ISTE 2013 Roundup – Student Leadership, Hard Fun, and More!

ISTE 2012 – GenYES students discuss education with the Malaysian Minister of Education

We are looking forward to another fantastic ISTE – the grandmother of all education technology conferences. This year ISTE will be in San Antonio, Texas June 23-26th, 2013. Generation YES will be there in force (meaning kids!) GenYES students from local San Antonio schools will be showcasing their teacher support projects in our booth on the exhibit floor, so please put booth 12226 in your schedule as a MUST VISIT!

A Big Announcement… Coming Soon We will be demoing our latest improvements to the GenYES suite of online tools and student leadership curriculum – more on that shortly.

Two MUST DO events to add to your schedule

Invent to Learn @ISTE 2013

Join me (Sylvia Martinez) and Gary Stager for an energizing day of “hard fun” as we invent, tinker, and learn how to incorporate hands-on project-based learning in the classroom. Participants will engage in a variety of projects using modern tools and technology – the perfect way to get ready for ISTE.  Sunday, June 23rd from 9AM-3PM.

Breakfast, lunch, and drinks are all part of the day at a great location right on the Riverwalk with easy, walkable access from all the ISTE hotels.

Also included is your very own copy of our new book – Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Click here for details and registration information for Invent To Learn @ ISTE 2013.

Spotlight Session

Tinkering + Technology = Authentic Learning. Combine tinkering and technology and you have a time-honored tradition that allows imagination and creativity to lead the way to real-world problem-solving and learning. Sylvia Martinez

  • Tuesday, 6/25/2013, 2:00pm–3:00pm, SACC 001A
  • Digital-Age Teaching & Learning : Problem Solving & Critical Thinking



Student Techs Have Their Heads in the Cloud

From THE Journal: There is a positive environmental impact in bypassing printed materials, but the time savings and increased communication are what really makes the cloud indispensable for educators as well as students, according to Debbie Kovesdy, a media specialist and GenYES advisor at Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix.

Kovesdy teaches three technology classes a day using the GenYES curriculum. She uses the cloud to teach and she expects her students to be cloud-savvy users when it comes to doing their work.

“I teach entirely from a website. ‘Handouts’ are accessed on this site,” she said. “I simply put a short link on their assignment calendar (or on the [message] board if the day is on the fly), and kids access the site and do the assignment.”

Purchase Project
Purchase Project

Recently, Kovesdy was looking at buying several dozen new tablets for her campus, but hadn’t decided on which ones. In the end, she decided to pass the task of figuring out the most cost-effective solution on to her students. The lesson, called Purchase Project, was completed digitally and turned in via the shared Google Drive. Students researched devices, computing power, and costs and then filed a report. A filter sent the completed assignments to Kovesdy’s document folder. After she graded them, she sent them back to the students via their private e-mail account, also created and controlled by the school via the Google-based Website.

Great ideas!

Will these new tech supplies get used? Yes!

Many times in schools technology supplies are purchased – then sit in closets unused. Why the waste? They were purchased with all good intentions, but no one at the school really has the time or inclination to put the plan into action!

But here’s the antidote…

TechYES/GenYES program receives new supplies (News from Stillwater CSD)

Students with new supplies“December 8, 2011 – Mrs. McBride’s TechYES/GenYES students will be able to help improve technology throughout the district even more, thanks to a new donation of supplies.

The class received a new video camera, web cam, business card stock, t-shirt iron-on paper and laminator from Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery County BOCES. A special thank you to Todd DeSoto, who presented the class with the new supplies.

The students are currently planning projects to utilize the new tools.”

I guarantee this – these will not go to waste. How do I know? Because these TechYES and GenYES students have been taught to help teachers and their peers use technology in every classroom, and they take their jobs seriously!

Why not put the energy, passion, and enthusiasm of your students to use in your school. TechYES and GenYES are tried and true models of real student engagement and leadership, ready for all schools to adapt and hit the ground running. Online tools, professional development, and curriculum give you everything you need for one school, a district, or a whole state!

Generation YES supports all our schools with commitment, pride, and passion – we would love to work with you!


PS Want something different? Check out our projects website for some ideas for large scale grants and unique technology implementations that focus on student leadership.

“It’s about student engagement and student empowerment”

student leaders
Students Learn to be Tech Leaders

Mount Airy News – Empowering students through GenYES

After some of the members of the Surry County Schools Board of Education visited a technology conference, they brought back an idea the school system will begin implementing in the fall.

