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Tech-Savvy Sixth Graders Train Teachers at Tashkent

By Angie Cairns
Tech-Savvy Sixth Graders Train Teachers at Tashkent

Role reversal in the classroom? Students teaching teachers? There’s an app for that.
In a move designed to teach teachers how to integrate new iPad applications into the classroom, Tashkent International School took a bold step and put 33 sixth graders in charge.
Sound like a recipe for chaos? On the contrary. Instead, the afternoon of role reversal between middle-school students and secondary teachers resulted in an opportunity for students to be leaders and teachers to learn new technology in a non-threatening way.
The workshop was held in February 2015 as part of ongoing professional development offered at Tashkent International School throughout the year. Proposed by Brett DiMatteo, head of technology at TIS from 2012–2015, the half-day PD turned out to be an excellent learning opportunity for students and teachers alike.
Three weeks before the session, DiMatteo worked with 6th graders to choose an application they would like to learn. After that, students researched their apps, learned about their features and activities, and read online reviews. Once the research phase was complete, each student identified the subject and grade level to which their app would best be suited.
The final step before taking their information to teachers was to stage a mock teaching session amongst themselves. Students split into two groups—learners and presenters—and practiced their techniques.
When the day finally came, the students were excited.
“During the PD, they were highly engaged,” said DiMatteo. “They were animated. They became salesmen. Everyone wanted teachers to use their app.”
For teachers, the chance to be on the other side of the desk was a wonderful learning opportunity, especially when the subject was new technology.
“Teachers felt less threatened by talking to students about an application rather than in a regular PD with expert adults,” DiMatteo stated. “They didn’t mind pushing the kids and asking questions that they might not ask one of us.”
As for the students, teaching their teachers was thrilling, but also a bit scary at first.
“I thought, ‘This can’t be possible because they’re just going to laugh at us, we’ll never be able to teach teachers as well as they teach us,’” said sixth grader Alina Schroeder when she first learned of this project.
But once they started, it all seemed to click.
“It just came together naturally,” Alina said. “We just talked about the app. It didn’t feel like a lesson.”
“At first I was really nervous, but after it happened, I was so glad how it turned out,” she said. “Some teachers were amazed at us. We were amazed, too, because we didn’t think we could teach someone. It feels good; I achieved something.”
The technology workshop took place during a regular monthly PD at TIS. The 33 apps were demonstrated by Grade 6 in a “speed geeking” manner. Each student was set up with an iPad and teachers rotated around the room, visiting with their “teachers” and receiving a quick tutorial on the app he/she was demonstrating.
Students shared their expertise, one-on-one, with apps such as 3D Cell Stain (science), Hopscotch (math and science), Comic Life (all subjects), Book Creator (all subjects), and also standard Apple programs such as iMovie, Garageband, Keynote, and Numbers.
Based on feedback from the teachers, the flip-flop learning session was appreciated.
“I thought it was one of the best PDs I had ever been to,” said Carrie Becker, secondary English teacher. “It was authentic.”
Matthew Good, DP economics teacher and Grade 11 and 12 coordinator, said “What better way to discover the virtues of apps for teachers and learning than from the students who have benefitted so much from them.”
DiMatteo concurred. “The model of having students teach teachers about technology is very effective for a lot of reasons,” he said. “There’s no fear, no intimidation, and students also learn about the apps and the philosophy of technology integration.”

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