Hory County Middle School Students Learn by Teaching Others

Hory County School District's motto has been "the best way to learn is to teach" for as long as Sue Nadeau can remember. "We used to send younger children to the library and have the older children read to them. Not only did the younger kids benefit from the experience, but the older ones developed better reading and speech patterns," says Nadeau, a 15-year veteran teacher at Forest Brook Elementary School in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

In fall 1995, Nadeau thought of expanding the "peer teaching" program to include the instruction of technology. Soon after discussing the idea with her daughter, Angela Nadeau, who is a math instructor at nearby Socastee High School, a partnership program was developed between the two schools in which the high school students would teach elementary school students how to utilize technology for classroom presentations.

Students Train Teachers

Through the use of an Ovation LCD projection panel, made by Proxima of San Diego, Calif., Nadeau trains her ninth-grade students in the use of Microsoft PowerPoint, a program for creating and displaying computerized slide presentations. The Ovation panel allows Nadeau to project information from the computer screen onto a large movie screen for her entire class to view. Because she is able to share the information with a whole group at once, versus one or two students at a time, the training period is reduced significantly.

"Young minds are capable of absorbing an incredible amount of information," she says. "These students quickly become masters of the program and are ready to teach their younger peers in no time at all."

The first group from Forest Brook was a fifth-grade class of about 25 students. The ninth-graders mirrored their own training experiences with the panel. First, the "trainers" displayed their reports to provide the younger students with an idea of the software's capabilities. Next, they broke into teams to supply more personalized training at individual computer stations. As part of the training, each fifth-grader created a report with PowerPoint and presented it to their class.

"Computer programs allow students more creativity with their projects. And using multimedia projection equipment to present in front of the class, versus submitting a pen-and-paper report, prepares the student for giving oral and visual presentations," said Sue Nadeau. "Even the shiest students can hardly wait to stand up in front of the class and give their presentations."

The fifth graders have advanced so much, in fact, that fourth grade teachers at Forest Brook began requesting that their students be included in the peer training program. To date, seven fifth-grade classes and four fourth-grade classes have participated, with three additional fourth-grade classes scheduled for training.

Continuing the chain of education, these fourth-and fifth-graders have begun teaching second- and third-grade students with the same techniques by which they learned. And, this training has spread to the faculty as well. Yes, ninth graders at Socastee High have begun teaching adult instructors how to use the Ovation LCD panel and presentation software in the classroom.

Real-World Experience

Today, more than 26,000 students and 1,400 teachers at Hory County schools are combining the power of computers, presentation software, Proxima projection technology and student ingenuity to achieve a myriad of learning successes. The program is only part of a wider technology plan, however. All of Hory County's 36 elementary, middle and high schools are online to the Internet and, through the Ovation panels, teachers share the Internet's information with entire classrooms, versus individual students.

"These students now have a knowledge of how to use technology and a better appreciation for real world conditions," says Laura Blanchard, Hory County Schools coordinator of media technology. "As a result, our students are well-positioned to better compete in the global market," she explains.

Hory County currently uses the Ovation panel in conjunction with full-sized and notebook computers on portable carts. The district possesses a monochrome desktop projector and an active matrix LCD panel for color. "We wanted the capability of color for top-notch presentations. If the funds were available, we'd have a Proxima and computer cart in every room."

For now, the existing technology is being put to maximum use. And, according to Angela Nadeau, Socastee High students will soon be offering training sessions to the business community on how to use this technology.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.