Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« End of rational thought? | Main | Being a "tech" advocate is meaningless »

When students also teach: guest post by Shannon Miller

 In response to a blog post last week, Shannon Miller, Library Media Specialist in Van Meter, Iowa, sent me a personal e-mail. She has graciously allowed me to use the e-mail as a guest blog post...

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your post Dear Students, Please Lead a Thoughtful Revolution.  
These few lines are just awesome and so RIGHT ON.....
If you want to see this kind of revolution that will use technology to help make your schools more effective and meaningful to you - not just the same old, same old with a few bells and whistles - you will need to be the ones who lead the revolution.
Technology alone won't create change. I am less and less convinced that adults will be able to fundamentally change how school is done.
I think it will be up to you...

We are a 1:1 laptop school at Van Meter (Iowa) and it is amazing how things have changed.  And you are so right....It is not the technology alone.  The thinking has changed.  The playing field has leveled....not just with students, but with teachers.  The teachers are not the only teachers anymore...the students are also the teachers.  And this is okay.  This is the really powerful transformation that we have all been lucky enough to be part of.  We are part of an environment filled with respect, creativity, collaboration, connecting, thinking, learning, and one of CHANGE.  At Van Meter, we want students to find their PASSION.  Through this transformation we encourage them to think, lead, and serve.  To be part of something bigger...outside of the walls of their school and into the world.  This is where every one of our students are going to make a difference and mark on the world in their very own way.  

This year I have been fortunate enough to teach a very special group of young people in a PLN/Web 2.0 course that I developed with Bill Brannick from Philly.  I have a group of students in Van Meter and we have connected with a group of students at Bill's school too.  Our blog, The Student PLN Connect, is one place that we have connected our students and a place for them to be heard.  On the side of the blog you will see all of our students blogs.  We connect through Skype, Twitter, and email throughout the week.  The students are

just finishing a collaborative project that they have been working on with a partner in the other school.  By offering this experience to these students and  to see the powerful connections has been amazing.  My daughter, Brianna, is a student in the class.  To see her Skyping and talking with her friend Reanne in Philly while working on a research project together 1,000 miles apart is so incredible.  This experience is teaching both of the girls valuable skills and giving them a sense of how powerful connections can be.  

And the element I love the best....the chance for our young people to have a VOICE in their education.  For them to make a difference in the world.  Today we Skyped for a few minutes with our classmates in Philly.

Earlier in the day I had sent them the link to your post and asked them all to read it, discuss, and reflect.  I just got done reading the comments that they left.  I am so proud of each one of our students in #vanmeterbpchs.  

They are our future and we need to let them be heard! 


Shannon McClintock Miller 
Van Meter Community School District Teacher Librarian, Technology Specialist, and National Honor Society Chapter Advisor

And a few reactions from  students to the post...
My name is Reanne _______. I am a junior at Archbishop Prendergast. I have to say I am in total agreement with you. I believe that is the purpose of our Web 2.0/PLN class, preparing a group of student leaders for the revolution that is occurring! I think that all students entering in to a 1:1 community SHOULD read this post so they can grasp the gravity of the situation.
The purpose of technology in education is to further our knowledge in the right way. We aren't learning to use netbooks so we can check our facebook during class- it's so we can better our understanding of the availability of tools and people on the internet and be able to use that in a learning environment.
I agree that 1 to 1 will allow us to be more creative and publish our own ideas. It helps us to be self directed learns and find new tools that will enable people to do more things. Also 1 to 1 will help kids with technology and teach them to use different tools, websites and plenty of more things. This will allow both students and teachers to connect with other students and teacher from different schools, they can collaborate on ideas and new tools.

