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Internet cafe.vol2no1

  1. 1. Developing An Internet Café[Chew Keng Chee, Eugene Gan, Ng Zhuo Yang, and Samson Cheung]AbstractA group of five 16 year-old students from Raffles Institution in Singapore decided to dotheir service-learning research project on development of an internet café for a localschool for special needs students. Their article discusses the processes they wentthrough in researching the topics involved, developing the lessons and programs toteach the youth how to conduct and sustain the café at their school, and the valuablelessons they and their students learned in the process. Their story provides a goodmodel for school-based service-learning programs that seek to use research as a formatfor developing exemplary service-learning programs.Introduction: Developing An Internet Café With Special Needs StudentsLearning ObjectivesThrough this project, our group wanted to experience service-learning for ourselves andunderstand the true meaning of making a difference. For too long, the few of us havebeen doing school projects of competitive value. However, we have not applied theskills we have learnt in project work by serving the community and making a differenceto the local society.By engaging in this service-learning project, we wanted to learn and understand thelives of special needs children and be able to empathize with their life experience. Byinteracting with people who are different, we set out to widen our own perspectives ofsociety and its people so we could leave behind our narrow visions of the Singaporeansociety and start taking in the big picture. We wanted to learn how to best appreciatesociety for what it is, embrace it with open arms, and do our best to make our world abetter place.Service ObjectivesThrough this project our group hoped to achieve a few goals and outcomes. First, wehad goals to achieve in terms of setting up the new Internet Café. Since the InternetCafé was actually converted from an old classroom, there was a need to redesign theplace to create a café atmosphere for the kids at Chaoyang School.
  2. 2. Developing An Internet CaféThus, we wanted to assist in designing and coming up with a concept for the InternetCafé together with Chaoyang School. To do so, we strived to help in scouting for gooddesigns and play a part in choosing furniture and equipment, and the best way to do sowas to conduct our own background research in this area. The most important objectiveof this aspect was to make sure that the café is operationally ready by the end of theyear, and that it can be successfully launched.Secondly, we had goals to achieve in terms of the programmes to be conducted in thenew Internet Café. The main purpose of setting up such an Internet Café was to achievetwo purposes on Chaoyang School’s part: to train some pupils in managing andoperating food outlets, which might prove to be advantageous for their future careers,and to inculcate basic cafe etiquette in students so they could conduct themselvesproperly in social settings like cafés, using this as a training ground.Thus, through our programmes to address both these purposes on Chaoyang Schools’part, we wanted to improve the students’ learning capacity, and to a small extent, buildupon their learning capacities by using fun and engaging activities to conduct ourlessons. We also wanted to inculcate in them some hospitality skills and basic etiquettesof service. Furthermore, we expected student to do simple accounting and moneyexchange as a result of this project.However, our group hoped to provide instruction in some of the intangible areas oflearning, such as students developing confidence in themselves. We wanted them torecognize themselves as individuals who are unique and special in their own way, andthat they know they can make a contribution as, are the intangibles of this project. Wehoped that through this experience together, the students would learn to have evenmore impact on others’ lives, and see themselves as having a desire to serve, anddevelop initiative to be an outstanding person.Preparation for ServicePlanning our programmes for the Internet Café took much longer than expected. Togive a good lesson to the Chaoyang kids, sufficient planning and research is required.Our group therefore spent much time on planning for the lessons in two parts –background research and needs analysis. On top of that, we were relentless in seekingout information from print materials, such as books and newspaper articles, as well asnon-print materials, which included online journals, forums, and newspaper articlesabout children with special needs and things to note when interacting with them. INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 2
  3. 3. Developing An Internet CaféThe results of our literature review were very meaningful. They not only enlightenedus, but also helped us to better teach and help the special needs students in many ways.Intellectually challenged children are often easily frustrated in many learning situations.Thus, our group came up with a summary of learning points in terms of managing suchkids after the completion of our literature review. • Students learn better through visual learning • Students perform better if student-teachers lavish praise on them occasionally to re-affirm that they are doing well • Students should be encouraged to speak up instead of keep quiet (some of the teachers at Chaoyang emphasized that students must keep quiet and be on “their best behaviour” at all times). • Student teachers should provide guidance and attention (but not too much) to the students to encourage them to think about questions posed and to express their opinions on themStudent-teachers have to establish a position of “being-in-charge” while being kind andfriendly at the same time to be effective. This is in opposition to being strict and fiercewith the purpose of ensuring discipline. • Pairing up two students to two volunteers