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Kids get firsthand experience at Web construction

New York Thinklink
Kids Thinklink students in New York pose for a snapshot for their Web site   
December 9, 1997
Web posted at: 12:39 p.m. EST (1739 GMT)

From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman

(CNN) -- Technophobe parents were intimidated enough by children who could program their errant VCRs and preset the stations on their car radios. Now some children are one step ahead of their parents in yet another technological arena: the World Wide Web.

As the just-launched global Kids Thinklink Web site demonstrates, even elementary school-age children are moving into site creation, and with a vengeance.

Kids Thinklink, sponsored by the international public relations firm Porter Novelli, is both an after-school program and a Web site. The program provided Internet training to some 140 children from at least 30 different schools in 10 countries, culminating with the creation of Web sites that reflected the students' interests and the regions where they live.

Thinklink kids
Students' creativity shines as they create colorful images for their Web pages   

The Web sites the 8- to 14-year-olds created, with the help of a program called Web Workshop, were unveiled Tuesday. The children will get a chance to talk with fellow participants in other countries for the first time Tuesday via a live, international chat session.

Since the project was originally conceived as community service, Porter Novelli targeted schools and children's organizations without Internet access, said Porter Novelli International CEO Bob Druckenmiller. In fact, some of the children involved never had used computers before.

"We've got a long history of working with communities to help," Druckenmiller said. "It looked like a novel way to help and combine our technology experience."

Participants included students from Mexico, Greece, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Germany, Brazil, Italy, New Zealand, Canada and several U.S. cities.

Adult guidance evident

To varying degrees, one can see an adult's guiding hand in the creation of the sites. Many feature elaborate graphic designs, provide translated text for English speakers, and implement forms, a type of technology that can require programming knowledge.

The Thinklink Web site   

A site built by children in Mexico City, characterized by large and attractive graphics, is in both Spanish and English. It shows visitors what the national flag looks like, links to another site that gives the current monetary exchange rate, and encourages visitors to identify their home country in a guestbook. A site by Bogota, Colombia, students also offers Spanish or English text.

A site built by Ottawa, Canada, students incorporates more of the students' own scanned-in artwork and includes a quiz on Canadian lore.

A site built by Washington, D.C., participants shows perhaps the most student-only work, including childrens' artwork and their own short essays on various topics.

Porter Novelli instructors said students in every city came away, at a minimum, with Internet research skills and Web design software experience. More advanced students even learned about HTML and other types of programming.

Druckenmiller said the company chose to focus on the Internet for its project because "there's a lot of wiring in schools going on, but not the ability to understand how to use the software and hardware that's become accessible."


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