Sunday, October 19, 2014

Connecting Students with Experts… Programming class and Tech Jam at Burlington, VT

I'm privileged to be mentoring a new Programming class at Burlington High School this year.

The focus I drafted up… explore and create using multiple programming languages (JavaScript, HTML, Python, Java), creative engineering with physical computing (MakeyMakey, Arduino, Raspberry Pi), build team work and collaboration skills, build toward personal project choice, collaborate on how to spend our class budget, find professional mentors, and create connections with industry professionals. Seemed like a good recipe! 

We started out with some introductory work in JavaScript and HTML and students came up with some great work… inventive approaches to the challenges given to them. Right from the get go we pushed collaboration and troubleshooting.

Shortly thereafter we dove into MakeyMakey boards and the great engineering work students did stemming from one simple design challenge, "figure out how it works, and do something creative." The projects students did was a blast to take part in.

We've just shifted to Arduino and Raspberry Pi teams in the class and students have already dove into their own research to see what's possible. Troubleshooting and teamwork is in high gear.

I think bringing in outside expertise into the classroom so students can interact with professionals in the field is essential practice. In this case, a former student from my days back at South Burlington, Nick Giard, has signed on to help mentor students as the class builds. We've also created new connections with other local programmers from businesses and colleges as well and are making plans to bringing them in online and for visits in person. As part of this we got...

An offer we couldn't refuse… participate in Vermont Tech Jam, 2014!

As part of making connections, Peter Drescher at the Agency of Education heard about our work and extended an invitation to the students in the new programming class to present and be part of a great event called Vermont Tech Jam at Memorial Auditorium in Burlington, VT. Tech Jam showcases great presentations, Vermont businesses, and also an entire floor of student innovation from Vermont schools. Robotics, engineering, solar, programmers… a smorgasbord of mind and hand (MIT motto) creation.

I'm excited that Burlington students will present what they've created at the event and that they'll have a chance to mingle with other innovative students, and with professionals, and get to see what these innovative businesses are doing in our State. 

We've already had discussions in class promoting students to research the event, do prep work to see what these great businesses are up to,  polish up some introduction skills, and pushed the idea of bringing some business cards to help make connections, and develop an online presence to showcase their creative work and interests. Who knows where these connections might lead for them personally and for our class.

The work students have done in this programming class and the interests it's sparking / revealing at BHS has already helped spur on conversations with administration about building an apps development class, programming club (coder dojo), and building a robust maker space for multiple classes to use and and building it's creative spirit into many classes. We're off and running.

Building opportunities for students to meet and mingle with professionals and experts, build communication and collaborative skills, explore their community, State, and the world… creating connections, finding mentors, and exploring interests… great threads for schools to pursue. 

We win, AP

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