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Teens Out to Teach Teachers


Wire Side Chat

Creating and maintaining a Web site is hard enough -- imagine fitting it in around your homework! That's the life of two ninth graders, Evan Russo of Columbia, South Carolina, and Marshall Roch of North Hampton, New Hampshire. The two have been friends since third grade, when they both lived in Chantilly, Virginia.

Looking to use their extensive computer experience to launch a Web business, the two turned to a topic with which they were familiar: education. Talking by phone and e-mail, Evan and Marshall created Out2Teach, a free Web site with activities, technology resources, and tips about integrating technology into the curriculum. The site is supported by advertising.

Evan recently talked with Education World about how the two friends started and now operate Out2Teach. Included: Descriptions of how the two ninth graders manage content on their Web site for teachers.

Evan Russo
Both Evan and Marshall told Education World they have been working with computers since early in their elementary school careers. Marshall primarily handles the technical side of Out2Teach, and Evan writes most of the content and handles the administrative responsibilities.

Looking toward his future, Evan writes, "I hope to have a job, hopefully in my own company, where I can undertake a career in computing, working my 'people' skills and serving as a liaison between the customer and technical staff."

Marshall Roch
Marshall, who as a third grader designed his first Web site in Microsoft Word (and was unable to participate in this interview because he was busy taking finals), writes, "Just finishing my freshman year of high school. I have really found my niche in Web programming; I love the design element and the backend programming.

"I'm not sure about what I specifically want to do in the future, but I'm positive that it will involve computers and the Internet. I want to continue learning more-advanced programming techniques, concepts, and languages so that I may one day be able to get a job with a Web design firm or maybe even start my own."

Education World: Why did you decide to start a Web site for teachers?

Evan Russo: I spent a lot of time looking for my niche when it comes to business. Marshall and I have been trying to start businesses together since third grade, so the entrepreneurial juices kicked in once again, and I looked for a problem that I could help solve. The problems that kept popping into my mind were that I had no way to check my homework assignments online and that technology was not effectively integrated into our curriculum. I found it sad that the computer was used only as a word processing tool and not used to approach a lesson in a new light. That led me to designing my first Web site for teachers in 1999. Sadly, I lacked the technology skills to carry out my big plans, so that idea slowly died out. However, in 2001, I once again got that entrepreneurial urge, so building off my previous Web site and with Marshall's help, Out2Teach was born.

EW: How do you find out what topics are most interesting to teachers?

Russo: Over the years, I have gotten to know some of my teachers, so in turn I have been able to discover their interests. But, the fact that I am a student helps because I can write about things that I would like or things that affect me that I would like to see teachers do. The student viewpoint is a strong force behind Out2Teach. Marshall and I are also both active members of an EdTech listserv, so we are able to keep up with the needs of teachers and offer help when possible.

EW: Do you have faculty advisors? What do they help you with?

Russo: I feel as if every teacher I have ever had has contributed a little bit to Out2Teach. There are two teachers, Mrs. Rosemary Nance and Mrs. Penny Wendt, both instructional technology specialists in my school district, who have given me insight into the "politics" of technology in education. Everything else was entirely produced by Marshall and me. Marshall took charge of the technical workings of the Web site, and I took the more administrative and content-writing side.

EW: What article topics are most requested by teachers?

Russo: We have not tracked what topics are most requested, but it seems to me that our articles related to the Internet in the classroom have been pulled the most. From my observations, teachers really want to integrate technology into their daily lessons but don't know how to approach it. As Out2Teach grows, we hope it will be a tool to help teachers. If teachers have information they wish to share with their colleagues, we also accept articles.

EW: What kinds of responses do you get from teachers?

Russo:We have gotten a really positive response from teachers and even a few that could not believe that high school freshmen were able to create the Web site.

EW:Will the site continue after you both graduate?

Russo: I really hope that Out2Teach continues to move on after we graduate. As our plans stand now, we are going to continue to develop Web sites and various packages for those involved in education. We already are working on ideas for other Web sites that would benefit schools in the area of homework management. My overall hopes are to continue on, branching out with various services for teachers -- and keep all the projects running for as long as we can support them financially.

This e-interview is part of the Education World weekly Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.