When a large company or famous philanthropist donates computers to children to advance their learning and give them online access to the world, it makes an impact. But when the donors are young teenagers who revamped and renovated the computers themselves, it makes an even bigger impact.
Students and teachers at Forest Park High School, a public magnet school in Woodbridge, Va., say their school’s computer donation program has become an essential part of the learning experience. It has also become an essential asset for the community.
The program combines academic learning and hands-on lab work with community service. First students learn about computer systems and networks. Then they rebuild used computers and give them away to children and other schools needing computers.
It is the act of giving that solidifies the learning experience, says Brian Hackett, an instructional technologist at the school and co-coordinator for the program. “It becomes personal. You don’t get personal in learning until the kids see results of what they have learned.”
Hackett thinks education in general should head in the direction of combining schooling with community service. Applying academic material gives it relevance.
The students seemed to agree. “When we go to events to give the computers away, the parents and students are overwhelmed with joy. The smiles on their faces are amazing,” said Karl Stallknecht, a student at Forest Park. “You can see the big picture.”
As the students worked on restoring computers to mint condition during class, they spoke about their coursework with enthusiasm. They seemed to grasp the complexities of information technology as they discussed network systems, web hosting, cloud-based solutions, Linux operating systems, and various software programs. Listening to their high level of discourse, it was clear they understood as least as much about technology as the average adult working in the field.