Middle school students in the system will begin the GenYES program developed by Dr. Dennis Harper. The program has been in existence since the late ’90s and has spread across the country and even to four other countries, but Surry County is the first in North Carolina to implement it.

“This caught our eye because it was a student-led type of initiative. It’s something they could take hold of and do on their own,” said Earlie Coe, board chairman. “They had some great success with it.”

The school system believes that this will coincide with the 1:1 laptop initiative that will expand from seventh and eighth grade to the high schools next year. Empowering students to be leaders and valued partners in the school laptop implementation can lead to increased classroom technology integration, greater support for classroom teachers using new technologies and greater understanding and support for program goals, the school officials believe.

“It’s about student engagement and student empowerment. They will become part of the planning, execution and implementation part of our 1:1 initiative. They will learn how to use the software, how to best utilize the laptops in the classroom and help on troubleshooting and minor repairs,” said Jill Reinhardt, director of technology and career and technical education for the school system.

Read more: Mount Airy News – Empowering students through GenYES

Learn more about GenYES


Syracuse here we come!

I’m heading to Syracuse, New York next week to keynote the March ITD TALK series at the Central New York Regional Information Center (CNYRIC) on March 17, 2011. We have a really special day planned for all the attendees, because after my talk, there will be presentations by students and teachers from local GenYES and TechYES schools.

So if you are in the area and want to see student technology leadership and literacy in action, be sure to register and come by! I’ll be setting it up in the morning talking about how we must expand our narrow view of technology professional development to include more than one shot, one-size-fits-all, “sit and get” sessions.

GenYES and TechYES in Action
Teachers and students from Jamesville DeWitt High School and Baldwinsville’s Ray Middle School will be on-hand to discuss their experiences with the GenYES and TechYES programs in their respective schools. GenYES is the only student-centered research-based solution for school-wide technology integration. Students work with teachers to design technology-infused lessons and provide tech support. In TechYES, students show technology literacy by creating projects that meet state and local technology proficiency requirements. As part of TechYES, a structured peer-mentoring program assists the teacher or advisor, and provides student leadership opportunities that serve to further strengthen the program and enrich the learning community.

Hope to see you there!


Connecting Curriculum with Community

The current issue of District Administrator magazine (October 2010) is online with a great article about service-learning. Elementary students in the Montpelier (Vt.) Public Schools visit the Montpelier Visitor Center to create a Kids Guide for touristsNow, service-learning is not just “kids helping out.” It’s a way to combine academics with real-world applications and authentic learning.

Connecting Curriculum with Community by Susan Gonsalves, explains this concept with a vibrant mix of research, expert voices, and examples of what students are doing to make a difference at home and around the world.

Be sure to check out the special sidebar called, “Applying Service Learning to Technology,” where one of our Generation YES districts, San Juan School District in California, is profiled. I’ve written about San Juan before, but now a much wider audience can see what a great job they are doing with technology for teachers and students, and how their GenYES students support makes it more likely that technology is used in every classroom. The article quotes Nina Mancina, San Juan’s program specialist for special projects and grants.

“A key component of GenYES is the pairing of students and teachers to find ways to creatively integrate technology programs into the curriculum. “The students become so engaged as they find this connection with teachers, and [the process] gives them a sense of belonging that is very powerful,” Mancina says. Students often act as teachers for a day, giving presentations about the ins and outs of working with a particular computer program in front of an audience of both instructors and peers. They are also called upon to perform technical support when computers break down.”

So, can I do this?
You may be thinking that in this day and age, this is a “nice to have” rather than a “gotta have.” But here are two things that may change your mind. (quoted from article, emphasis mine)

  1. Research linking higher academic achievement with service learning projects is limited but growing. This fall, Learn and Serve plans to launch a large-scale study to track and compare student progress by testing in classrooms across the united States with and without service learning. a series of studies by Shelley Billig, vice president of RMC Research Corporation, links higher state test scores with service learning participation. Students in high-quality service learning classrooms also were found to have higher average daily attendance and less tardiness than students from comparison classrooms.
  2. Funding from Learn and Serve America makes it possible for more than 1.5 million students from kindergarten to college to devote nearly 20 million hours in service learning projects annually in 1,600 local programs across the country. Additionally, about one-quarter of the nation’s elementary and secondary schools have adopted service learning programs, with 40 percent of these making service learning an integral part of their curriculum.

So does that change your mind? Students CAN make a difference, it’s GOOD for them in many different ways, and your school (and teachers) NEED HELP. Why not tie all these together into one package!

