mission is to open. The minds of children.
Their creativity. Their sense of self. And
to open the door to computing for the next
preparing the next generation of corporate
surrounded by cool
K-Netters - Brett Manson, Kieran Murphy,
Paul Clark, Yair Sappir, Ryan Broadfoot,
The very coolest
place in town
I'm in a pickle. I've
got to write an article about a place called K-Net
for Channel Chat. What's so difficult about that?
Obviously, you haven't been to K-Net yet. How do I
begin to describe this weird, magical place to the
uninitiated? A place whose time has certainly come.
A place that everyone wishes they'd had the nous to
think of. But which is not, I hasten to add, going
to be a short-lived trend like a fashionable
restaurant run by a temperamental chef. K-Net is ...
well, it's ... hmmm, I'm in a pickle.
I could start by
telling you that K-Net has a - get this - CUSTOMER
CARE MANAGER. A customer care manager!? The
customers are kids for goodness sake! I know whole
companies with million Rand corporate clients that
don't even have a customer care clerk! Too
Okay, then I'll take
the cute route by letting the kids start.
"K-Net is just simply out of this
world!!!" (Lisa de Swart, 14). "So cool
like paradise, wish I could live here." (Kyle
Judah, 10). " K-Net's neat. K-Net's the best.
K-Net rules. OK. Yeah." (Nicolas Boxall, 10).
Too cute for you?
I guess I could start
by telling you that K-Net is the brainchild of Jil
Hrdliczka. Now there's a good opener. Everyone knows
Jil Hrdliczka. Well, everyone has seen her name,
which is not surprising since it has appeared on
every IT industry database produced in the last ten
years. Jil Hrdliczka, Principal, Damelin Computer
School. I knew you'd seen it. It's such an unusual
name, you can't help but notice it. Now you know
what Jil's doing since she left Damelin. Keep her on
your database - she's got a lot of influence with
out future generation of corporate leaders.
sidetracked but one thing's for sure, K-Net
certainly lends itself to openers. Which is not at
all surprising considering K-Net's mission is to
open. The minds of children. Their creativity. Their
sense of self. And, oh yes, to open the door to
computing for the next generation. Did I forget to
mention computers? Why didn't I think of that for an
There are 24
computers at K-Net. Laid out in circular networks
(nets in K-Net speak) of six each, they allow the
kids to sit together yet have only their computers
in front of them. And if you're just a shy little
kid, new to K-Net, you don't have to make friends
with 24 other kids, just six at a time.
Hey, and they're nice
computers too, brand new 486 DX units with 8MB RAM
and super VGA low radiation monitors.
When the kids
assemble at the nets for a session, they get a short
guiding talk on the subject of the moment (which
could be from anything imaging to Microsoft
Publisher), and then they get on with learning how
it works and what it can do. For them. In their own
time, at their own pace, and in their individual
way. There's no pressure and there's no shortage of
Yup, mentors. There
are no teachers at K-Net, just some quite delightful
big people who like kids and know they need only the
gentlest bit of nudging to create something magical
of their very own. There's so little formality, in
fact, that the kids can be forgiven for not even
being aware of the fact that they're learning. Their
own natural enthusiasm and creativity takes over and
they learn through osmosis.
Oh and there's a lab
which houses a lot of spanking new equipment: CD-ROM
servers, a Pentium, sound and video recorders, laser
colour printers and a scanner. This is where the
kids make their own videos. All by themselves. And I
mean full-on videos. With sound effects and
animation, with plots and beginnings, middles and
Although it's clear
that Jil has paid thorough attention to every little
detail, she's done it in such a way that the kids
feel K-Net belongs to them. Everything in it allows
their creativity to run wild.
Between sessions the
kids chill out in the HyberNet. They play pool and
table soccer or they draw the bean bags into a
circle and just shoot the breeze over a hot dog or
There's a K-Net club
which holds regular workshops. I couldn't get enough
of the place so I went back to attend a workshop on
surfing the net. The kids were addressed by a
specialist who had their undivided attention
throughout, excited at the world the Internet opens
up to them.
K-Net also has a
talent development and mini business programme. When
Jil says she want kids to know how to make computers
work for them, she means it. They learn programming,
publishing, and building and repair of PCs, skills
which the older teens can use to earn extra pocket
I dunno. I'm not sure
my opener matters after all; you have to see K-Net
to believe it. I haven't even mentioned that fact
that they use Microsoft product to teach the kids
what they don't even know they're learning. Oops!
I'd even forgotten that I was writing this article
for Microsoft. This is so embarrassing. Hold the
Channel Chat deadline. I'll have to get back to this