Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My Kids Web Camp Counselor Experience

(This was my first article in now defunct The Web magazine November/December 1997 issue. I've thought of organizing a similar version back in 1998 but it was too early at that time. Perhaps it may work in 2008. What do you think?)

Who said that online learning can't be fun? Wait till you make yourself part of Kid's Web Camp. I just finished my volunteer counselor activity with Microsoft Sitebuilder Network's Kids Web Camp. I got the chance to participate on this since I'm a Microsoft SiteBuilder Level 2 Member. It is a summer camp that lasted for one month (from July 15 to August 15, 1997). There were more or less a thousand kids who signed up for this camp at a price of $100.

Counselors are non-paid volunteers. We received the same software that the kids received such as the Kids Web Kit, Flying Colors, and Microsoft FrontPage. Counselors have special access as well to the chat rooms and newsgroups.

There were around 33 teams with 30 members each. The team names were very much amusing such as Lumu, Ring Tailed Lemurs, Manned Wolves, Okapi, Meercats, Pronghorns, Ocelots, Flying Fruit Bats, Manta Rays, Manatees, Anacondas, Monitor Lizards, Macaques, Blue Tangs, Trigger Fish, Whale Sharks, Kookaburras, Narwal, Wonbats, Wildebeest, Harper Eagles, Wolverines, Bandicoots, Peregrine Falcons, Spinner Dolphins, Quetzals, Skinks, Ospreys, River Otters, Andean Condor, Wolf Spiders, and Snow Leopards.

There are two counselors per team. I got assigned in the Poison Arrow Frogs Team. When the camp started last July 15, technical problems arised from the site being hard to access (too busy message errors pop-up every now and then) and it reached the point that the server conked out.

First week
The first week required the kids to express themselves. They have to introduce themselves by answering the thirty questions fact sheet such as their:

  • favorite sport
  • food
  • state/province/country of residence
  • pets
  • favorite subject in school
  • favorite song
  • free-time activity
  • number of brothers and sisters
  • countries visited
  • favorite dessert
  • favorite place
  • fame
  • person that they would like to meet
  • favorite band
  • favorite movie
  • things to do when with friends
  • ambition
  • summer vacation
  • likes
  • and many more
Kids were also required to familiarize themselves with online safety assisted by the CyberAngels.

There's an In Your Face Contest where kids have to visit other team members fact sheet and find two co-campers that have the same likes on favorite food, sport, and wall decoration.

Kids are also required to familiarize themselves with the Kids Web Kit and start creating their own pages that will either vie for the Craziest site or Most Informational Site. The kids also used the Flying Colors software to create the artwork that they would like to include in their web site.

Second week
The second week required the kids to upload their web pages and their artworks in the kids gallery. Kids were asked to visit their co-members pages and work.

They were also encouraged to send each other e-mails to introduce themselves to other campers.

Parents are also educated through e-mail information regarding Net safety for children, including URLs for NetNanny, SurfWatch, and CYBERsitter. Campers were also asked to send their parents email sharing their activities at Summer Camp.

Third week
Week three gave kids fun as they had their first online field trip to NASA and National Geographic. Kids experienced how to search for the information they need through the Yahooligans search engine. They use the site to search for information about the animals that their team represent and post the information in the teams homepage. This is the first time for kids to try a browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Fourth week
Fourth week gave the campers an experience in enhancing their web pages using FrontPage. Kids were also introduced to a "Spinner" story telling. This is where kids got asked to read the first part of the story and create their version of the second episode - that encourages creativity and original ideas among campers. Campers afterwards have to read other campers' version and vote for the best story that will represent the team.

Fifth week
The fifth week or the grand finale is the biggest event topped by an All Team Scavenger Hunt. All campers were in a race to track down and find Spinner's key pals as they are scattered around the world's Web sites and it's up to the campers to find them. Throughout the hunt, campers register to win all kinds of prizes from co-sponsors, including videotapes, magazine subscriptions, and even a computer.

The first team to find all won a Pentium Computer. Campers then are send with wrap-up goodbye emails from counselors and exchanged emails with other campers. A goodbye chat session also transpired in this event.

My experience at Kid's Web Camp as a counselor opened my eyes to a lot of realities in online learning. The foul-up cases gave me a scenario on what not to do when setting up a camp. Through this experiences, I've thought of setting up my own version of a summer camp on called KidTech. Watch out for it!