Not enough tech support = no technology use

Yes, it’s budget time again in K-12 schools in the U.S. – time to do more with less, push the limit, and strive to achieve the vision of 21st century learning for all. Technology is a big part of that, and as you think about what part technology will play in your budget, you must also consider the support costs that any new purchase will create.

eSchool news (partnered with released a survey last year showing that many schools are working with technology support staffing and budgeting well below standards and are failing to meet goals.

Nearly three out of four school leaders say they don’t have enough IT staff to support their needs effectively, according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they can’t maintain their network adequately, 63 percent said they can’t plan for new technologies, and 76 percent said they have trouble implementing new technologies.

This is no surprise – Generation YES has been working with schools for a decade to create innovative models that teach students to help support infrastructure and teachers in their own schools. As we work with schools, I think I’ve heard about every tech support horror story out there.

Forrester Research, an independent market research firm, published a recent report titled “Staffing for Technology Support: The Need May Be Far Greater Than You Think,” which concluded that large corporations typically employ one support person for every 50 PCs, at a cost of $142 per computer, per year. According to this model, a school district with 1,000 PCs would need a staff of 20 and an annual tech-support budget of $1.4 million.

Yet, some larger school districts are approaching a ratio of one IT person for every 1,500 computers or more, says Laurie Keating, vice president of technology, learning, and planning for the Center for Educational Leadership and Technology.

I’ve shown this research to educators in conference sessions and workshops across the U.S. I can guarantee a huge laugh from the audience by saying that business considers “one support person for every 60 PCs” just barely adequate. I’ve listened as tech coordinators share their stories – increasing number of computers to support, constantly increasing complexity, and increasing expectations for instant, interconnected systems. And most of the time, a decreasing budget.

So what can you do when faced with this situation? There are only a few solutions:

1. You can reduce the chance of something going wrong by locking down the systems. Teachers look at this solution as a restriction on them or mistrust of their competence. In reality, it’s a lose-lose solution that a desperate tech support department must implement to keep their heads above water. It creates friction and resentment between teachers and IT staff who should be working together to improve education.

2. You redefine your expectations for adequate tech support. Some teachers wait for weeks to get simple problems solved. It’s easy to see why a teacher who constantly has to go to “Plan B” when the hardware doesn’t work just gives up on their technology-infused “Plan A.”

3. People work harder as you try to squeeze blood out of a stone. Educators are notorious for shoestring solutions and working beyond all reason because it’s for the kids. However, 80 hour workweeks without proper resources leads to early burnout. Even worse, other teachers see the hard work required to be a tech-using teacher and decide it’s not worth it. Being a martyr is a lousy role-model.

4. Find new resources. While you might be able to find a few volunteer techie parents who will pop in every once in a while, there is actually a HUGE, largely untapped resource already at the school site. This digital generation is quite capable of learning to provide support to teachers integrating technology. Contrary to what many believe, it’s not impossible, not scary, and not a security threat. Students are 92% of the population in most school buildings. It is simply irrational to continue to ignore this resource in the face of this dire situation.

Plus, it’s a win-win situation. Schools get the help they need, and students learn valuable lessons as they troubleshoot and help teachers with the typical simple issues that block classroom use. We help schools see past security fears and use tried and true models that actually reduce student hacking and increase student ownership.

It’s not a crazy idea! It can be done, and is being done all over the world.

You can read more about the GenYES  tools and curriculum on our website, or check out our free resources (including a handout for Student Support of Laptop Schools) and videos.

The hard truth is, any hope for increasing technology use in schools rests on solving this problem. Teachers using technology in innovative ways result in MORE tech support, and tech support that understands education, not just the wires. And let’s face it, no matter what you do, or how much money you pour into tech support, it’s never enough. There is always something more you can do, more you can try, make the systems better, and support learning better.

There is no other resource in schools that is as ready to help and as underutilized as students. As educators struggle to find solutions, it might help to look up at the faces that sit directly in front of you every day, young people ready, willing and able to help solve this problem.

All we have to do is teach them, guide them, and let them.


Related posts:

Fearless Explorer

Guest post by Joe Wood

Believe it or not, I wouldn’t consider myself a very techie person. I can’t set up a server, can barely understand the wireless network in our house, and have enough blackened sockets to know I should never be trusted with any electrical handy work. However, friends, family, and colleagues often call me for computer or cell phone technical support. No longer can I attend a family function without spending some time working on a computer problem. Recently, I purchased an iPad just because so many people were asking for help and yet I had never played with one for longer than five minutes at the Apple Store. Rather than calling myself a “techie,” I tend to think of myself as a “fearless explorer.”

