If you're wondering where I'm coming from, read some John Holt (``How Children Fail'' and ``How Children Learn'' for example) or John Taylor Gatto books. If you want a real eyebrow-raiser, visit the School Is Dead, Learn In Freedom website. (-:
Why this will work
Traditional schooling methods have exactly the opposite effect to the one that they're overtly targetted at. Put in English, what schools do is almost exactly wrong, it squashes intellectual and emotional development at every turn, instead of promoting it. This is why home-schoolers hammer state-schoolers in exams, even with much less (sometimes much less than half) official on-deck ``class'' time. Your first job is going to be getting those students learning for themselves. Recipe-followers will always, at best, produce mediocre results in mediocre jobs. Selling these ideas is going to be harder than actually doing them, but the rewards are great - at least, if you give a damn about your students.
Radical methods for radical results
As well as learning about specific ways of dealing with computers, your students will need to learn how to learn for themselves. One way to start this process is to make the directions deliberately vague, for example, ``Make three computer programs or tools. They can be games, utility programs, a set of detailed written instructions, anything, as long as they have a definite purpose.'' (Later, we can shoot for nebulous purposes... :-)
A ``program'' might be as small as a successful CoreWars model, or might be a whole game by itself. Games can be very useful for ``stealth'' training in logic. Having programs from previous students as hints, starting points or laughing stocks sometimes helps (significant modification of an existing program should count as ``a program.''
The computers will need to be provided with a rich range of tools to play with, and those tools need to be advertised. There should be at least three of everything. What this means is that expensive proprietary software will cost you far too much, only free as in beer will do. The tools themselves must be available for inspection. Not all of the students will take advantage of this, but instructor/helpers certainly will. This means that free as in speech software must be used, as closed software cannot easily be inspected.
The advertising can be as simple as an A1 poster describing each tool, maybe with a couple of screenshots of either the tool or programs made with it, or can be whiz-bang slideshows, animations or walk-throughs; or anything in between or beyond. Work with what you have, and can achieve.
Since intern/apprenticeship programs are desirable but not widely feasible in a commercial sense, use your wannabee interns/apprentices as instructors, mentors and helpers for the next batch of students. Make this a required part of their course. There is something magic about a helper who knows not too much more than the student, and it will force the helpers to practice what they know. Constantly assigning specific students to specific helpers is something to avoid if it can be avoided easily; let the people decide who they belong with at least some of the time.
Some structure is necessary in order to be able to meter ``progress'' for the bean-counters, but as far as possible let the students and their helpers/mentors set their own goals and pace. Open Universities are an interesting and successful model to study.
For extra points, ask the students to write about what they did. This exercises a wide range of skills and includes exposure to word-processors (of which at least three different kinds should be available, e.g. LyX, StarOffice, KOffice, PatheticWriter, AbiWord).
To keep the costs down, ask people to donate older computers to the school. Boxes without PCI are starting to be a little too obselete for useful hardware training, but are still quite effective as terminals or as ``crash-test dummies'' to practice software installs on. Using at least some donated equipment also gives you an excuse to provide basic hardware training, and makes it less painful when some ten-thumbs pulls an option card out of a live computer or drops a hard disk on the floor.
Just my Oz4c worth...
If at first you don't succeed, try a shorter bungee