Students Teach Teachers


Teacher Training or Staff Development are always major concerns when new tools are introduced into education. This has become increasingly important as more and more schools incorporate technology, specifically computers, into their curriculum. Large amounts of money are poured into staff development, and we need to be sure that money is spent wisely and that we get a good return on out investment.

The traditional method is to allocate certain funds to train teachers in afternoon school workshops, weekend full day workshops, or in vacation workshops. Teachers are paid to sit in a classroom and spend endless hours working on prepared applications which are very general in nature. I have done too many of these types of workshops. The major problem is that they are not in real situations. All examples are simulations. These workshops are good for introductory and initial type of indoctrination, but unfortunately these workshops are it. No follow up occurs and the teacher is expected to immediately step into a classroom with computers and teach.

Rather than continue in this wasteful practice, I have devised a more efficient method of staff development. The money is used to allow for teachers to spend time in a class during the day with students in a real situation. Teachers work with experienced teachers and learn on the job, a tried and true method borrowed from the business world. Teachers also work with student interns. Students have become the teacher's teacher.

Students learn about the comuters in class or in the computer club which meets after school. Students become interns after they have learned and then work in computer rooms as interns and as paid interns. Teachers who teach in computer rooms can have two or three interns to assist in the additional chores inherent in a computer room. Teachers do not have to feel as if they need to be totally computer literate to teach their subject in a computer room or on the Internet. By using students as teachers and as interns, much of the computer phobia that teachers express can be eliminated by the presence of student interns.

The power of this method comes from the age old teacher-student relationship. If a student is taught in a class to use the computers the test is to see if that student can teach another. All in all, we have found that we are getting a far better return on our investment in staff development and in creating many more efficient computer literate teachers than the traditional workshops.

Teachers find this method is more user friendly and they find it more efficient because teachers can work on projects and can prepare in a more timely manner. Instead of the blitz type approach, teachers learn over time. Teachers and students arrange for their training at mutually convenient times. Oftentimes we see student and teacher working after school. Because teachers are brought to computers more gently, we find teachers become computer literate much faster. It is not a threatening environment like the workshop. In addition, we have found teachers purchasing home computers more quickly and becoming more willing to use the computer rooms in their class work. They have come to view the student-teacher relationship in a different way. They trust the students to perform certain tasks in the classroom with computers. They understand and don't feel threatened by the student's knowledge of the computers. They realize they don't need to be the authority about computers or of their academic discipline. They have come to realize the power of teaching with computers.