for a smaller group size makes teaching easier and more flexible according to the needs of the students. • Chaoyang students have great potential. As facilitators of their learning, we must try to unlock the spark within them. • Chaoyang students are rather IT illiterate. As student leaders, we can try to use IT often in our lessons for more effective learning too (ties in with visual learning). Also, we must work with the other RE group doing the website to create one that boasts more interesting games and less repetitive content. • Instructions used when communicating with the Chaoyang students have to be phrased concisely using simple English.Thus, after the literature review, we went to the Chaoyang School to observe theirlessons to learn more about how their normal instruction was conducted. In so doing,we wanted to see the possible areas where we could learn about better teaching.From the observations (a total of 5 lessons altogether), our group came up with sometips and pointers to take note of when we were planning the lessons. We know we can INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 3
  4. 4. Developing An Internet Caféunlock the spark in them, for some of them are unresponsive due to feeling bored anddrifting off to a world of their own at times. Even in this class alone, there are manystudents with different personalities, which require different ways of teaching. Fromwhat we gathered from 1 of the students, they prefer to learn through visuals likewatching videos and do not like to write compositions such as the one they weresuppose to read in class.From there, we came up with drafts for our lesson plans, which were to be approved bythe teachers at Chaoyang School. The lessons which we planned for the special team ofstudents who will operate and manage the Internet Café as waiters and waitresses,included courtesy and behaviour in an Internet Café, money management, andhospitality and service skills.Concurrently, other students at the school also went through courses in computer skills,which include the Internet, search engines, Microsoft Paint, online songs and games,and MSN tools.Evaluation of ServiceWhen we conducted our lessons, we always had it recorded with a video camera left ina corner of the Internet Café. This is used to review our lessons, to see what were someof the things, which occurred, what were some of the things which we did wrongly, andwhat should be improved in the coming lessons.Furthermore, we maintained a group web-log (blog) which we updated weekly, whereeach one of us would post our reflections. This served as a platform for us to review andreflect upon what we did that week. Reading each others’ reflections also spurred somenew thoughts and ideas which one might not be able to come up with individually aswell. On our group’s part, this is how we evaluated our own service on a weekly basis.Throughout the year, we constantly obtained feedback from the HOD of Pupil Well-Being at Chaoyang School, Mrs. Anita Suwandi, whom we worked very closely with onthis project. Below is her final report of our contributions to Chaoyang School, whichwas submitted to our school at the end of the school year. Zhuo Yang, Chun Yin, Eugene, Keng Chee and Samson have been on the above project with Chaoyang School since February this year. They first started with some observations of the pupils in the school so as to have a better understanding and some exposure to the special needs, especially pupils who are intellectually disabled. INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 4
  5. 5. Developing An Internet Café During the initial stage of their project, the boys had contributed some ideas for the physical structure in the Internet Café. They have done a detailed research on various Internet Cafés in Singapore, which included some design, fixtures and furniture, suitable for the setting of the pupils in Chaoyang. These had indeed, been helpful for the school as it provided more ideas for the Internet Café, especially one that is appealing to the young ones, which the pupils could relate to. To ensure that the café was operationally ready, the boys had planned a systematic program for the pupils. They conducted basic training skills such as interpersonal skills, hospitality and service workshop as well as simple accounting (money skills) for the pupils. Although only two groups of pupils were focused for the trainings, these skills had helped developed some confidence in the pupils to manage an Internet Café. Furthermore, the boys would be conducting computer application skills for all pupils so as to strengthen their ability in exploring the various search engines as well as surfing the Internet and emailing. Along the way, the boys had established good rapport and interaction with the pupils. One of their strengths was to write reflections of their interaction with the Chaoyang pupils, which, in fact, had created avenues to further improve their trainings as well as the learning styles of the pupils - catering to their needs. Last but not least, the boys were resourceful in their ideas. They showed very good sense of commitment in their project as well as working with the pupils of Chaoyang. They showed great enthusiasm in carrying out their tasks and are respectful & receptive to advice. It had been a great learning journey for the boys as well as the pupils in Chaoyang these few months. It is a pleasure to work with them in setting- up an Internet Café @ Chaoyang School.Apart from Mrs. Anita Suwandi, we obtained feedback from our students as well. Wedid so by designing survey forms with a smile or frown option for questions, and alsoan open feedback column for them to express their feelings. The feedback received wasvery positive, but one of the comments really touched us. A student wrote that he wasunhappy because he wanted to learn more. From those words we could see that he hada determination to learn and live his life to the best, and that fueled our determinationto do our best for them.Besides these avenues used to evaluate our service, our project was also featured in alocal tabloid, the TODAY newspaper (November 8-9, 2008). This is a strong indicationthat our project is not only well-received by Chaoyang School, but our efforts togetherwith Chaoyang School have been affirmed at the national level as well. INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 5
