A Unique Organization
Generation YES helps schools tap into the power of students to provide solutions to the problems of technology integration.
Generation YES is led by Dr. Dennis Harper. Dr. Harper has been an international leader in the educational technology field for more than 35 years. He wrote the first college text on computer education, RUN: Computer Education while a faculty member at the University of California. Dr. Harper has taught in universities around the world and has been instrumental in bringing the first computers into schools in numerous countries. These experiences led Dr. Harper to develop the GenYES model.
Generation YES is a non-profit dedicated to empowering students to improve education with modern technology.
Students represent more than 90% of the K-12 education population, and they likely possess 95% of the technology expertise in the school. Unquestionably, they are 100% of the reason that schools exist. However, they are often left out of the equation when we plan, discuss and implement educational reforms. The technology innovations of the last several decades have unquestionably not been integrated into most schools in a way that anyone is satisfied with. Why is this so? We believe that it is because the largest group of stakeholders in the process has been ignored - the students.
The question is how to harness the students' technology expertise and at the same time, expand their learning opportunities. This scaffolding method, of taking what a student already knows, and building on it, is one of the basic tenets of educational theory, and has been proven time and again in research and in practice. How to take this theory and make a real working model out of it was the heart of a Technology Challenge Grant application submitted in 1995 by Dr. Dennis Harper, the Technology Director of the Olympia Washington School District.
Having students help out with technology is not a new idea. However, the goal of this grant was to document and prove that students could do more than just provide free labor and fix computers. Student projects could be authentic, meaningful improvements to the school technology goals - if the students understood what the school technology plan was, and were taught about pedagogy and learning. These projects could empower the student to participate in their own learning, and impact the learning of other students. Students could be part of the school-wide goals of infusing technology into the school, and therefore become full stakeholders in the process.
Around the same time, the realization was setting in that traditional methods of professional development were not working for technology in the school setting. After-school workshops and in-services promised great things, powerful hardware could be purchased, and endless new versions of software could be upgraded, but rarely was there adequate support when teachers actually tried to use the technology.
Putting together the immense need for on-site, just-in-time technology support with the untapped resource of students who need authentic projects is the basis of the GenYES program today.
In 1995, the federal government funded the Technology Challenge Grant program. The goals of these grants were to fulfill the promise of technology in education. One hundred initial grants were funded, including GenYES. The model was named, "Generation www.Y", to signify the inclusion of a new generation in the technology infusion process. To begin, a student-teacher pair would form a collaborative team to create authentic projects for the classroom.
- The students would use their technology knowledge to help the teacher build a project that the teacher could use in their classroom.
- The student would provide the expertise, energy, and time to learn the technology and build the project.
- The teacher would provide the knowledge of education, class needs, and lesson planning to guide the project.
- The teacher would learn how to use the technology side-by-side with the student in a just-in-time fashion, getting the support they needed in their classroom, when they needed it.
- The student would learn valuable real world skills - project planning, collaboration, and time management in addition to the technology.
In short, traditional professional development models have teachers learning technology skills with the hope of improving student learning. GenYES set out to prove the reverse is much more effective - training students with technology and pedagogical skills will help improve teacher's teaching and therefore student learning.
Over eleven years, the GenYES model was refined and improved based on evaluation studies and feedback from the teachers and students involved.
- The curriculum was continually revised, and expanded to include best practices and new technology/
- An extensive online tool set was created to support teachers and students as they worked through their projects.
- The model was tested and revised to accommodate different school settings, grade levels, and classroom profiles. This program has been run successfully in urban, suburban and rural settings, in elementary, middle, high school and vocational schools. All the experience and methods that were successful have been incorporated back into the model and materials.
- The support system was designed and modified successive times to provide the most support for students and teachers throughout the life of the project.
- Even with nationwide evaluations and studies, the schools that tested the model found out that they had to prove it to themselves - their local administrators, school boards, and districts. We designed a survey and report summary process that generates reports and summaries that schools can use to justify the "unusual" model of GenYES.
Generation YES Today
YES: Youth and Educators Succeeding - The Generation YES staff is made up of students and teachers who have years of experience with real schools and classrooms. We collaborate with you to find solutions that fit your needs.
We partner with other innovative organizations and schools who are improving schools around the world. Some of the projects we are working on are found on our Projects section of this website.
Over the years since the Innovation Challenge Grant ended, we have expanded the solutions we provide. We provide programs to help solve three major issues in technology integration in schools.
- Professional development needs to happen in the classroom- GenYES
- Not enough tech support - GenYES
- Authentic student technology literacy - TechYES
Of course, our solutions are like no other--they rely on the potential of youth to help us solve the problems. It is our belief that with the right direction from dedicated educators, this potential is virtually unlimited.