|You and I grew up in a world that
wasn't very different from the one our parents
grew up in. The same is not true of the
generation we're raising. Technology has
advanced in quantum leaps in our lifetime and
the world our children inhabit is vastly
different from the one we know.
may get away with only the most basic
technological skills, our children won't.
Computer proficiency is already featuring on
school curricula. As your children progress
through school, university and business,
computer skills will take on even more
Jil Hrdliczka, who left her post as director
of the Damelin Education Group and principal of
the Damelin Computer School to open the K-Net
Technology Network understands the demands the
brave new world will place on our children.
"Although parents don't always relate to
computing, children take to it immediately,"
says Jil. "At K-Net, kids and teenagers learn
how to make computers work for them. Modern day
children are exposed to a technological world on
so many levels, from helping their parents press
the buttons on the ATM to television games. We
never dreamt of these things when we were
children. There are so many ways in which
computers are going to impact on the lives of
the next generation."
By the same token, our children can't yet
imagine the extent to which computing will have
advanced by the time they're adults. "This is
why it's so important that we establish a firm
grounding from a very young age."
By very young, Jil means as little as three
years old. "Knowledge knows no age. Provided
that children are not scared off by concepts
outside of what's appropriate for their age
group, they will love playing with computers."
"We start by showing the little ones how to
manipulate a mouse to create pictures of their
very own. It's important to let their
imaginations run free. Once that little hand can
manage the mouse, they're away. Initially it's a
fantasy world but it sets them on the road to
learning to manipulate very sophisticated
computer equipment. It's a road they're going to
walk all their lives."
From learning basic computing skills,
children progress to sophisticated learning
programmes which include graphics, animation,
programming, multimedia, building and repair of
PCs, creative writing, publishing, and music and
Jil focuses on practical, project-based
exercises which allow children to constantly
achieve results. "I firmly believe in letting
every child discover computing at his or her own
pace. We minimise theoretical input in favour of
action and creativity."
Although K-Net is deliberately informal and
easy-going, a formal infrastructure is behind
everything the children learn. The focus is
entirely on their needs. For example, although
the customers are kids, K-Net has a
fully-fledged customer care manager.
The mentors are all computer industry
specialists which ensures that a sound
technological basis is provided, but the quality
that immediately strikes you about them is their
universal rapport with children. Although they
command formidable knowledge, they see
themselves as educators first, computer
Jil has geared K-Net up to complement the
efforts made by schools in the field of computer
education. "I think that schools are doing a
fantastic job with their available budgets and
facilities. We're getting to know what
facilities each school has and we're inviting
them to bring their pupils to see our
environment so that we can work together to fill
Parents are as enthusiastic about K-Net as
their children are. Jil has instituted an office
and home computing programme to cater for
parents who want to keep up with technology at
the same pace as their children. But the role is
more pivotal to the K-Net philosophy. Parents
are welcomed for their healthy involvement in
their children's lives.
No expense has been spared in the equipment
used at K-Net. Programmes are run on brand new
Pentium computers, 8 MB RAM and Super VGA low
resolution monitors. Computers are configured in
small circular networks of 6 each, designed to
help new children feel quite comfortable.
These small workgroups are linked to a lab
equipped with CD-ROM servers, Pentium network
servers, sound and video recording equipment,
laser and colour printers, scanners and modems
for international network connections. Each
child has his or her own computer while at K-Net
and free access to the lab.
Jil has also initiated a K-Net Club which
provides workshops and activities on a monthly
basis. Among these services on offer are
freeware and shareware, and an electronic mail
facility through the Internet.
One of the many practical aspects of K-Net is
the talent development and mini business
programme. When Jil says she wants kids to know
how to make computers work for them, she means
it. They learn programming, publishing and
building and repair of PC's, skills which the
older teens can use to earn extra pocket money.
It is indeed a brave new world but for all
the changes technology has given to our children
to cope with, it has also provided the means for
them to learn how to do so.