Dennis Harper

Dennis Harper

Founder and CEO, Generation YES


Kids are here now.

Yes, kids are our future but they are also here now. For the most part, schools ignore what students can do now. Take the case of three fourteen year olds: Jordon Romero scaled Mt. Everest and the highest peak on each continent, Alexander the Great ruled over the largest empire in history, and Anne Frank wrote a diary that has sold 30 million copies. Schools are full of students with similar capabilities but they are held back by "standardized" tests and "common" core. Schools that trust and empower students are the ones that will make all our futures better.


Top down is fine as long as kids are on top.

The support for buildings and bridges are always on the bottom of the structure. So why are the administrators who support teachers and students considered the top of education's structure? Students should be considered the top and "top down" decisions should be ones made by the students including what, and how, they should learn, who should teach them, and when the school day and year should start and end. Of course the bottom cornerstone of a building is important and so are the administrators and teachers who support students but I have learned that schools that consider students to be at the top are the most successful.


Kids controlling technology is much better than technology controlling kids.

Technology in today's schools typically is "doing things" to students, e.g., keeping them off the Internet, drilling/testing them, and presenting videos to learn in prescribed ways. This is not necessarily bad, but students using technology to create understanding and knowledge is far better. The early years of educational technology saw kids creating art pixel by pixel, programing in BASIC, making decisions as they traveled the Oregon Trail and becoming mathematicians with Logo. Kids need to construct more and be controlled less.


Student-produced multimedia and communication is almost always trite and trivial. This is not their fault.

K-12 student-produced videos on YouTube, online conversations, and participation in civic discourse are skills seldom taught in schools. Yet, in the real world most reading, writing, math, and science are accomplished using technology and on the Internet. Still, schools tend to avoid preparing students to take advantage of today’s technology primarily because these skills are not assessed on high-stakes tests. Because there is little guidance from adults who did not grow up in the digital age, it is not surprising that youth are generally using technology in trivial ways.


Today's school reform is not good school reform.

Higher stakes testing may produce better test takers but it is not school reform. We need high-stakes thinking, constructing, and doing. These are skills that made America powerful and if education reform means moving away from this, it is bad reform.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Dr. Dennis Harper is widely recognized as one of the world's eminent leaders in the field of technology in education. Dr. Harper has been instrumental in bringing computers and the Internet into thousands of schools in more than thirty nations. Dr. Harper is the founder of the student-centered technology support model where youth aged from 10 to 18 provide substantial support for (1) their teachers' technology integration, (2) their peers technology literacy, and (3) maintaining the school's technology infrastructure.

Dr. Harper first began his work in instructional technology in 1967 and he applied these principals at the secondary level in Los Angeles, Australia, Germany, Spain, and Liberia before completing his Ph.D. in International Education at the University of California in 1983. His doctoral dissertation stemmed from research conducted at the National University of Malaysia where he set up the nation's first computer lab dedicated to training primary and secondary teachers how to incorporate technology into their lessons to improve student learning. Based on this study, Dr. Harper published the book "Computer Education for Developing Nations" which has acted as a guide for many countries.

After acting as the Supervisor of Math, Science, and Technology Education at the University of California Santa Barbara for four years, Dr. Harper came to Singapore's Institute of Education. Here Dr. Harper worked for two years with IE staff to establish an instructional computer facility and educational technology curriculum that impacted the nation's primary and secondary schools. After leaving Singapore, Dr. Harper moved on to Helsinki University in Finland where a similar program was established before moving to the University of the Virgin Islands where he established the Caribbean's first university degree in educational computing and distance learning network.

Dr. Harper then returned to his native country where for the past 18 years he has developed the Generation YES model of technology infusion. The first five years this model's development was funded by a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to the Olympia School District. Dr. Harper then founded the nonprofit Generation YES organization. Generation YES programs are based on constructivist pedagogy, authentic assessment, and strong participation of students in reforming schools. Generation YES programs have been recognized as one of only two programs ever to be categorized exemplary by the U.S. Department of Education.

Generation YES recently built and opened a school in the war-torn West African nation of Liberia. Working with President Ellen Sirleaf, Liberian youth now have a 21st century school to move their nation forward.


Generation YES