How did this happen? Well, I blame the Federal Government. After all, they’re always the “bad guys,” right? In my case, the techiness started with an Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) Grant. In 2005 I decided to search for a job in a school district closer to home. While perusing EdJoin, I stumbled across a science position at a middle school right in my neighborhood. At the last minute I decided to apply and was offered the job. A few weeks later, after getting my classroom set up and meeting students and colleagues, my principal sent me over to the District Office to pick up my “computer stuff.” I wondered what might this “stuff” be? A laptop? Maybe one of those new LCD projectors? My previous school site had purchased one and since twenty-seven teachers shared it I was able to use it once to show my students a virtual frog dissection website. It was amazing!

When I arrived at the district office I met John, the Director of Technology Services, someone who would quickly become my mentor – whether he wanted to or not. John explained that the school district had been awarded an EETT grant, placing technology in every 7th and 8th grade science and social studies classroom. The goal of the grant was to use this technology to increase academic performance, while at the same time improving both student and teacher technology proficiency. Like a magician with a really deep hat, John started pulling out all of the hardware I would receive as participating teacher. I walked out of his office with a new laptop, a document camera, a LCD projector, and a wireless tablet. He also informed me that the following week fifteen student laptops, a printer, and a wireless access point would appear in my classroom. John tried his best to explain how each of these devices worked, but all I really heard was “flux capacitors” and “1.21 gigawatts.” It was as if Doc Brown from Back to the Future was talking to me himself.

Keep in mind, at this point in my life, I wasn’t totally clueless about technology. I had been using email for almost a decade, was quite adept at shopping on Amazon, and had successfully made it through college with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint as my close, personal friends. However, I decided that the only way I would be successful at using this gear with a bunch of pre-pubescent adolescents was if I took it home and fearlessly explored. I also had an inkling that when those fifteen student laptops appeared that everything in my classroom might change and I would need to be a little more technology proficient.

I remember that first night quite vividly. I laid out all of my digital gifts on our large kitchen table. Once the laptop, projector, document camera, and wireless tablet were all neatly organized in a perfectly symmetrical manner, accompanied by their collection of cables and adaptors, I just stood there and stared. What do I do now? I started with the projector. Surely, hooking it up to the laptop couldn’t be that hard. I looked at the back of the projector and decided to begin with the power cable. That was easy. Digging into the recesses of my mind from the one other time I had used a LCD projector at my former school, I scanned the back of the projector, as well as the back of the laptop. “Hmm, there is a blue outlet on the back of the projector that matches the blue outlet on the back of the laptop,” I thought to myself, “I wonder if there is a cable that will connect these two?” Sure enough I found one that had two blue ends matching the outlets and it seemed to work. I played until midnight that evening piecing things together like a giant puzzle. Around 12:15am, when I finally had all of my technology connected, it dawned on me that I would have to reconstruct this mess in my classroom tomorrow! Doing the only smart thing I could think of, I used masking tape and a sharpie to label all of the ports and their corresponding cords, and gently packed them away.

The next morning I arrived at school just before 6:30 and amazingly it only took me 45 minutes to hook everything back up. Naturally, a couple of the pieces of tape had fallen off, I somehow ended up with an extra cable, and the wireless tablet only wanted to occasionally connect to its Bluetooth adapter. Regardless, I was up and running right around the same time my students started pouring into the room. Since I had spent nearly all night figuring out how to plug everything in, my lesson was a little less than stellar. Honestly, I can’t even remember what I actually taught that day. However, what I do remember was the look on every single kid’s face as they entered the classroom. It was that look of pure imagination and curiosity. In every period there was a palpable vibe of excitement emanating from the students.

“Whoa! Look at that Mr. Wood! We can see your desktop. What are you going to show us today?” “Hey, since you have your computer set up, does this mean we are going to start using the student laptops soon?” “My friends said they started using them last week in science. They sound cool.”

