Making multimedia kids

By ANITA MATTHEWS

What does an Ipoh town planner and a businessman have in common with Vision 2020?

How about a vision to build a computer-literate society. And the town planner is starting them young, specifically with children aged three onwards.

The venue is CyberKids Sdn Bhd in the northern state of Perak, where a total of 30 children have graduated from its colourful classrooms.

CyberKids, a local computer learning centre, plans to open another six branches across the country before the end of this year.

Town planner turned company director Ivan Chooi and his partner Chooi Chee Sum are capitalising on the popularity of the centres.

"We have received encouraging responses at every school we opened. In fact, the Tapah school has secured a contract with a bank there for courses," reveals Ivan.

CyberKids opened its first centre in ipoh in April, followed by one in Tapah and two in Penang last month.

"We will open centres in Ampang and Taman Tun Dr Ismail in Kuala Lumpur this September, and others in Seremban, Johor Baru and Sarawak," says Ivan.

According to him the objective to set up a centre for children is in line with the development of the Multimedia Super Corridor, which will need a multimedia-oriented workforce once its infrastructure is up and running.

"Our technique includes encouraging interactive learning to help the children get comfortable with technology, and to realise its potential as a tool," adds Ivan.

He says the CyberKids' methods were culled from observation and reading up on the types of teaching programmes available for children.

"We originally were a franchisee for a Canadian-based programme called Technokids, but after using it, we realised that it was not suitable for kids here. So we decide to develop our own," he discloses.

The trick, Ivan says, is to stimulate the children's interest in computers and help them gain confidence in using technology to get the job done.

For effect, Ivan applied psychologist Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as part of CyberKids' classroom principles.

"Children do have a sense of purpose and we adults often underestimate them and prefer to decide what they should do, instead of allowing them to explore for themselves," he rationalises.

Cosy classes

CyberKids programmes are available in three categories: Cybertot (ages three to five), Cyberjunior (ages six to nine) and Cybersenior (ages 10 and above).

The students to teacher ratio is maintained at 2:1 to keep the classroom size cosy. All students have to undergo a five-hour assessment exercise to evaluate their interest in computers and skills in arithmetic and language.

Upon completion, a personalised programme is designed for every child to suit his or her development needs, and in pace with his or her level of comprehension.

A child's study programme comprises learning how to use software applications such as Creative Writer, Kid Pix, clip art and basic wordprocessing.

"With these, they can learn to design and lay out a project paper which can be about themselves, family, pets or favourite subject," says Ivan.

By the end of the programme, each student would have completed an individual project paper and participated in a group project.

CyberKids also takes its students a step further into the realm of audio visual technology. "We teach them how to make their own movies and script a dialogue along with it," adds Ivan.

To date, CyberKids has conferred certificates upon 30 students and has another 90 undergoing its course in Ipoh.

Children above nine years old who take part in the programme are taught multimedia theory and software applications such as Microsoft Office, Macromedia Action, Corel Lumiere and Autodesk Animator. They also learn how to use a digital camera.

"We are also planning to set up a cyberkid studio here for research and development to create more classroom modules," Ivan claims.

The success rate of the three-month old school has also prompted plans to franchise CyberKids nation-wide next year.

To find out more about CyberKids, direct your browser to Cyberkids


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