JuniorCamp SWFL Puts Kids in Spotlight

My last post was an introduction of sorts to JuniorCamp SWFL. Today is a re-cap of this historical event.

At 9:30 AM Saturday January 30, 2010, 30 kids from six Lee County schools, ranging in age from 9-18, showed up at the first ever JuniorCamp at BarCamp SWFL to share what they knew about technology and how they have been using technology for learning. After registering and being introduced to the adult barcampers, students broke into two rooms at Edison State College and began presenting.

Barcamps are designed to be sort of free-flowing, evolving conferences where people who show up can choose a designated time slot to present on their topic of choice. They do this by putting a sticky-note on a whiteboard with their name and topic written on it. That way, as the day goes by, people can change their time slot or negotiate a swap as they see what else is being presented.

The kids ended up naturally dividing themselves into two age groups and two rooms – mostly because there were kids from the same schools that wanted to present together or back to back. As JuniorCamp coordinator – and control freak that I am – I was hoping for more of a mixing of ages, but no worries – it would all work out.

The room full of younger kids was packed with proud parents and other curious kids, as might be expected, while the room full of high school presenters drew in some curious adults from the adult barcamp as well as some school administrators and potential and current employers as spectators.

After a few minor technical glitches (HUGE thanks to Keith Hanson and Lee LeBlanc for being the tech help dudes for both adult and junior camps), things got rolling, and the kids were amazing. Well prepared, poised, proud, and open. I was so impressed with their presentations and their levels of expertise! The teachers sponsors who prepped these students and brought them to Juniorcamp are to be commended. The kids shared and inspired and learned so much from each other. It is a testament to what kids can do when given the opportunity to be the expert, to share what they know in an informal atmosphere where everyone is a teacher and a learner.

As the kids presented we learned about creating digital book trailers using PhotoStory3, about blogging for science using Edublogs.org, about inspiring middle school kids to read by promoting a Web 2.0 Book Fair with Vuvox, Animoto, and Shelfari. We learned about network security, video game development, computer hardware, Linux and Open Source software, doing research on biodiesel conversion, and web design with Dreamweaver.  It was fabulous, and the kids were simply excellent!

Some adult barcampers were wary of the kids involvement, I think – but many were very impressed. After all, these kids know intuitively about technology. It is an inseparable part of their lives. They will far surpass us digital immigrants in using technology for learning and changing the world. Let’s hope more JuniorCamps happen around the world now and give kids a chance to shine. Maybe we’ll learn a thing or two by listening to them and the world will be a better place for it.

During the next few days we will upload to the JuniorCamp wiki all the links and documents the student presenters shared during JuniorCamp SWFL 2010.  That way everyone can see what they talked about and keep the learning going. You can find more pictures from JuniorCamp here. Thanks kids for a job well done!

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