Students Take on Teacher Role in Wirt County

November 28, 2007

ELIZABETH, W.Va. _ It’s a reversal of roles at Wirt County High School, where honor and Advance Placement students have become the instructors and are training their teachers and other educators on the latest technology tools for the classroom.



The first phase of the project started in October when the West Virginia Department of Education trained 20 students in a train-the-trainer session on various Google products. The idea was that the students then would train the faculty. Once trained, both the students and teachers would then train the rest of the student body.


“The kids picked up the information so fast I almost couldn’t keep up,” said Mark Moore, technology coordinator at the West Virginia Department of Education. “Instead of trying to go slower, I was forced to go much faster than I normally do with adults. The faster I went, the faster their brains worked.”



The idea to train students to train teachers started with librarian Becky Watson after several failed attempts to schedule a training session for faculty at Wirt County High School. The student trainers, who are mostly seniors, have since trained teachers in the school’s English, science, social studies and math departments. They soon will begin training other students, beginning with a freshman class.


“We know now this is the way students want to be taught,” Watson said. “There are always a few teachers who won’t want to participate because it’s something new. But for the most part, the teachers have embraced it.”


One month later, students have learned to make web pages, collaborative documents, sharable calendars while having their digital photos organized and their ideas represented in 3-D. They’ve also helped their teachers with several similar projects.


For example, one of the school’s English teachers wanted help drawing pictures for use in a mythology class. One of the student trainers showed her SketchUp to allow students to draw their own version of an afterlife. Another English teacher had her students select a poem and then use some technology phrase they have learned to teach the poem to the class.


“I keep thinking of myself in high school and if I could have done this,” Watson said, “and the answer is no. I would be intimidated. These kids don’t seem a bit intimidated.”

The program is similar to one at Lincoln County High School in Hamlin called Ambassadors of Technology. Students in the program meet with Angie Urling, the school’s technology integration specialist, four days a week during flex time to be trained on and discuss different technology in place at the school. The Ambassadors of Technology started an adopt-a-teacher program and worked with educators on their web pages as well as getting their biographical information posted and updated.



“The greatest impact from the Ambassadors of Technology was the just in time support they offered teachers in utilizing technology in their classrooms,” Urling said. “The Ambassadors would often jump up and assist the teachers quickly to get the technology up and going or to troubleshoot issues that arose.  This put the teachers much more at ease with incorporating technology into their daily lessons because they had tech support sitting in their class.”

Both programs illustrate 21st century learning that is fundamental to West Virginia’s recently updated public school curriculum.

“This is 21st century learning at its best,” Moore said. “It is student lead. It is technology driven, and it covers teamwork, leadership, collaboration and public speaking. Perhaps programs like these, which can be replicated in any school, will become the key to providing new tools, new techniques and new theories to help our schools move forward in the 21st century.”

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