Ken Schaffer recently bought a professional-quality camera. The Ellicott City business owner and amateur photographer wanted to learn the computer program Photoshop so he could play around with his pictures. That is why he spent a recent Thursday at Marriotts Ridge High School – where his daughter is a ninth-grader – doctoring a photo of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Schaffer followed along as two Marriotts Ridge students, juniors Patrick Talcott and Thomas Conchie, guided him through drawing a dotted line around Gates’ head, then dragging the head off Gates’ body. Five other students practiced with Photoshop techniques. One was working on a buck-toothed Bill Gates. Another gave Gates a mustache and goatee.
They were at the high school for Technology Thursdays. These after-school classes feature high school students teaching courses in Photoshop, game design, Web design and popular programs like MS Office. The classes are free and open to Marriotts Ridge students and community residents like Schaffer.
This article from the Baltimore Sun – Teenagers lead lessons in technology: Students become the teachers at after-school program profiles Marriotts Ridge High School in Marriottsville, MD. Run by teacher Reg Hahne, students at the high school plan lessons and then teach technology to students and community members.
“It’s a neat opportunity to have our students, our staff and the greater community working together,” said Pat Saunderson, Marriotts Ridge principal. “Some afternoons, I’ll walk down the halls and see our students giving workshops for middle-schoolers through senior citizens. It’s just impressive that our students are able to take on that leadership role.”
Why is this idea so rare? Students have so much to offer, and schools and communities have so much to gain if we just let students take on authentic tasks and projects. One teacher with a vision of students as competent, responsible contributors has changed a whole community for the better. Students can’t learn to be leaders, teachers, and citizens in a vacuum. We must seize every opportunity to break down the walls that segregate students from the real world, both through virtual networks and local collaborations. Teaching students these skills benefits everyone.
Technology just happens to be in that magic sweet spot of youth interest and ownership, perfectly matched with the needs of schools and communities to integrate technology use. It’s time to stop thinking that the only way technology will make its way into school is for teachers to learn it first, then hope it trickles into the classroom. We must look at other options, other combinations, and experiment with every available avenue.
Congratulations to the students, teachers, and administrators in Marriottsville, MD for getting the recognition you deserve!