Awesome Moment Blog Instructors Programming Thoughts about Class

Computational Thinking, Team Building, Paper Towers, and Scratch

Today’s class was a lot of fun.  I can tell everyone enjoyed themselves.  There were a few moments where the instructor role fell on me like a spotlight – and it was warm and calming.  I enjoyed it.

Matthew & Ke'von - Building their paper tower

We focused on computational thinking and how its different from day to day thoughts and activities.  We then had a 20 minute team building exercise where teams were given 5 full pieces of newspaper and a piece of tape the size of the length of Mr. Marco’s arm (it was going to be my arm initially so I’m sure everyone appreciated that change) and expected to build a tall paper tower.  The tower had to be as tall as possible and had to stand on its own for more than 10 seconds.  *This is one of my favorite activities and I usually have every student of mine (no matter which program) give it a try.  Making the paper towers stand on their own was no problem for most teams.  The tallest was almost 6 feet and all teams had interesting designs and approaches.

We then talked about how this exercise related to the software development life cycle phases – requirements, analysis, design, implement, and test.  All and all I think it was a pretty intriguing exercise.  Roi and Niko ended up with the tallest tower but I think everyone got a lot out of the exercise.

Scratch was the next subject.  Up until now, most students thought Scratch was for younger kids.  Well, today we went played and analyzed a game built with Scratch (Nowhere 2 – The Void) that a friend of mine, Robert Holder, showed me.  I thought it would be a perfect demonstration of Scratch’s potential and get students engaged once again.  I think it worked.

Overall, brainstorming, team building, creativity, and patience are key components to any software development project (among other things).  I’m sure students got that today.

The laptops have arrived (finally) and will be configured and ready for Thursday’s class.  More Scratch – here we come!

Click here to view the flickr photostream from today’s class.

Awesome Moment Blog Instructors Pictures Thoughts about Class

Welcome Back!

It was great to see everyone’s face in our first day back to class from the long holiday break.  I am extremely pleased with the group of students we have and couldn’t have hand picked a better group.  They have been such troopers as we fight technical issues with some of the hardware in our lab.   Yet, they are still extremely eager to learn all that comes next.

We are teaching them much more than how to design and develop mobile apps.  We are introducing them to a whole new world.  One that I’m sure they will dominate, if they maintain the course.  Yesterday, amongst all the ‘now that we’re back announcements,’ we talked a bit about going to college with a bit of help from our new class helpers – I’m so grateful for them.  Imani joined us as a sophmore film major and photography minor to help document this journey and Matthew came as a freshman computer science major.  He will be half helper and half student.  Needless to say, this should be interesting.

We are now at 17.5 students – 10 boys and 7 girls,  6 middle schools students, 11 high school students, and 4 homeschooled students – plus 2 instructors and a bunch of friends and helpers.

Although we’ve gotten off to a slow start due to several technical difficulties (malfunctioning computers, less than reliable internet connections, etc.), we are forging ahead next week …and hopefully with new laptops.  I have ordered laptops running the Ubuntu flavor of linux – a decision I made to really push students to learn as much about technology as they can.  Hey, they have windows and mac machines at home and in school.  So why not?

Eye-Contact - Preparation

🙂 So, as we step aside from the technology a bit (while we wait for our laptop delivery), we’ve been focusing on soft skills.   Whether they know it or not, students are getting hammered with lessons in follow-through, responsibility, written and oral skills, as well as eye contact.  As a matter of fact, we spent the last few minutes of yesterday’s class discussing a 60 second activity we did in the hallway – each team (of 2) stood in the hall facing one another tasked with making eye-contact with their teammate for 60 seconds.  They had no idea why I asked them to do this.  After the initial snickers, chatter, and laughter subsided, there was a moment of complete silence.  It was like everyone was in a zone.   Each student somehow (even if subconsciously) got the point of the lesson and began to take a stand for themselves as they made eye-contact with the person across from them.  It was great.  The air was was completely different when we re-entered the lab.  I could feel the excitement and the realization (by everyone, even me) that we are all about to learn much more than we originally expected.  Eye-contact is the first move to commanding respect.  It gets your audience, no matter how big or small, engaged in listening to what you have to say.  It’s as if you are telling an amazing story to everyone personally.  It was probably one of the best class moments yet.

Students were then challenged to make eye contact with everyone going forward – their parents, their teachers, their peers, and their friends.  One student mentioned that his friends might not take him seriously or that they may laugh.  Well, from the class full of leaders that we have, I can imagine a totally different response… and I encouraged them to demand the same.

These kids are about to learn so much about themselves and their potential.  It will speak volumes – not to mention the apps that they create.

I only hope the world is ready for them…. and their apps!

Are you?

***Check out the flickr set from class.

We will also order our tshirts soon.  Can’t wait!