Empowering Students as Agents of Change

Excited about Learning

As the dismissal bell rings at Delmar Elementary School, 980 students leave the building and begin their ride or walk home from school. The school is located in a rural area on Maryland's Eastern Shore just about 40 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. But at least nineteen students are not going home at this time. They can be seen moving quickly down the halls to the Media Center computer lab where they will stay until 5 PM learning new technology skills. Why are these excited nine and ten year old students so eager to learn something new… so eager that they are willing to remain two hours after school, two days a week for thirty weeks? The students are participants in a program called Generation YES - www.genyes.org.

The typical Gen Y class includes from 15-20 students. Eighteen teachers volunteered to be part of the Delmar Gen Y team. This was exciting! After the teachers volunteered it was time to select students. Delmar Gen Y students were selected based on (partner) teacher recommendation and are 9, 10 and 11 years old. Students are not required to have extensive knowledge of technology in order to be Gen Y students. The nineteen Gen Y students at Delmar have a desire to learn and an interest in technology and collaboration with a partner teacher.

Agents of Change

The Generation YES program is not new though it is new to Delmar Elementary. It has been in existence since 1996. Today it is available for students and teachers because of Federal money distributed in a grant called "Enhancing Education Through Technology." Generation YES empowers students to be agents of change in their schools. They learn technology skills in a Gen Y class which lasts for eighteen weeks on the secondary level and thirty weeks on the elementary level. A designated Generation YES teacher in the school leads the class with curriculum prepared by the Generation Yes staff.

After several weeks of classes during which Gen Y students learn technology skills, these students collaborate with a partner teacher to decide which curriculum unit or lesson would be enhanced by including technology. Together they create a technology infused lesson for the partner teacher's class. Partner teachers bring their educational expertise to the team while students bring technology skills which they have learned in the Gen Yes class. Students may search for websites that address the lesson topic and make a PowerPoint presentation that provides links to the websites. The student might create an interactive Kidspiration template that addresses a desired skill or create a KidPix slide show. On the day when the lesson is scheduled to take place, the Gen Y student is present to assist the partner teacher or perhaps teach the lesson for the partner teacher. In a program of this type, students are the catalysts for change. They share skills with teachers who may not have time to infuse their lessons with technology or who may be "technology reluctant" for any number of reasons.

Learning New Skills

During their after school computer classes, Gen Y students learn basic computer skills, e-mail, web searching techniques, educational software programs such as Kidspiration, KidPix, PowerPoint, Graph Club, etc. They also learn how to use a digital camera and scanner. Their afternoon classes include topics such as collaboration with a partner teacher, mentoring, presentation and leadership skills and more.

In their second week of classes, Delmar Gen Y students created a simple valentine image in Windows Paint. They saved the file and then sent it to their parents as an attachment in an e-mail message. Christen's Valentine is pictured here.

Learning skills in context makes Gen Y classes more meaningful for students. There is an audience and a purpose for what they are learning. Students are always eager to show their parents that they are learning new skills… skills that perhaps their parents do not know.

Benefits For All

Empowering students to use technology and partnering them with a teacher bring amazing benefits to all involved in a school and its local community. Technology reluctant teachers have a knowledgeable student at their side to help them. Students in technology classes feel proud to be on a team of students who assist teachers. A Delmar teacher shared his thoughts about students and technology:

"I'm probably the typical teacher who loves to have a computer in the classroom but through lack of knowledge and some intimidation, does not realize the power a computer can possess for a student. I experienced a relatively shy student who blossomed through by using our school computers. He went from barely speaking to anyone in the classroom to explaining, demonstrating and teaching computer procedures and programs to everyone in the classroom - including me. His excitement in using the computer as a learning tool has definitely boosted his self-esteem." Jim Lingo

Students have positive comments about their roles as mentors for their teachers. Linzy, a fourth grade student, wrote in her Gen Y journal:

"I am really glad that I'm in the Gen Y program because we get to learn more about computers and I get to work with my partner teacher! Gen Y is cool!"

Fifth grade student, Jacob, is eager to begin working with his partner teacher who also happens to be his math teacher:

"Generation YES is a fun class. It is our third time in here. So far we've made nametags for us and our partner teacher. My partner is Mr. Forrer. I can't wait until we start working together."

Dawn Cuffee, a librarian at Delmar Elementary, willingly agreed to partner with two Gen Y students who will develop a valuable tool for her to use in the Media Center. The students will scan covers of new books that arrive in the Media Center. The book cover images and a short description for each book will be put in a PowerPoint presentation so that any Delmar student will very easily be able to learn about new arrivals on the library shelves. Dawn and her two students are eager to begin their project.

"I believe that the Gen Y project will allow the students and me to explore different technology that is available to use in the library area. The project will benefit the whole school because students will have the opportunity to view and become aware of what their peers can do." Dawn Cuffee

Students can initiate valuable changes in a school if given the opportunity. I am watching this happen first hand as I work with the Generation YES students at Delmar and teach them new skills. They are excited about learning and working with their partner teachers. They are an inspiration and will make a difference in their school. See more pictures from our Generation Yes program at Delmar:


How can you empower students to be agents of change at your school? Is there a technology literate teacher (or student) who can teach students the necessary skills to bring technology into your classrooms? Begin with small steps… and then watch the students lead the rest of the way!

Patti Weeg
Delmar Elementary School
Maryland, USA
Generation YES Teacher

Technology: Motivating the Modest Achiever - Newsletter article 1
Integrating Curriculum and Global Projects - Newsletter article 2
Connecting Learners in the Global Classroom - Newsletter article 3