  6. 6. Developing An Internet CaféDespite being in operation only for a year, we have accomplished much with theInternet Café at Chaoyang School in this short period of time. The programmes wecame up with, which were run jointly by us during our weekly visits, and the teachersat Chaoyang School on other school days, won recognition at the 2008 MOE-NCSSSpecial Education Awards, organized by the Ministry of Education, Singapore. TheInternet Café clinched the Innovation Award for the ‘outstanding innovation topromote student learning’. This is the best affirmation that we could get, knowing thatwhat we are doing is truly meaningful and beneficial to the students at ChaoyangSchool, and also that we are well on track to fulfill both our learning, and serviceobjectives. INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 6
  7. 7. Developing An Internet CaféAccomplishment of Learning ObjectivesThe Service-Learning journey is one that cannot be defined by tangibles, one thatshould not be restricted to accolades and fixed rewards or outcomes. It is a process inwhich mutual learning takes place, and the building of a relationship between theparties involved throughout this journey.However, we did forge buddy-mentor relationships while making many friends inChaoyang School. All these are precious experiences, and are the best evidence on howour objectives are met. Like they say, the first step is always the hardest; it was indeedtrue for us too. However, we managed to overcome it and had more interactions withthe students gradually over time as we picked up more courage to be more open andfriendly.While many of the kids were less intellectually and physically capable, they seemedlike ordinary kids to us, having some of the same desires and needs. We have learnt asa group not to take things for granted, but to appreciate everything we have, includingthe upbringing we received and the financial stability we enjoy. Most importantly, wehave learnt that it is our responsibility to give back to the community and help others.Through these activities, five of us have fulfilled the objectives of Service-Learning –service in helping the students and teaching them social skills while learning from thewhole experience to contribute back to our community.Accomplishment of Service ObjectivesAs we started to set up the Internet Café, we knew that it was notgoing to be easy. Hence, we visited other Internet Cafés aroundSingapore in order to identify the main features that are present andmake the Internet Café attractive to customers. We drew up a floor plan detailing howwe wanted it to be designed. For example, the counter of the café was designed withround edges also ensure that the safety of the students is not compromised, whilelooking attractive. Through the use of bright colours, we hope that the students wouldenjoy their time in the café. This was done so as to suit the learning styles of thestudents, especially since these children require special help. Since the Internet Caféwas built from a classroom, we decided that removing the wall and replacing it with aglass panel would be more suitable as it simulates the structure of a real Internet Café.Also, a small area is set aside outside the Internet Café for a possible Al Fresco to bebuilt in the future. INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 7
  8. 8. Developing An Internet CaféAt the same time, we also planned our own lessons to teach these students some simplelife skills. Hence, we organized our content into 8 separate lessons, each with two parts.These lessons include the following:Hospitality and Service WorkshopIn this lesson, we had to teach the students the basics of running an Internet Café aswaiters and waitresses. First, we got them to sit in a circle around us before we startedexplaining to them why it is important to have such skills. In order to reaffirm that theyhave understood what we taught, we quizzed them occasionally on what we have justsaid. At the same time, we did a PowerPoint to try making things easier for visuallearners. Through the use of animation and pictures, the students got a clearer idea onwhat we are trying to teach them. The sentences on what the waiter and customerwould say were taught one by one. After making sure the students were clear of thesentences which we have taught, we did a live demonstration to show them how it isdone before letting them try it out first hand. Every student took turns to be customersand waiters so as to encourage experiential learning.Interpersonal SkillsThis was a continuation from the previous lesson inwhich the students learnt how to be polite to customersand how they should obtain feedback from customersabout their service. We emphasized the importance ofcourtesy and smiling so as to be more polite tocustomers. Upon the teaching of the theory, weproceeded with a short skit on courtesy. Thedemonstration consisted of 2 parts, the polite way totreat customers, and the impolite way of treatingcustomers. We did this to allow the students to differentiate between what is right andwhat is wrong.The students were then taught how they should receive feedback from customerspositively. We emphasized to them that no matter how negative the feedback is, theyshould take it with a positive mindset and try to improve based on it as the customersalways come first.Simple Accounting and Money Exchange INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 8