The following week the student computers did arrive and we completed our first technology project – a PowerPoint presentation about cells. Naturally, since this was our first computer project, not everything went as planned. One computer crashed, two refused to connect to the wireless network (I later discovered each computer had a wireless on/off switch), and nearly every PowerPoint presentation demonstrated that one could insert too many animations. However, during this project I witnessed the future of my teaching. As I walked around the room, I observed students who were completely excited, engaged, and enthralled by technology- infused learning. I noticed tables of students working in pairs, debating the best way to display a nucleus or cell wall and engrossed in scientific conversations about the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. I watched students reflect, collaborate, solve problems, and search for information without any prompting from me. At the same time my students saw their teacher as a learner – as someone who didn’t have all the answers, but a person who was willing to be a fearless explorer and discover the solution with them.

PowerPoint was only the beginning. Since that day my students and I have fearlessly explored the use of blogs, wikis, cell phones, and even a virtual electron microscope. Some things worked out flawlessly, while other resources were only used during first period and then quickly abandoned for an alternative by the time second period students appeared. Teaching in an EETT classroom was a transformational experience in my career. Through the integration of technology, my classroom moved from a teacher-centered system to a student-centered learning environment. Along the way, I learned that computer expertise is not the secret to integrating technology – it’s simply a willingness to play, discover, and explore. Also, it never hurts to have some masking tape and a sharpie close by.


This essay was written by Joe Wood, Teacher on Special Assignment in the Department of Professional Learning & Innovation of the San Juan Unified School District in California. Joe wrote this at the National Writing Project Summer Invitational at UC Davis. He shared it with us here at Generation YES and gave us permission to publish it.

This essay is a perfect expression of the kind of jump in and swim around with the students attitude towards technology that works so well in schools. Today, Joe is the district coordinator for San Juan’s GenYES program running in 6 middle schools as a result of this same EETT grant. Now he’s sharing his ‘fearless explorer” attitude with lots of teachers and student tech leaders district-wide.

For more information on the San Juan EETT program, watch this video, it’s great!


Previous posts about the San Juan Schools GenYES programs:

Exciting events at the ISTE conference

ISTE (formerly known as NECC) is the largest national educational technology conference in the U.S. This year it will be in Denver, Colorado June 27-30.

Generation YES will be there in full force with a booth (#855) and other events. If you will be in Denver, we hope you will come by and say hello!

Pre-conference event – The Constructivist Celebration, Sunday June 27
Held once again the day before ISTE starts, this is a day-long workshop focusing on creativity and computing. For a very reasonable $60, you will receive free creativity software worth hundreds of dollars from the world’s best school-tool companies, breakfast, snacks and lunch, and a full-day workshop led by Gary Stager and other members of the Constructivist Consortium. Added bonuses: a free just-released “ImagineIt2” DVD and a TechYES mini-kit. It’s always a sell-out, but right now there are still a few spaces left to join in the fun, so register today – you won’t regret it!


  • Dennis Harper – Establishing Student Technology Leaders Programs for Districts, States, and Nations Wednesday, 6/30/2010, 8:30am-9:30am, CCC 605.  Discover how districts, states, and nations can establish effective student technology leaders organizations that meet integration, infrastructure support, and technology literacy goals.
  • Sylvia Martinez – Tinkering Toward Technology Literacy Wednesday, 6/30/2010, 10:30am-11:30am, CCC 605. Combine tinkering and technology and you have a time-honored tradition that allows imagination and creativity to lead the way to technology literacy.

Events in the Generation YES booth #855

  • Adora Svitak (12 year old author, blogger, and the youngest person to be invited to speak at TED) will be sharing her ideas for education from a youth’s point of view.
  • We will be sharing a new technology literacy study by a well-known researcher making the case for project-based technology literacy assessment. (more about this soon)
  • GenYES and TechYES teachers and students from nearby schools will be in the booth sharing their projects and tech integration tips.

Plus… we will be printing handy business cards for any teacher who forgot theirs at home!

Hope to see you there!


Edutopia – Students Teach Technology to Teachers

“When middle school students Alison and Nat confer with their teachers, it’s to talk about the lessons the students are preparing for student teachers as part of a new Generation www.Y program. The young people are part of a growing group in schools across the country who are sharing their own expertise to help make prospective teachers more aware of how students learn and the best ways technology can be used to support their learning.”

Edutopia, the website of the George Lucas Educational Foundation published this story and video on the GenYES program in Olympia, WA. The video is from a while back when the model was called Generation www.Y. That was a bit difficult to pronounce, so we changed the name to GenYES.

This video was created during an interesting time period – the GenYES students not only worked with teachers at their school, but formed teams with their teacher and a pre-service teacher. These 3 member teams learned and taught each other technology, and prepared lessons using new technology. Just another way students can be involved in improving education for all!