George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teachers Get Tech Tips from Students

Upper elementary and middle school students help veteran and prospective educators include technology in their lessons to enhance learning. Read the article.
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Craig: James is ready to take his project out to Mrs. Wright's class and try it out.

Narrator: This class at Washington Middle School in Olympia, Washington, is like hundreds of others across the country, where teachers impart vital new technology skills to their students.

Teacher: Creative or…

Narrator: But in this Generation Y class, the seventh-graders are doing the teaching…

Student: That font is good for the titles, because it's big. It's big enough that you can distinguish the letters, but when it gets to…

Narrator: …and the teachers are learning.

Teacher: You see anything you would change?

Student: Yeah. There's no home link here. I noticed that on your previous page like you have on here -- and that's really good, but some browsers don't have Back buttons, so you have to retype the URL, which is really annoying.

Narrator: Begun in 1996, the Generation Y program pairs tech-savvy grade-schoolers with tech-challenged teachers to help them integrate new technology into their lesson plans.

Teacher: Right now what we have is a couple Web sites for research purposes, but that's about it, so what kinds of suggestions do you think you might have as far as where to infuse technology?

Student: Well, for a presentation about how we did it in PowerPoint would be a good one, because it's…

Narrator: Now operating in over 40 states, this elegantly simple concept was the brainchild of Olympia School District's technology coordinator, Dennis Harper.

Dennis: I was a former university college of education trainer of pre-service teachers, and typically a lot of the instruction they get are from professors who haven't been in a classroom in 20 years. There's not a teacher in the United States that actually went to K-12 schools when the World Wide Web was in existence, so teachers don't realize the resources. They don't realize how sharp these kids are. They don't realize that for the first time in history now we have students knowing more than their teachers about something that's really central and important to society.

Student: And Web pages are just endless possibilities.

Teacher: What age do you recommend that, the Web pages?

Student: Web pages? Well, we got into it a little bit in fifth grade, but you basically don't really do very much with it until middle school and up. You can use PowerPoint with younger age groups and keep it simple, or you can use it with older age groups and make it a little fancier.

Heather: It's been really helpful for me to get a student's perspective on how to infuse technology in my classroom. I'm actually learning from these girls here about where to put technology, how it's used and what's in the classrooms right now. It aligns well with my teaching philosophy in that I need to teach what they need to know, and if they need to learn something, we need to move in that direction, and I don't know unless I'm talking to them and working with them.

Teacher: So what we have is Sara and Hanako are suddenly going to turn into Ms. Conrad, the partner teacher, and Sara is meeting with her for the first time. Listen carefully for what…

Narrator: Gen. Y students also practice communication skills and teaching methods so they can better assist pre-service teachers with lesson planning.

Student: Soundtrack and transitions.

Teacher: What's a transition?

Student: Transitions are you can fade in and fade out and just like the dials…

Narrator: Younger Gen. Y kids like these fourth-graders help their classroom teachers learn new skills like video editing.

Teacher: Are there sound effects that you could use?

Student: Yeah. We have to go into a CD, and then you export it to iMovie and you can use it for the school news.

Dennis: The overwhelming majority, more than 98 percent of the thousands of teaches that have been involved with this program have said they prefer learning from students than learning from adults. Teachers go into teaching because they like to work with kids, and that's what makes this model successful.

Teacher: I want to see you guys in it. Ready?

Narrator: Even though they have to get up early to attend Gen. Y class before school each day, these kids return to the program year after year, eager to teach and learn.

Student: …or if you want to cut it smaller, this will make it smaller.

Teacher: Crop it.

DeAnne: It's absolutely joyful to work with these kids. The more power you give them, the more empowered they become. They take responsibility for their own learning. They get very excited about having authentic, purposeful reason to be at school and authentic ways of helping their teachers. They take charge of their learning and it carries across into all of the disciplines. They just really feel that it's important for them to be here, that they are the people who matter in the school.

Student: Headings go with the graphics.

Craig: So what I want you to watch for as James shows his first two or three slides is: What do you think are the things…

Narrator: Gen. Y instructors like Craig Costello see more than a win-win proposition at work. They see schools being transformed by the process of kids training their teachers.

Craig: We've got teachers who are interested in education because they're about to become teachers, students who are interested in the educational process because they've just had to teach a lesson for the first time and realized suddenly how difficult it is, and experienced teachers who realize they can't figure out the technology unless they get some help from somebody, so when we meet in that common area, suddenly we've got something to talk about together, and the whole culture of our school has changed in an easy way. It hasn't been teachers feeling like, "I've got to be dragged and pulled into this technology," kind of thing. They've got their students working with them over time on a project, and then suddenly they have the skills, and it was kind of a painless way of getting the skills.

Teacher: Then what happens?

Teacher: This looks pretty easy. Is it ever this easy?

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Director of Content:

  • Sara Armstrong

Associate Producer:

  • Leigh Iacobucci


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Robert O. Weller
  • Michael Curtiss


  • Nathaniel Higgs
  • Morgan Ho
  • Deirdre May


  • Kris Welch

Editor's Note: The Generation www.Y program, profiled in this video, has evolved into a national program called GenerationYes, led by Dennis Harper. Although the students at Washington Middle School no longer spend time before and after school to plan lessons with their teachers, they continue to participate in GenerationYes and help educators learn ways to use technology in the classroom.

Comments (5) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This was an enlightening video that introduces an excellent learning experience for teachers. The introductory comment placed above the video should have given additional information as to where teachers can find out more about this program or find out if the program is in their state.

This was an excellent eye opener for understanding that teachers certainly do need more training in technology for the classroom! Thanks for offering this video to teachers!

Diane's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Staff comment:

There is an article that accompanies this video segment.

Rhonda's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I see a lot of value in this type of program, including the recruitment of future teachers. It is absolutely true that kids pick up on technology and know more bout it than adults do. I am sure that some teachers get into the delimma that teachers of the gifted do---staying ahead of their students. I will never forget when, a number of years ago, a 3rd grader made my VCR work.

I also think that teachers, especially older teachers, might be beter able to accept tutoring from students than from younger colleagues. There is nothing political here. It is a sort of advanced form of show and tell.

I would like to know if any of these programs have trained special needs students to teach teachers about technology---especially LD and BD students and those with Aspergers. It would seem to me that being able to shine and REALLY help an adult learn would do great things for their attention span and their ability to express themselves clearly and on topic. I know that some of my moderately retarded students taught each other how to look up websites and find things they needed on the Internet.

Andrew Black's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This looks like a terrific program for both the students and the student teachers. I have to ask though, is the students' instruction of the student teachers confined to the time period before starts so the these students aren't missing any of their own instructional time? And why aren't these student teachers coming out of their teacher preparation programs better versed in using technology in the classroom?

thomas denk's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Yes! Please give me all the technology students available. It is so enjoyable for the rest of the class when they make "fun" of me!! So many more wish to share what they know when they realize they can teach the teacher.

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