  9. 9. Developing An Internet Café This lesson was extremely important as it involved money skills, which will be needed in the future. We started off the lesson by emphasizing to them the importance of money and it is not something that they should play around with. Money exchange is very important in an Internet Café as one has to ensure that the right amount of money was paid and returned as change. Due to the difficulty of the lesson, we split the class into 2 groups of 2 and 3 in order to give them closer attention. Since the students were weaker inmathematics, we started off by revising with them simple addition and subtraction.Also, we only introduced them to counting in dollars as combining cents and dollarstogether was hard for them. By adapting our teaching style to the pace of learning fordifferent students, we were able to teach the students and make them understand howmoney exchange works. Real food and drinks was also used with a price given to themso as to add realism to the lesson.Use of Computers and InternetThis is the second part of our curriculum in the InternetCafé and it involved teaching the students how to usethe internet and other applications such as the WindowsMedia Player and Microsoft Paint. This is very importantas these are the basic features in the Internet Café andwe believe that every student should understand how touse the computer. We started off the teaching of theInternet by explaining the uses of Google and how it canbe used to look for information easily. This was done 1to 1 so as to ensure that every student knows exactly it works. In later lessons, weintroduced new sites to them such as YouTube and Hotmail to further increase theirknowledge on how to use the Internet effectively. Other applications such as MicrosoftPaint and Word were later taught in a similar way. After the 1 to 1 teaching, one of uswould do a demonstration to the whole class again using PowerPoint as we want eachand every one of the students to understand how to use the features properly. INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 9
  10. 10. Developing An Internet CaféSponsorshipIn order to run the Internet Café, a constant supply offood needs to be served. As there was no budget setaside at the beginning for food, we decided to startlooking for sponsorship for the Internet Café bysending out sponsorship requests to 4 different localcompanies: Polar, Old Chang Kee, Prima Deli andBread Talk. Although we faced many difficulties ingetting their support, Prima Deli finally showedinterest in the end. By liaising directly with Prima Deli, we were able to get a regularsponsorship of 50 pastries per week for Chaoyang School. This was probably one of thegreatest turning points of our project because it gave us the encouragement that weneeded and showed us the value of perseverance in success. It brings us great joy to seehow much our sponsorship has helped to bring happiness to these student’s lives.Sustainability of ProjectLooking ahead, there are a few things left to be done to ensure the sustainability of thisproject. For us, this journey of service is never ending.First, we would need to secure an extension to the Prima Deli sponsorship, which onlyruns until the end of this year. We did this so that future batches of students can enjoythese great pastries, which are utilized for lessons, while using the Internet Café forrecreational learning themselves. To do this, we have collected photos and data to provethat the Internet Café is worthy of Prima Deli’s investment, and this process will becarried out towards the end of 2008.Second, we hope to secure another sponsorship deal with a beverage company, such asMilo which is well-liked by students, so that it can be supplied during lessons to makethings more interesting and realistic.Third, we would have to compile our work in a collection such that school teachers canbuild upon our project as well. Currently, teachers at Chaoyang School make use of theworksheet, which we designed during their curriculum time. To make it moreconvenient for the school, we would be putting everything, which we have done in thepast year together so that they can be used as reference by Chaoyang School in thefuture. INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 10
  11. 11. Developing An Internet CaféLast, we will continue to serve at Chaoyang School’s Internet Café by helping to designnewer programmes, and dropping by when time permits, to carry out some of thelessons which we have been doing the past year. Although school life in Junior Collegewould make this extremely difficult, we will continue to work on this given our strongrelationship and communication with our teacher-in-charge in Chaoyang School, Mrs.Anita Suwandi.Summary of ProjectFebruary 2008 • Contacting Chaoyang School • Visiting the school for the first time and getting to know the needs of the school • Visit cafes all around Singapore to gain ideas and concepts for the interior design of the Internet CaféMarch 2008 • Interaction sessions at Chaoyang School whereby we help teachers with their conducting of normal lessons at Chaoyang School • Sit-in to observe lessons at Chaoyang School • Background research conducted on the methods to teach intellectually disabled kids • Background research into the American model of lesson planning • Brainstorm sessions to identify the needs of the students which should be addressed in our lessonsApril 2008 • Drawing up and approval of lesson plans (multiple times) • Sit-in to observe lessons at Chaoyang School • Group decision made regarding our softer & friendlier approach towards the students • Conversion of Internet Café completeMay 2008 • Conducting of café management lessons start • Initially we had communication & technical problems (e.g. projector faults), had to be flexible and overcome these various challenges along the way, learn to change plans on the spot • Lessons conducted weekly from now onJune 2008 • School holidays: lessons stop for a month; more planning work • Prepared letters appealing for sponsorships to be sent • Drawing up lesson plans for computer lessons for other students in Chaoyang SchoolJuly 2008 • Preparation for RI Research Education Congress • Approval of new lesson plans (multiple times) INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 11
