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Archive for Sunday, January 10, 1999

GENERATION WHY TEACHERS ASK: WHY NOT LET HIGH-TECH TEENS TEACH?

January 10, 1999

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Generation Why teachers prove that youths can be an advantage when it comes to training others about modern technology.

Like most business travelers, Ryan Powell and Brett Stuckey travel with laptop computers.

Unlike most of their peers, they also bring homework and check in with their teachers before leaving home.

Ryan is a high school sophomore and Brett is a seventh-grader. The Olympia, Wash., students were in Lawrence Friday to lead teachers and students from 40 Kansas schools in Generation Why training.

"The goal is to use technology and have technology at the hands of students to accomplish the tasks they're not able to perform with traditional tools," Ryan said. "It's giving kids a say in what goes on in the curriculum."

The Kansas State Department of Education awarded 48 Kansas schools a $15,000 grant to initiate the program in their classrooms.

The idea is for students, who are often light-years ahead of teachers in the area of computer technology, to help other students and teachers learn more about using technology in every facet of education. Generation Why training is directed at junior-high-age students, who will be in the school system several more years and can see results of their efforts.

"It's about learning useful technology," Ryan said. "There's been a big emphasis on getting computers in the classroom, but many times they set idle. I can always find a computer. The problem is finding students or teachers who can use it."

For Brett, who made one of his first presentations to a group of college students, the advantages to learning computer technology at a young age are obvious.

"This is fun stuff," he said. "We want to provide a nice environment for these people to learn more about Gen(eration) Why."

Southwest Junior High computer studies teacher Ben Mellen said the face of education is changing, and teachers who once headed the classroom are now making room for students to lead the way.

"Technology comes so much easier for the kids as opposed to us teachers who have been around for awhile," he said. "Ultimately, this will help us in our classrooms to be more effective teachers."

Teachers at SWJH are in the process of gathering a "tech team" of 15 to 20 students who will go through Generation Why training. The program should be in place before the end of the school year at all junior high schools in the Lawrence school district.

Ryan and Brett are due back in their own classrooms on Monday, but not before making one more stop during their trip to Kansas.

They were scheduled to teach more students and teachers about Gen Why Saturday in Wichita.

-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is jwatson@ljworld.com.

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