Traveling by computer

Children who took part in this summer’s Computer, Technology & Videoconferencing Program at the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center have traveled to other countries and other states without even leaving the Jamaica Avenue center.
The idea for the program came about following conversations between center president Simcha Waisman and Neme Alperstein, the Computer, Technology & Videoconferencing Project Administrator. Realizing that videoconferencing “is the future,” Waisman began gathering more information and then went about getting funding so that the center could purchase the necessary equipment. Two years ago, the project began as an after school program before being used during a summer program.
“We’re the only organization in the eastern corridor of the United States that’s a community center, not a school, that (has) it,” Waisman said.
This past July, 25 students between the ages of 9 and 11 took part in the program. In order to be accepted into it, the children had to submit an essay about why they should be chosen to participate. Waisman said the center then spoke with teachers and principals, selecting students who “need a little push to get them over the hill.”
Throughout the Computer, Technology & Videoconferencing Program, the students communicated with people from institutions such as the Sarasota Marine Life in Florida, NASA Marshall Space & Flight Center in Alabama, Alaska Sea Life and the NASA Langley Space Center in California. They also had conferences with England and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
“It’s a whole new way of learning,” Alperstein said. “I think it’s a whole new way to bring the world to children who would normally not have access to that.”
In order to get ready for the videoconferences, the students learned how to do internet research related to the topics of the conferences. They also thought up questions in advance and practiced speaking to prepare for being live during the exchange. The group also went on field trips related to what they were learning about.
Brian Gallagher, 10, said that he thought the most interesting conferences were the ones where students learned about marine life. He also said that all of what he learned during the conference was important.
“It’s just all cool,” Gallagher said.
Alicia Arias, also 10, wanted to take part in the program because of an interest in technology and NASA. Her favorite videoconference was with the Kennedy Space Center. Along with learning more about computers, Arias said she learned that it is important to use your imagination.
Program participant Nidda Komal, 10, said that she enjoyed the videoconference with Sarasota and learning about sharks.
“The most important part of the program I think is when you videoconference you get to meet different people and get to interact with them and learn about the culture and country,” Komal said.
Waisman said that he has seen the students come out of their shells through their participation in the program, which concluded on Friday, July 20 and will pick up again after the school year starts. It has also helped the students develop their communication skills.
“It’s opened a lot of avenues in their mind and given them the opportunity to explore the world,” he said.
Elizabeth Lebowitz, the Computer, Technology & Videoconferencing Assistant Project Administrator, added, “The biggest growth is the excitement to learn. You see their faces light up.”
The One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center is located at 110-08 Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill. For more information, call 718-849-3759.

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