In the final week of our 3-week Summer Programme, we set our students the task of coming up with a group project, building it, and then presenting it to their faculty on graduation day. It’s a great learning experience, a little bit of pressure, but above all, it’s great fun.
Here’s how we do it.
We work in groups of three. Group work is a great way to share knowledge but it can also introduce an admin burden best described in the classic Software Engineering text, the Mythical Man Month. It’s tempting to think that larger groups will make your job as instructor easier, but it’s actually much harder: work grinds to a halt because of under-communication and personality clashes.
Three means that, on a small project with a tight, four-day turnaround, everyone has something to do.
Three is the magic number.
We have the groups define their own projects. This is so important as it gives each student the immediate sense of buy-in that you otherwise couldn’t grow organically in such a short time.
In our summer programme in July 2017 we drew up a list of topics we’d already covered, as a reminder of what we knew and what was in scope. The project ideas that we ended up with for our Monday morning brainstorm were, without fail, tractable, relevant, and scope appropriate.
Here’s where you come in, as an instructor – you know what can get done in four days (Monday – Thursday, with presentation and graduation on Friday), and you know, by now, what each team is capable of.
On Monday morning we went through each group as a class and discussed their proposals. Some groups had one, and one group had three different ideas for submission. All had the kernel of a great idea – “something we can work with”. It’s your job to guide the discussion towards a project you know will be successful. Here’s two writers tricks to help you:
That doesn’t really leave you with much time left! We had a hard deadline of Thursday at 4pm – when all the project work needed to be done, the room cleaned, and our patter prepared.
Your challenge now is to balance your time between finding incisive and relevant teaching opportunities and getting out of the way. Here’s a few thoughts:
I found that my Monday and Thursday were intensive, and my Tuesday and Wednesday were quieter – I was walking around every 50 or 60 minutes chivvying and questioning.
Realistically, a four-day project build by an inexperienced group isn’t breaking barriers, but if you’ve been careful, your students will have built up a sense of ownership, creativity, and achievement – a can-do attitude.
It might well be the first time any of your students have solved a problem using technology. That’s pretty incredible. So help your groups build the narrative around their solution – whatever they’ve come up with.
Here’s our projects from 2017:
Global Code is growing! In 2018 we’ll teach 90 students in Ghana, and they all need a Raspberry Bi 3B. Get in touch if you can help us out.
Cheers Sam Moorhouse firstname.lastname@example.org