Serendipity, Second Life, and the importance of being nine

Serendipity – the act of finding something fortunate while looking for something else.

My Second Life guide, Kevin Jarrett, sent a link to his Second Life blog and I wound up on his real life home page. Kevin is the K-4 Computer Teacher/Technology Facilitator at Northfield Community School in New Jersey, and like me, a happy immigrant to education from the corporate world.

His site included this fascinating page: The Northfield Community School Grade 4 Computer Repair & Service Club

The Northfield Community School Grade 4 Computer Repair and Service Club is dedicated to refurbishing discarded computers and donating them to local families who don’t presently own one. This is our third year and it’s going to be our best! Our club is made possible by generous support from the Northfield Education Foundation. Teams of students attend meetings over two months and then present the refurbished computers to new owners on “Delivery Night.” It’s fun for everyone and a great service to the community too!

Refurbished computersDid everyone get this? GRADE 4 – yes, nine and ten year-olds. Did someone forget to tell these kids that fixing computers is hard? Did someone forget to tell Kevin that nine-year-olds actually need extensive computer literacy lessons so they can answer multiple choice questions about what CPU stands for? Opps! Too late – they are  doing real work, finding out for themselves that broken things can be fixed, and making a lasting contribution to their community. Hey, is that on the test?

There is no doubt that this experience will change lives, either by these students having a powerful experience of mastery, or by providing families with computers that connect them to 21st century opportunities.

We hear all the time that even high school students aren’t capable of fixing computers, that students can’t create projects that show technology literacy, that they are not responsible enough or trustworthy enough, or that they will “cause more trouble than it’s worth”–and it’s simply not true. A caring adult with a purposeful vision who lets kids shine beats “can’t do it” every time.

Go for it, kids!


PS If you are an educator interested in Second Life, Kevin has just announced SLolar Central (SLolar = Second Life Scholar), a facility providing free temporary office space (and other resources) for K-20 educators and school administrators exploring Second Life. It’s a great opportunity to learn the virtual SL ropes in a community with other like-minded educators and some terrific guides! For more details and signups, see Kevin’s blog.

3 Replies to “Serendipity, Second Life, and the importance of being nine”

  1. Sylvia,
    Thank you for bringing to the surface the hidden beliefs that so many well meaning educators have about what kids can and can’t do.

  2. Hi Sylvia! Thanks for the kudos, I’ll be passing them on at our year-end club pizza party a week from today, as part of my presentation to the kids and their families. We raffle off a couple of laptops (refurbished, of course), have other cool door prizes, eat pizza and run around. It’s great fun!

    FYI, our most recent team donated systems to the Atlantic County’s Women’s Center, our second such donation since inception of the club:

    It was expecially meaningful since this team was entirely made up of girls (and, no offense to the boys I’ve had all year, but this was my best team EVER.)

    For more, here’s our Flickr stream for this group (they took the pictures themselves):

    As proud as I am of these kids and our club, if you REALLY want to get blown away, let me tell you about Mrs. Sandy Swain’s club at Galloway Township Middle School.

    Her classroom eBoard is here: but the club doesn’t have a website … mostly because she’s been too busy running the most awesome club ever. She saw me give a presentation about our club and took the idea to her district, expanded and improved on it, and now has the most incredible school-based computer refurbishing operation I’ve ever seen. She’s got staff, workspace, donations from local businesses, and TONIGHT, her club is donating 22 systems (!) which came from the local Coast Guard base. 22!!! That’s more than we do ALL YEAR!!! Plus, her club does much more formal training than we do – all I’ve got is that space under a table in my room – and ME – but we do the best we can!!!

    I guess that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day … we all do what we can … and it’s so much fun, we don’t even notice we’re working 18 hours a day!!! HA!!!

    Take care, thanks again, see you in SL!



  3. Hi Kevin,
    This is terrific, thanks for sharing your story and adding even more to it! Mrs. Swain’s club sounds awesome too. Kids and teachers, there’s some viral energy!


    PS Girls rule… you know the rest 😉

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