  12. 12. Developing An Internet Café • Negotiations with Prima Deli to get the sponsorship going; persevered on despite being referred from one department to another, and at one stage, being rejected completely • Sponsorship finally securedAugust 2008 • First batch of sponsored pastries arrive; used in our lessons • Conducting computer & café management lessons resume • Less problems in controlling the class with more experience now • Helping out at Chaoyang Family Day • Lessons conducted weekly from now onSeptember 2008 • Lessons continue • Preparations for RI Research Education Congress: poster, documents, presentations, etc. • Progressing all the way to the finals throughout the entire monthOctober 2008 • Presented at the RI Service-Learning Fair VIP Session as Gold Award winner of the RI Research Education Congress; share our experiences & convince more schoolmates to take up Service-LearningNovember 2008 • Chaoyang School Internet Café awarded Innovation Award at the 2008 MOE-NCSS Special Education AwardsDecember 2008 • Securing sponsorships in the future • Compiling our works this year for future referenceThe Future • Continue to conduct lessons at the Internet Café • Helping out with any planning of programmes for the schoolReflectionsThis was actually our first time undertaking a service-learning project. We will neverforget all the things we learnt. The project was very meaningful and eye-opening as wegot to make a positive difference to the Chaoyang students’ lives. The lessons weconducted were most memorable as we had first-hand interaction with the kids, whowere cheerful and friendly. The children’s positive learning attitude was especiallycommendable, and that served not only as a pillar of strength for us in doing thisproject, but also as a motivation in our personal lives as well. INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 12
  13. 13. Developing An Internet CaféSome of us went into this project thinking of it very objectively and how to complete it.In the end, we learned that the intangible benefits like sincerity and respect, which thechildren learned, were actually the most important. The happiness that theyexperienced while serving at the Internet Café made this project an experience we willcherish forever.During one of our lesson observations we could still remember very clearly was thatone of the children actually made a pink paper flower for Eugene. She had slight autismand couldn’t pronounce properly, but she nudged him, and passed him the flower shemade. This was deeply touching, as we knew the gift was from the bottom of her heart.Service-learning is more than planning and writing, it is about working from the heart,for the heart. Service-learning seeks the intangibles, results not in the form of black andwhite, but results measured by the joy on a person’s face. It was not about the task, butmore about the people involved.We have learnt to be happier and more content with what we have. The kids might notknow it, but their innocent and carefree smiles have left such a great impact on us. TheChaoyang kids may not lead extravagant lives like some of us do, but they have aninnocence and pure happiness that few people can undoubtedly claim to possess.As the saying goes, “anyone can serve because we all have something to give”.However, we believe that it should also be “anyone can serve, but let us all learn fromgiving too”, as it is only by contributing our best to our community while learning andgrowing ourselves, only by being leaves that will do its best for the tree, can we make itas green as it can be. Life is just like a beach full of starfishes. Each starfish represents anopportunity to make a difference and every starfish makes up a part of this story. Ourgroup has had the joy of scouring the glittering sands, releasing the starfish one by one,who delight in returning to the ocean and experiencing life at the fullest. Looking backat our journey, it was one so unforgettable, so meaningful.Cesar Chavez, one of the greatest civil rights leaders that America saw in the 20thcentury, once said “we cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progressfor our community.” Similarly, we should, will, and must always remember about oursociety and its needs. INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 13
  14. 14. Developing An Internet CaféACKNOWLEDGEMENTSWe would like to thank the following people, without whom our project would nothave come to fruition: • Mrs. Low Siew Ting, Principal of Chaoyang School, for approving the project and providing all the support. • Mrs. Anita Suwandi & Ms. May Chui, teachers at Chaoyang School, for their guidance and commitment to helping us with this project. • Ms. Dee Chia, Coordinator from Ministry of Education, for her help in our initial liaison with Chaoyang School. • Mrs. Cheryl Yap, HOD Research Education of Raffles Institution, for opening us up to so many opportunities and guiding us all the way throughout this project. • Mrs. Lim Yoke Tong, Programme Head Research Education of Raffles Institution, for her guidance throughout the completion and submission of this report. • Our young friends at Chaoyang School, for without their unwavering determination towards learning, we would never have had the motivation to carry this project throughAUTHORSChew Keng Chee, Eugene Gan, Ng Zhuo Yang, Samson Cheung, TamChun Yin, are 10th grade (Secondary 4) students at Raffles Institution.This article was only minimally edited to keep the language and spirit of the students inplace. We hope, as readers, you will understand the need to keep the format as close to theoriginal as possible. INFORMATION FOR ACTION: A JOURNAL FOR SERVICE-LEARNING RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH 14