I am from Van Meter, and our school has a 1:1 program. We've had [laptops] for two years now and I think this was the best change for our school. Having computers was a big step for our small school of 600 students. We embraced the change though, we are now teaching our teachers how to use the technology. Our computers are tools, but it isn't just about the computers. Having them has been great but the computers are doing more than just eliminating text books. They are changing the way we are thinking here at Van Meter. I know I have been thinking differently I am using social media like Twitter, to connect with people. I recently connected with the mayor of our town. He is going to help me with my interest of public relations. I hope the more I learn about communication, and public relations the easier it will be in college, and in the business world. Without these computers and new methods of teaching I would not be as motivated, and I would not be this interested in my schooling. I think we have such an advantage over kids that don't have a 1:1 program. We are expanding our knowledge further than just a text book, and what our teachers can teach us. It truly is a revolution, a revolution for the better.

I am a student at a 1:1 school. We have laptops for grades 6 to 12. There are about 600 people in the whole school grades K-12, so it isn't a very big school, but even in our little school changes are happening because of technology. We now do more projects that we used to, and students have more responsibility. Like anything there are pros and cons to this. Not all of the students are as responsible as they should be, and, as with all technology, there are problems that can set everyone back. Although, I do think that the good things outnumber the bad things.We have access to more information, and have so many great tools available at our fingertips. It is a change, and some people don't like change, but I believe it is a change for the better.

Excellent post! It truly portrays the core ideals of the social and education revolution that we are defiantly entering. Our society is moving into a more technologically involved community in both our school, workplaces, and homes. If we are not ready, if we are stubborn and do not move forward, and if we refuse to get involved into the revolution, we will fall behind in this global society that we have entered. Thank you Doug for writing this article. I am a student in a web 2.0 class at MBAPCHS and it has allowed me to learn more about social media, creating my pln, and learning how to sift through information than I could have alone. Very cool video as well! It is awesome to think how much better education would be if this tool was universal. Your article is an inspiration to students and educators everywhere and I hope that many get a chance to read your article and take what you wrote to heart to utilize these ideas in their environment. If one day every classroom, student, and educator were able to utilize these tools, this education revolution would be in full motion forward into the future!

So why do things like this happen in little VanMeter, IA, but not universally? Inspired leadership? Supportive communities? Alignment of the stars? Dumb luck? Inquring minds want to know. - Doug

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (5)

Things like this happen "in little Van Meter" because a TEACHER/LIBRARIAN cares enough to initiate and facilitate this type of interaction. Librarians are so much more than story time readers and computer watchdogs - or, at least, they should be.

Well done Shannon, and well done Van Meter, where innovation is nurtured, and so is student learning!

December 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdiane

Another great article - I wanted to ask your permission to use the first post in my Spring classes - I plan to read and discuss it, and then ask my students for comments (although they are freshman, I believe they can actually make some decisions). I have already mentioned to them that many of the changes that I have seen here at Oaks have been due to students asking for certain technology and convincing the administration that it would benefit the students and the school (e-mail accounts for students back in 2001).
I have also mentioned that the reason we don't have certain access (You Tube) is because only a small number of people abused that privilege... and then I shocked them by saying that if they started being responsible and making sure their peers were not abusing that access, they would get it back. I think many of them are still wondering if that could actually happen.

December 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

I'm impressed with learning that is going on with everyone involved with this project. It takes incredible leadership to get things like this going. The administration and teachers have to have a vision of what could be. They also have to have the technology to make it happen. Shannon wrote that "it's not about the technology alone" and she's right - but the technology plays a HUGE part in the the learning. Without it, this couldn't happen. Keep up the great work - it's schools and classes like this that show us the potential of what students and teachers can do with the right skills, attitudes, and equipment.

December 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChad Lehman

Hi Diane,

I agree. Thanks for the emphasis!


Hi Kenn,

Of course you are welcome to use the piece. I would be interested in a follow-up from you.

We get complaints about YouTube downloading too slowly here!


Hi Chad,

The technology does have to be there and it has to be reliable. I've always looked at it as one of the level in a Maslovian Hierarchy of Learning Needs - not the goal but a means of getting to it.


December 4, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Doug, technology is a double sharp knife ,however this is a digital generation and it is needed but teachers in our schools should be more engaged wih it . I have had a real experience in teaching with techno and achievements have been more fruitful

December 5, 2010 | Unregistered

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>