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Microsoft Channel Chat Autumn 1995
©Microsoft Channel Chat Autumn 1995





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K-Net's mission is to open. The minds of children. Their creativity. Their sense of self. And to open the door to computing for the next generation.

K-Net is preparing the next generation of corporate leaders


Jil Hrdliczka surrounded by cool
K-Netters - Brett Manson, Kieran Murphy, Paul Clark, Yair Sappir, Ryan Broadfoot, Craig Fuchs

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 indignant?

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.

I'm getting 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 opener?

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 mentors.

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 endings.

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 soft drink.

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 money.

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 another day.

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