It’s almost axiomatic for an instructor to assign homework. In a world of MacBooks and coffee shops with free wifi, assigning a reading list, catchup work or extra credit is a gimme – your students are learning while you’ve got your feet up after class, what’s not to love?
In the classroom we’ve got a high degree of control over the technical environment. At Global Code we give each student a Raspberry Pi 3B at the beginning of day #1. We spend class time holding the kit, poking around and plugging it in. We set wacky colour schemes and fun desktop backgrounds to build ownership. It’s yours.
Our technical rider includes the use of ethernet, HDMI screens, keyboards and mice – so everyone in the room has the same hardware baseline. We’re careful to design our applications process and curriculum around the enquiring mind rather than the academically successful one.
But things are different at home. Does the student have a quiet space where they can work? Do they have access to the internet? Do they have a keyboard, mouse, and monitor? Some do, for sure, but not all. Even in school, access to hardware is limited, with some teachers resorting to teaching computer skills with pebbles as mice.
Our host institution trusts us with lab keys, which is one reason we keep to a very strict 9-12, 1-4 timeline. It’s only fair to expect students to work during the time we can guarantee access to our environment.
We’re aggressive about equal opportunity, although this year we fell far short – only two of our 18 students were female, despite an aggressive target of 50%. We’re focussing hard on this for next year, but one of our initial findings is that the girls who applied were often occupied with family-based housework in the evenings – cooking, cleaning, looking after younger brothers and sisters.
If we can be clearer about our strict working hours next year, this might go some way to redressing the gender balance in our classrooms.
Clocks and Curves So how do you pack in such a heavy teaching schedule into three short weeks? We have 90 hours of classroom time to cover Linux, Python, git and GitHub, Flask, Heroku, Electronics, Web APIs, the programmable web, Heroku, MQTT, and GPIO, and design, build and present a group project. How do you approach all that?
Carefully! It’s a question of clocks and curves. Here are my tips.