Dennis Harper is founder and CEO of Generation YES, which teaches and empowers students to solve technology problems in their schools and communities. Generation YES (Youth and Educators Succeeding) grew out of a successful pilot program funded by the US. Department of Education Technology Innovation Challenge Grant while Harper was with the Olympia (WA) School District. Generation www.Y was an innovative model of student involvement in school technology infusion, teacher professional development, and school improvement. More than 100,000 teachers and students participated in the project, which was christened Generation YES after the grant ended. Harper served on the ISTE board of directors from 1997-1999.
Contributing Editor Matt Bolch spoke with Mr. Harper about his contributions to edtech.
MB: Please share the current goals of Generation YES.
Generation YES is based on the premise that students need to take on a major responsibility in reforming schools through the use of modern technologies. As students typically make up 93% of a school's population (the remainder being adults) and have at least 93% of the technology expertise, the goal of Generation YES has always been to tap into this vast pool of knowledge and energy using constructivist methodologies based on proven rigorous research. To reach this goal, Generation YES has developed the GenYES model where a select group of students is prepared to provide quality support to teachers and staff as they learn about and integrate technology into their classrooms. The TechYES model also prepares a select group of students, but the focus is on helping all students become technology literate through the creation of creative curriculum-based projects aligned to the ISTE NETS•S. In short, the programs provide quality technology assistance from K-12 students to both students and adults in a school.
MB: What accomplishment are you most proud of, and why?
Like any teacher, the best part of the profession is seeing students become empowered. Technology can certainly empower students if they are given the opportunity to use it in meaningful and relevant ways. Every year, I see thousands of projects that students have created using our two Generation YES programs. Many times I hear them share what they have produced to local, national and Internet audiences. It is these times that I am most proud of my accomplishments. Knowing that these students will be able to utilize any new technologies that come along in their lifetime to meet their personal needs as well as make their communities and world a better place is certainly satisfying.
MB: How do you see the role of technology in the educational process changing over the next decade?
How I see this role and what I would like to see the role are, unfortunately, two different questions. Over the past decade we have seen a decline of student doing authentic projects with technology and and an increase of technology doing things to students (testing them, keeping them from using much of the Internet, drilling them, etc.). There is some glimmer of hope that the pendulum may again swing back to kids controlling the technology and using it to construct their own knowledge. Many of the long-time members of the ed tech community found on your list were at the forefront of the constructionist movement started by Seymour Papert. As nations grapple with economic, environmental, educational, health and other problems, those that will be successful in 10 years' time will be to ones who empower their students with the knowledge and abilities to use technology to create the solutions and invent the future.
Click HERE to watch a video about GenWHY from the 1997 Golden Apple Awards.