Club shows computers are fun

Twenty pairs of eyes were glued to computer screens as mouse clicks were heard over the hum of computers Wednesday at Northern Lights Elementary School.

Twenty pairs of eyes were glued to computer screens as mouse clicks were heard over the hum of computers Wednesday at Northern Lights Elementary School.

Tech Club members spent the afternoon designing bedroom and house floor layouts.

Typically, students use computers to type stories; Tech Club teaches them how to use them for different activities, said fourth grader Stefanie Sabourin.

"I like it," she said. "I like how we get to use a lot of stuff -- like design our own room and pick out pictures. It's fun."

Parent volunteer Barry Dahl started Northern Light's Tech Club this fall because he wanted children to have the opportunity to explore new technology.


In an age when parents are worried about online predators and harassment, kids say they want to learn to do more on the computer than just typing. They want to learn about what else they can do, said fifth grader Emma Hengemuhle.

"A lot of kids aren't good with the computer. I'm not," she said. "My dad's really good with the computer, so he helps me. I want to show him some things, too."

So far, club members have learned how to make slide shows, add speech bubbles to photos and design floor layouts, said fifth grader Jocelyn Malec.

"It's really fun," she said.

About 40 students signed up. The group convenes in the computer lab every other Wednesday after school.

Dahl gives students suggestions about what they could learn but doesn't dictate to them. This is a club, not school. It should be fun for them and driven by their interests, he said.

The students use Northern Lights' equipment and free online resources to explore Web-based technology.

"The thing that I really am trying to stress is using these as a tool to stretch their creative abilities," Dahl said.


The club gives them the opportunity to do something they wouldn't do at school.

Often, students get exposed at school to using the computer just for certain activities. They know it can be used for researching and writing papers, but they aren't aware of other uses for the Internet, Dahl said.

When Dahl asked club members what they wanted to do, kids said they wanted to learn how to keyboard better, he said. The mention of music videos and comic strips changed their minds, he said.

Two projects the club have planned for spring are music videos featuring digital photographs taken by the students and Web-based comic strips. The photos will later be used for Northern Lights' yearbook.

The club uses free online software, so students can try what they've learned at home or at school on their free time, Dahl said.

Using the computer is not as hard as people think, said fifth grader Holden Willmore. When he told his friends about the room design project, they thought it sounded hard. They have no idea, he said.

"I think it's a gift ... being able to work with some of this stuff," he said.

The school doesn't do a good job teaching kids how to use the computers, he said.


Willmore was excited about the floor design exercise. He prepared for the floor layout activity by mapping out his floor design for an entire house with pencil and paper Tuesday.

"I think it's a great opportunity because otherwise I never get to do this kind of stuff," he said.

Sabourin agreed.

"It's fun, and they should have it at other schools," she said.

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail .

What To Read Next
Get Local