New technology class makes teachers of pupils

by Cynthia Martens

El Tech, a new computer-technology program at Hillsboro Elementary School, has turned the role of teacher and student upside-down.

Students are trained to teach their teachers.

“I think teachers think it’s neat that a student can turn around and teach them, because that’s our goal as a teacher,” said Rod Just, fifth grade teacher and one of two facilitators in the El Tech program at HES.

Forty-five students in the fourth and fifth grades are participating in this new classroom curriculum during the school year. Six sessions, each on a different area of computer technology, are designed to teach six different small groups of students.

After learning each program, the students are prepared to be called on to instruct teachers who request help with any of the following areas: Web-page design, Internet research, digital cameras and scanners, PowerPoint, HyperStudio, Excel, Word and newsletter publishing.

Bruce Winkler, computer lab teacher in the elementary school and social studies teacher in the middle school, and Just combine their talents and love for computer technology by team teaching the curriculum.

The programs they use were designed by Microsoft, adapted by the two teachers and funded by federal grant money.

The grant money comes from the state Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, which is a federal program.

“The states have to apply for TLCF, and the states have competition for it,” said Sharon Tatge, executive director for Technology Excellence in Education Network.

“El Tech is part of the student leadership program for the state’s TLCF,” she said.

The parent program, TEEN, involves schools in Marion and Dickinson counties. It has been established to allow five districts to share resources for students enrolled in the unified school districts of Centre, Herington, Hillsboro, Marion and Peabody.

Tatge was responsible for writing the grant for the El Tech program initiated at the beginning of the school year.

Winkler and Just were asked toward the end of last school year about leading the program at HES.

“This is the first year that the El Tech grant was done,” Winkler said.

Hillsboro and the four other schools were given the opportunity to decide how to manage the program, based on International Standards for Technology in Education.

“ISTE is an organization that sets up standards that they think all student should reach in order to be well educated in technology,” Tatge said.

“It’s a nationwide committee that does this, and so we use these as basic standards to try to get our kids to learn the standards that they set up.”

Winkler, Just and HES principal Pat Call were asked to brainstorm about the possibilities the El Tech program offered.

“Sharon pretty much left each building to decide what works for us,” Winkler said.

“I think they wanted fifth graders, and we decided that doesn’t do a lot for our school when they’re trained this year, and then they move on to the middle school.

“So we came up with the idea of involving both fourth and fifth graders.”

At the beginning of the school year, interested students filled out application forms, and parents were asked to write in comments on the forms.

“Students also had to write a small essay stating their commitment to the program since they would be missing class, and that work has to be made up on their time,” Winkler said.

Parents gave their permission by signing the application form. The form also cautioned that students may have to spend extra time after school or miss a recess, Just said.

“The reason for that is they might get pulled out of class, or after school they might get called on to work with a teacher or someone in school on that skill that they learned,” he said.

The grant was made available for six students per session. But the HES El Tech staff extended that limit to include all students applying, which allowed for six to eight students per session.

The 45 students may only participate in one session during the school year.

“It would have been nice to have all the kids every time, but that would be too many kids for this type of instruction,” Winkler said.

The student sessions are broken down as follows:

n?August and September: Web-page design-working with a program called Front Page to learn to create a Web page for HES. This site is located at

n October: Internet research-learning techniques to help search on the internet in order to be more effective in finding information.

n November and December: Digital cameras and scanners-taking pictures with digital cameras, down loading those onto the computer and applying what was learned to a variety of areas such as Microsoft Word documents and printers, and learning how to use scanners.

n January: PowerPoint-creating a presentation of computer slides.

n February: HyperStudio-learning a different technology and terminology from PowerPoint to create computer frames.

n March: Excel-working on a math program appropriate for elementary students.

n April: Word-learning about the Word program and newspaper publishing.

Students are scheduled to meet once a week on Wednesday afternoons in the computer lab. The first meeting of each new program lasts from 12:30 p.m. to 3:20 p.m.

“That’s the time when we teach the initial program basics for that skill,” Winkler said.

“After that we meet with them from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to continue to sharpen skills to access what they’re learning and basically certify that they’ve met the objectives of the skill.”

One month prior to each new session, Just and Winkler attend training seminars on the skills to be taught in the next session.

A technology specialist from the Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas, based in Hutchinson, provides in-service training for all facilitators in the program.

“We have a rotating schedule where each TEEN school takes their turn hosting that training,” Winkler said.

The TEEN program, started in 1993, has been operating successfully in the middle and high school arena, and that success led to the development of the El Tech program.

“We were kind of the next idea,” Winkler said.

“I think that’s the reason for the grant-how can we take what we’ve been successful with and find a way to instill that love for technology in elementary school children.”

TEEN received $20,000 for this El Tech grant and each of the five schools received about $4,000, Tatge said.

The HES grant money is used for salaries and training of the two facilitators, grant administration, a laptop computer, the cost of the educational services and staff development trainer, and substitute teachers.

“When we go to receive training, there’s a substitute to cover our class,” Winkler said.

Money from the grant is used to help cover the cost of one substitute teacher, but each school district is expected to pay for the second substitute.

The laptop computer becomes the property of the school.

“Bruce and I can take this laptop home if we need to work at home to practice and get ready for the students,” Just said.

Teachers and staff members can call on any student who has completed a training session.

“The purpose is not just for the students to learn but for them to turn around and apply the knowledge they gained into helping the rest of the school building,” Just said.

“So if there are teachers in our building that don’t now how to use the digital cameras or one of those things that the kids have learned, then we get the kids lined up with those teachers, and they train them how to do it.”

The digital camera and scanner program was probably the most popular subject because so many teachers and other people wanted the training, Just said.

Appointments with the student experts are arranged to meet the schedule of the teacher and the student. These learning sessions can take place in the teacher’s classroom, the computer lab or where ever the demands of the skill are best met.

“It’s individualized training where the student goes to the teacher when the teacher has time, and it’s one on one,” Just said.

“The teachers that have received the training have been very positive and say, ‘They did such a great job.'”

The value of the program reaches beyond the classroom and teachers, often carrying over into the home, Winkler said.

“I think with the prevalence of computers and digital cameras in the home, the kids are probably going to be able to go home and pass this knowledge on to their families,” he said.

Just said one student’s father just recently purchased PowerPoint and was planning to ask his daughter to teach him how to work with it so he could use it in his business.

At the end of the first and second semester, students completing the sessions receive certificates handed out by Tatge. Call and Gordon Mohn, USD 410 superintendent, are on hand at each ceremony to offer their congratulations.

“It gives the students a day to do a little bragging about what they now know and share that with the other students,” Winkler said.

Although this was the fifth and final year for the TLCF grant, Tatge said there will probably be other technology grants to pursue in order to continue the El Tech program.

“If the districts deem this to be successful, it’s possible that it will continue as a TEEN project,” she said.

Winkler and Just said they hope the program continues and already have ideas for ways in the future to use skills learned by the students.

“If there are people in the public who are interested in one of these programs, that need some instruction, it’s possible they could contact us so we could have some kids work with them,” Just said.

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