. There is a lot of information on the web but it is scattered and mostly not directed to school clubs. Of course there are endless possibilities and plenty of room for specific interests, but it would be nice to have some place to start.
Since the year 2000 Computer Challenge has supported computer clubs at 20 sites in southeastern Michigan. We tried a lot of things and made a lot of mistakes, but eventually came up with a program that is both fun and educational. Now we would like to offer that program to clubs everywhere through this web site.
Motivating students to do their best with a hands-on project so they can create and learn can be tricky. Our formula includes activities, competitions, and awards.
We settled on four activities that offer rich opportunities for student projects: Lego Robots, Flash Animation, Web Creations, and Digital Video. There is a lot of information on activities on this web site, including tutorials developed by us and others, games, links, and suggested projects. Other activities may be equally effective, but here are things you can start with.
Competitions are a highly effective way of injecting excitement, motivation, and fun into a club program. They provide a culminating event for the semester and a deadline for student projects to be completed. Our competitions are not designed to select the "best of the best" through a grueling process of elimination. Instead we have developed contests that all students can succeed and have fun with.
For a competition to be really fun and successful it works best to invite many clubs. In Michigan we built a club network of schools within easy driving distance. At the end of each semester the clubs come together for two events: Robot Challenge, a Lego robot competition, and MediaFest, a new media festival. A club may attend either or both depending on their activities and interests.
This web site is designed to help nearby computer clubs find each other and form local club networks. We hope that clubs in a network will host competitions on a rotating basis. There are a lot of ideas on competition rules and tips for hosting a competition on this site. These are inexpensive and easy to set up events.
Soon clubs will be able to list their name and contact information on this site. You will be able to search for other clubs in your area. You will also be able announce events and link the announcement to your own web page for rules and details if you wish.
Everyone likes to be recognized. We came up with a set of requirements for each activity and a custom medal called a Challenge Award to go with it. These medals are effective motivation and recognition for many students. We are now offering these awards to clubs everywhere.
Who We Serve
The program works for middle and high school students, grades 5 - 12. It is designed so students of all skill levels and abilities can participate, learn, and succeed. The program is not designed to select the "best of the best" through intensely competitive contests.
We hope this web site will become an information source and communications center for computer clubs nationwide. Please register your club on this site and list your events. If you find useful information elsewhere on the web, tell us and we'll link to it. Good luck and have fun!
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