A partnership between UCSB and the Goleta Boys & Girls Club has created an innovative after-school computer club called “Club Proteo”.  The Club is named after Proteus, the Greek God who had the ability to adapt his form to the demands of the situation.  The primary goal of Club Proteo is to provide children from predominately low-income Latino households supervised access to high quality educational software, computers, and related technologies.  Club Proteo's institutional home is the Goleta Boys & Girls Club, which is located in the Goleta Valley, ten miles north of the city of Santa Barbara.

    Club Proteo is in its fourth year of operation.  The first three years of the project were funded by "seed money" from the Mellon Foundation.  By design, funding to sustain the project has shifted to a local foundation called The Hutton Foundation.

    Each room in the Club Proteo maze is named after a local business or educational institution.  Software “in” each room matches the activity of the business or educational institution.  For example, the room named after the Santa Barbara News Press is the home of “Reader Rabbit 3”, an educational computer program which puts the child in the position of being a newspaper reporter.  Each piece of educational software is accompanied by a “Task Card” which defines “beginner”, “good”, and “expert” levels of expertise.  Each child’s progress through the maze is tracked in a “Jouney Log” which lists the date, the educational program, and the level of expertise reached by the child.

    With help from their university “big buddies”, children work their way through the maze and write about their insights, frustrations, and problem solving strategies.  In the  process of these activities, children also acquire fundamental computer skills such as using both Macintosh and Windows operating systems, creating, saving, retrieving, and printing text and graphic files, sending and receiving e-mail, and using the Internet under direct supervision.

    Research from Stanford University, the University of North Carolina, and UCSB shows that  Fifth Dimensions do in fact foster the development of literacy and problem solving skills, the very skills which are critical to success in higher education and any meaningful employment.  Professor Richard Mayer, a prominent cognitive psychologist at UCSB, concluded a recent study by noting that “participation in the Fifth Dimension produces measurable, resilient, and sustained cognitive changes related to children’s literacy”.

    Club Proteo is a win/win situation for all involved.  Children in the Goleta community receive near private tutoring on computers and educational software from their university “big buddies”, who serve as role models for higher education.  At the same time, UCSB’s undergraduate students are able to put theory into practice as they gain an appreciation for the enormous potential that educational technology brings to multicultural education.