Whiz Kids at Orange County Library System
Innovation SummaryWhiz Kids is a vibrant new Tech Club designed to engage children from 6-12 in learning computer skills in a fun, ongoing setting. Whiz Kids is offered weekly at seven OCLS locations.
The Orange County Library System offered almost 15,000 computer and technology training classes to our patrons in Fiscal Year 2011. These popular offerings represent an 8.5% increase over the previous year. While, most of these classes are geared for adult learners, our Camp Savvy series of classes designed for kids and teens and offered each summer are well attended. In these classes, children learn to create comics, animate images, make movies, mix sounds and create ringtones. Our challenge was to create a class series that would continue to attract young students throughout the school year.
After reviewing course material, attendance statistics and comments from patrons, Wendi Bost (Public Service Administrator) assembled a team to brainstorm the possibilities. Our desire was to build a Tech Club setting where kids felt comfortable among their peers and want to come back each week for more.
“Whiz Kids” builds on the Camp Savvy curriculum, with new programming like Music Mixing, iMovie, Create Comic Strips, and Create 2D animations. Fresh programming is continually being added by our Instructional Technology Specialists (ITS) in the Technical Education Center of OCLS.
Whiz Kids is taught by our staff of Technology and Customer Support Specialists. They also serve as a source of new class ideas for the ITS staff to create.
Whiz Kids also was given a new marketing plan that centered on regularly scheduled classes that take advantage of the Wednesday early release schedule of the Orange County Schools. This makes attendance attractive and convenient for busy parents. Many locations have coordinated other story or craft programs so that entire families can come to the library while brothers or sisters are attending the Whiz Kids programs.
The program was launched in October, 2011 after a marketing blitz that included online promotion, outreach through existing classes, promotional material in “Books and Beyond” the OCLS monthly magazine as well as unique bookmarks and lamppost banners.
The response to the classes has grown to exceed our expectations. Initially, we averaged 4.6 students per class at four locations. In January 2012, we added some additional new locations, and saw an immediate increase. Our class labs each hold between 8-12 students and many classes are “sold out”. The children come eager to learn along with their new found friends. In fact, additional class offerings on other days have been added to the schedule at some locations in response to the demand. “Creating a cool new tech club provides a fun and immersive way to engage kids in computer learning,” notes Bost. Since beginning the program 6 months ago, 914 students have attended. Leading the pack is our South Creek Branch with 409 students in 49 classes averaging 8.3 students per class.
One student, eleven-year-old John Cirrincione attends Whiz Kids at the West Oaks Branch. He thinks it’s a blast, but also recognizes that the class helps him to learn. “It gives me computer skills and I need those when I have to do certain projects for school,” he says.
Another, Sherlyn Reyes, a fourth grader, has her own reasons for attending. “I want my comic strip published in the newspaper one day,” she says with purpose.
Monique Coppen teaches at Dr. Phillips Elementary School in Orlando, and says computer literacy is a critical part of contemporary education. “Classes, such as the ones the library offers, help kids build links between the classroom and culture,” she states. ”And technology is very much a part of modern culture.”
We believe strongly that children need to develop solid computer skills and become fully media literate in today’s technology-driven world, and OCLS is proud to provide Whiz Kids as part of our educational commitment to the children in our community.