Students Teaching Students
no longer are mechanics fixing cars. Now they’re fixing com- puters programmed within
cars. Students will need similar skills
in future classrooms to be productive
in tomorrow’s world. This is already
taking place in one such classroom.
At Morehead City Middle School
in North Carolina, 80 sixth grade
students participated in a community literacy project to promote
digital age learning. Students created
3D animation stories and games to
teach basic reading and math skills to
primary school students. This innovative project used a free program called
Alice, created by late professor Randy
Pausch, author of The Last Lecture.
Students learned college-level programming skills through 3D interactive graphical storytelling software.
Students chose to create an animation or game based on math or reading
that would help younger kids learn a concept. Then the students created a
video teaching young students about numbers or letters.
course. Students chose to create an
animation or game based on math or
reading that would help younger kids
learn a concept. Then the students
created a video teaching young students about numbers or letters. For
example, one video taught the letters
A–F with animated characters, such as
an astronaut, a blimp, and a cat, that
move across the screen in fun ways.
After the students completed their
videos, they presented their projects to
a classroom outside their school. They
also posted their projects on You Tube
and a school blog site so young students
could view the videos on demand.
The student-created lessons were a
big hit. One primary school teacher
remarked, “Our students did not want
to stop watching the videos and play-
ing the games. Several weeks after the
middle school students left, they con-
tinued to ask if they could watch and
play and have the older students come
One of the benefits of the project
was the interaction between the older
students and younger students. It was a
natural fit. Older students were patient,
instructive, and excited to help out the
young students. The elementary stu-
dents enjoyed listening to the older stu-
dents’ instructions and felt comfortable
having them come down to their level.
No longer are students completely
dependent on teachers for content that
is relevant to their lives. This project
helps middle school students learn the
technical skills to create content and
the personal skills to make it relevant
to others, particularly young learners.
It also teaches students how to find
educational content on their own.
Eventually, they will be able to create
content, just as their older peers have.
With technology growing at an exponential rate, students will need to
be able to create original content that
they can post on the internet. This
project not only gives students technology skills, it gives them a link to
the community around them.
The objective of this project was to get
students to have fun while learning
something difficult. Students learned
the basics of writing computer code,
and then they taught younger students
basic math and reading skills.
A second goal was communication through the use of technology.
Students posted their projects on the
internet for the world to see.
The middle school students learned
coding in the Alice programming
language, 3D animation, and virtual
environment basics over an eight-week period during daily science
instruction. They mastered computer code using software tutorials
from the internet supplemented by
Story and game creation took place
during the last four weeks of the
Traditional classrooms are set up so
that one person collects and grades
student work according to a number of
criteria. Today, a larger community will
judge students on their work, because
the internet allows an endless number
of viewers to offer feedback and suggestions. Although the students were
graded on the completion of their projects, they were intrinsically motivated
to complete top-quality work because
they knew that anyone with internet
access would be able to see it.
The digital natives that inhabit today’s classrooms are looking for new
and innovative ways to showcase their
The student-created lessons were a big hit. One primary school teacher
remarked, “Our students did not want to stop watching the videos and
playing the games. Several weeks after the middle school students left,
they continued to ask if they could watch and play and have the older
students come back again.”
By T. J. Wolfe