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Childnet Awards: Linking Children Around the Globe

Technology in the Classroom CenterAlthough it may sometimes seem that the sole purpose of the Internet is e-commerce, Childnet International is working worldwide to create a safe, barrier-free, e-community for children. Each year, the organization recognizes 12 or more outstanding Web projects developed by and for children. Today, Education World talks about the awards program with Childnet founder and director Nigel Williams. Included: Learn what two Childnet Award recipients have to say about their "winning" experiences, and tour their innovative Web sites!

"I started Childnet International in 1995, as my own children were beginning to discover the Internet. I could see the tremendous potential it could have to benefit children," Childnet International director Nigel Williams told Education World. "I was also conscious of the dangers for children online, and I wanted to ensure that kids had a great time on the Net, rather than being hurt."

Each year, Childnet -- a nonprofit, charitable organization based in London -- recognizes 12 or more outstanding Web projects developed by and for children through its Childnet Awards program. The entry deadline for the 2001 competition is October 31, 2000. Childnet awards first-, second-, and third-place prizes in each of four categories: individuals, schools, non-profits, and government. Other special awards are made at the discretion of the judges.

"The idea of the Childnet Awards is to highlight the wonderful ways that children and those working with them are linking together, using the Internet," said director Williams. "We focus on the international benefits the Internet brings and highlight initiatives where children achieve a lot with little resources or have barriers to overcome."

BANDAIDES AND BLACKBOARDS

Childnet: Award-Winning Ways

Projects that win Childnet Awards have qualities in common. They are:

* innovative

* international

* projects that involve and benefit children

* not required to be flashy or use all the latest technology

*projects that use communications technology

* ongoing projects, activities, or even ideas still in the planning stages

*protective of children's privacy

* not primarily fund-raisers.

Get entry forms and guidelines at Childnet Awards: How to Enter. Winners receive cash prizes of up to $3,600 and a trip to the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Barriers are precisely what nursing professor Dr. Joan Fleitas breaks down in her Childnet 2000 award-winning site, Bandaides and Blackboards: When Chronic Illness or Some Other Medical Problem Goes to School.

"I was concerned about the stigma that kids growing up with medical and developmental challenges had to cope with," Fleitas told Education World. "Childnet allowed me to share their stories with a world of people who have a true passion for making the world a better, softer, more connected place for children."

Visitors to the site are greeted by a kid-friendly frog who "jumps" into a "pond" for kids, teens, or adults. Within each pond are many stars to click. Those stars lead to pages and pages of advice, games, and stories from "experts" -- children with chronic illnesses. They share their first-hand knowledge of being in the hospital (including pranks kids can pull!), handling teasing, exercising for relaxation, and other topics. Children who visit Bandaides are encouraged to add their personal stories, creative writings, and ideas to the site. The pages of the adult pond include resources for parents, teachers, and health professionals and links to other helpful Web sites.

"Teachers and their students should know that the development of Web projects that benefit children allows them to extend their reach beyond the classroom walls to a world in need of their creativity, zeal, and enthusiasm," Fleitas told Education World. "Recognition by Childnet is the icing on the cake of such efforts!"

CHILDREN'S FOLK GAMES

Creativity, zeal, and enthusiasm are the benchmarks of Children's Folk Games, teacher Petru Dumitru's multilingual anthology of games, rhymes, and customs from children around the world. Awarded second place in the Childnet 2000 Schools competition, the site was produced at Duiliu Zamfirescu School in Romania, with the help of Dumitru's students and family.

"Games are part of the folklore of children and therefore part of world culture," Dumitru, who did his graduate thesis work on the topic, told Education World. "Our project was a way to combine traditional tools with modern ones -- there is no need for a computer to play traditional games, but the Internet is an ideal way to preserve them!"

Connected to more than 3,000 schools through its affiliation with the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN), Children's Folk Games celebrates and archives the diversity, commonality, work, and fun that is child's play. The site, decorated with children's artwork from around the world, gives descriptions and instructions in several languages for games, rhymes, customs, tongue twisters, and modern games. Included is a section of writings on the recreational and developmental importance of games.

Children's Folk Games has been recently updated and expanded into Children's Folklore. Petru Dumitru told Education World that he is currently working at European Schoolnet in Brussels on a new Internet project, MyEurope. It is a community of teachers who work for the development and enhancement of a common European identity.

"The Childnet Awards encourage teachers and students to develop useful projects for the communities of the world, showing that the Internet can be a safe place for children -- a huge community rather than a 'cold machine,'" Dumitru told Education World. "Childnet encouraged us to bring a computer into our classroom (purchased with our prize money) and opened the window to the world!"

ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES ABOUT INTERNATIONAL INTERNET PROJECTS FOR CHILDREN:

  • Agenda for Children. Childnet International offers a reproducible document outlining principles for action, specific issues, and actions required to make the Internet a safe and accessible place for children.
  • Safety Tips Childnet International provides a reproducible list of do's for families and kids.
  • Childnet's Launch Site This site, linked to Childnet, provides information about interesting ways children around the world can link together through technology. Included are international clubs for children, projects, and meeting sites where schools can find e-partners.
  • SafetyEd International This organization advises parents, teachers, schools, and libraries about safety issues for kids online.
  • NickNacks NickNacks can help users explore exciting virtual horizons of learning via the Internet. The primary goal is to encourage telecollaboration among educators and students around the world. Whether you want to participate in a telecollaboration or start your own, information from NickNacks can help.

    Leslie Bulion
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2000 Education World

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