Students tutor teachers in tech Education goes the other way Monday, August 6,2001
USA Today; Arlington, Va.; Aug 6, 2001; Karen Thomas;
"Student teaching" takes on a fresh spin this fall as kids polish their lesson plans
and teachers come to class ready to learn.
educators become overwhelmed with the latest computers, software, personal digital
assistants and other new technologies, they're increasingly tapping their student
populations as a source of savvy training ‑‑ and even to design
the learning environments of the future.
the first time in history, we have youth knowing more than adults about something
central to society, and that's technology," says Dennis Harper, founder
of Generation www.Y, a students‑teaching‑ teachers program developed
with a Department of Education grant.
Preparing students for the 21st century
takes a new mind‑set. "The idea of teaching tech skills to teachers
and having teachers teach them to kids is ridiculous," says Marilyn Piper
of the International Society for Technology in Education.
* This month, 300 school administrators in Nebraska kicked off a training program in which each educator
chooses a student mentor. Within three years, all 900 superintendents and principals
will be trained by kids in Internet skills and PDA use.
feel students can do that training better than other kinds of hands‑on
instruction," says Jerry Sellentin, executive director of the Nebraska
Council of School Administrators.
International educators and government leaders are keeping an eye on the If
I Could Make A School program, a project launched last month with a symposium
in which 24 high school students from the USA and South Africa designed cutting‑edge classrooms and schools based on current research.
was a given to them," says Piper. "They assumed all textbooks were
electronic, and it was a given they would all be interconnected on a network."
Generation www.Y: Teaching With Technology, a program offering in‑school
training to students who are then paired with a teacher to redesign a lesson
using the latest technologies, goes nationwide this fall.
in 41 states, the staff development program got a rare "exemplary"
rating from the Department of Education last year. "Teachers are no longer
getting technology workshops here and there. They have a kid‑partner in
class every day," says Harper.
a simple idea. But developing an effective program and testing it took Gen Y
five years and $9 million ‑‑ about one‑third in public funds
‑‑ to best figure out how to train kids to teach teachers and "become
change agents instead of objects of change," says Harper, of Olympia, Wash.
the 18 weeks of training, Gen Y students bone up not only on tech skills, but
also on the ins and outs of teaching curriculum. They're also taught the social
subtleties necessary to help them work with teachers, such as the difference
between disagreeing and being disagreeable.
were taught how not to say things like, That's dumb,"' says Jeff Connor,
16, who developed an eighth‑grade history lesson that had students building
a Web page instead of writing a paper. He did encounter some frustrations: Teachers
don't have much time. "I ended up teaching the lesson and the instructor
learned the technology along with the classes."
from students is "disconcerting" at first, says Christine Partch,
a third‑grade teacher from Granville, N.Y., who was among the program's pilot learners. But the
"non‑threatening environment," she says, beats expert‑run
workshops. "We learned without feeling embarrassed or shy because it was
Partch teaches students how to effectively mentor teachers, who are "like
very young students when it comes to technology: They're fearful; they're afraid
they'll break it."
And there's no such thing as being too
young to teach. Most schools use student mentoring in .middle school, but Harper
says their quickest studies are in third and fourth grade, when they "still
have that spark for learning." Sellentin says Nebraska principals ‑including elementary school principals
‑‑ are encouraged to choose a young mentor from their own school.
"They know who the technology gurus are," he says.
The youngest students can become teachers.
A project for the preschool of the future is in the works at the HumanComputer
Interaction Lab at the University of
4‑ and 5‑year‑ olds are creating interactive classrooms with
robotic storytellers and wireless learning toys. While testing educational technology ideas
on youngsters is common, "we need to start at brainstorming with children
as designers," says education professor Allison Druin, director of the
"Society says adults are in charge,"
says Druin. "We're asking for a new power structure, and it takes time
for kids and adults to both accept that both can teach