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Respect your juniors: Collegians hear from kids themselves on how modern students learn
Respect your juniors: Collegians hear from kids themselves on how modern students learn

Tayler Mann taught at the college level Thursday, which wouldn't be news except for the fact that she's 9.

Mann and the rest of her fourth-grade class from Superior were on the University of Montana campus to show education majors how they use technology in their classroom.

"When I was her age, we still did reports from encyclopedias," said Shannon Weeks, a graduate student in secondary education, as Mann led five UM students through a series of language and math exercises with their hand-held personal computers.

Mann and her students read aloud a children's book - "The Day the Babies Crawled Away" by Peggy Rathmann - then they all reviewed and rated the book in their personal digital assistants, or PDAs.

She also led them through some math problems, where the hand-held unit gave students four numbers and the option of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing them to come up with a target number.

Tyler Thomas, a senior in secondary education, drew the numbers 10, 6, 2 and 3, and was asked to combine them into an equation where they would equal 1.

After a few frown faces appeared on his screen, Thomas got the smiley face:

(10+3) - (6x2) = 1.

"One of my students got his math problem," Mann proudly reported to her teacher, Trish Donovan.

The UM students were impressed with how well-versed the fourth-graders were in what they were doing, and surprised to learn it's just the second time the children from Superior have taught the technology to others.

The first time was to a second-grade class in Superior.

Mann and her classmates began the school year by learning to type, in order to use the compact keyboards that come with the hand-held computers. Since then, the students have fully integrated the technology into their classroom.

"Using the Palm Pilots is awesome," Mann said. "When we do things on paper we all talk, but when we work on the Palms we don't."

"A child today comes into your classroom so technology savvy," Donovan said. "When you use computers and Game Boys, paper is boring. But when you give them another electronic device, then they are on task. It's been great."

The program is funded by a two-year, $250,000 grant from the state in a program called TICTOC, or Technology Integrating Classrooms That Optimize Curriculum.

Superior is one of eight schools in a consortium taking advantage of the grant. Various high school and grade school classrooms in Plains, Hot Springs, St. Regis, Trout Creek, Clinton, Paradise and the DeSmet School also take part.

The grant purchased 140 Palm Pilots, keyboards and accessories (such as printers), according to Diane Woodard, technology coordinator at Superior.

Twenty-five of them went to UM, so that teachers about to enter the work force can learn the advantages of having the devices in the classroom.

So Mann showed Weeks, Thomas, Morgan Towery, Lindsay Dolezal and Gina Toney some of the ways the Palm Pilot helps her learn, beaming programs from her computer into theirs and leading them through her lesson plan.

Mann's 13 classmates taught other UM education majors about the devices as well, in two upper-division classes taught by Georgia Cobbs.

While the UM students learned a lot, the Superior fourth-graders also learned something, too.

Said one of the education majors: "Mine wanted to know why we were allowed to chew gum in class."

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 523-5260 or at vdevlin@missoulian.com

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