Computer Explorers teacher Christine Summa teaches close to 100 preschoolers each week at schools in the Fort Myers, Fla., area. She spoke with us about her experience as a technology education teacher for young students and how ComputerTots, Computer Explorers preschool program, benefits their futures.
Computer Explorers: How long have you been working for Computer Explorers? How did you come to work for the local franchise?
Christine Summa: I’ve been with Computer Explorers for eight years. Prior to CE I worked as a supervisor at an insurance company, as a bank teller and as a stay-at-home mom. When my kids started school, I began teaching preschool but was looking for other employment. Being a Computer Explorers teacher enables me to work while my children are in school, spend time with them and do what I love all the same.
CE: What is your educational and professional background?
CS: I went to the University of Connecticut and studied English and psychology. When I heard about Computer Explorers, I knew they were looking for someone who was good with the little ones, organized and technology-savvy. It was a perfect fit. I have learned so much from teaching these programs, and my director is great about having training sessions to keep everyone up to speed on the latest technology.
CE: What do you like best about teaching these programs?
CS: There are many wonderful things about these programs. The children are always happy to see me, and they enjoy what they’re learning very much. I usually only teach three children at a time — all very well-behaved — which enables me to spend a lot of one-on-one time with the kids. My director, Michelle Hershey, is great to work with. Overall, teaching for Computer Explorers is just a happy experience.
CE: Can you describe a typical ComputerTots class?
CS: ComputerTots classes are 30 minutes long. We have a puppet whose name is CT, for “ComputerTots.” I always hide something inside of CT’s shell that pertains to our lesson. Next week we’ll be learning about digital microscopes. In CT, I’ll have magnifying glasses and will ask the students what magnifying glasses do, and we’ll talk about how they make things look bigger. I give them a chance to think and let them come up with the answer. Then I say, “That’s what the microscope does, too!”
I also start each class with a little educational song: I’m a little computer, just for you. Here is my monitor, and my CPU. Can you find my keyboard and CD-Rom? Just click the mouse to start the fun. I’m a high achiever, and I expect my children to be, too. We’ll use the computer to show languages – we’ve done Spanish, French and Mandarin. We use the computer to teach sciences. This week we’re doing a magnets game on computers, and we also did a static electricity experiment. I always write a note to parents to let them know what their child is learning and what they were able to do. Positive reinforcement goes a long way with the kids!
CE: How do children react to your class?
CS: Kids love coming to class. I’ve had a lot of parents tell me that kids aren’t always happy to go to school, but they’re thrilled to go to school on Tuesdays because they get to go to ComputerTots. They like what they are learning, and it makes them happy.
CE: How tech-savvy are the students you work with? Have you noticed a real change over time as new ones start?
CS: I have found that parents don’t spend time teaching their children about computers at home. So some of the children are tech-savvy and some not at all. It’s amazing to see how the children grow over a two-year period. A lot of them will come to me without knowing how to use a mouse, and by the time they leave the program, they are comfortable with the language and know how to confidently use the computer and navigate through the programs on their own.
CE: People say that these programs help build problem-solving skills among young learners. Do you have some examples?
CS: I think that’s true. They enjoy solving puzzles and are proud of themselves and their peers when they do. I like to give each child their own time to figure out the problem. It’s amazing what the other children learn just by watching others take turns. We were building machines on the computer yesterday. Some things worked, some did not, some children I had to give some hints to. But they all figured it out, and they were proud of themselves. They got a real sense of accomplishment.
CE: How do Computer Explorers programs foster collaborative learning?
CS: With ComputerTots, it’s more about one-on-one interaction and giving children a chance to do things directly. However, the children learn to take turns, watch and listen while others are participating. It teaches them to be patient and to collaborate.
CE: Are there any instances that are especially memorable?
CS: I spend a lot of time getting to know these kids over a year or two, and I’m proud of seeing them improve. That’s what I like. I like seeing them go from not very skilled or very confident, and four months later they’re amazing. And they know it. That’s the moment that I enjoy.
CE: How important is it that youngsters get this type of training early?
CS: I think its very, very, very important. School is getting harder and harder every single year. It was harder for my daughter who is in college than it was for me, and it’s tougher now for my high school freshman than it was for my college sophomore. They have to be good at everything. In kindergarten, they’re expected to read a book and take an online test to answer 10 questions. Then in second grade they’re expected to type a page for a report, and in fourth grade, they have to do PowerPoints. It’s the new way of the world, and I enjoy helping prepare these students for the rest of their lives.
For more information about Computer Explorers programs, visit www.computerexplorers.com.