Madeleine and I quickly went shopping for some online resources to support our in-class instruction. We did a healthy scouring of Apple Developer documentation, online course powerhouses, and independent bloggers to build up our Moodle course repository and reached out to a few professional developers to contract a series of video tutorials. It was clear that the differentiated classroom environment plan would also need to go into effect immediately.
Upon returning for Week 2, students were introduced to new resources both on Moodle and via our new co-instructor, experienced app developer Rob Percival (@techedrob). More concrete expectations for the class sessions were also introduced which included reminders to have their computers and other equipment ready to go and to take charge of their tasks for the session (just like a real work environment!). Students quickly put their phones into airplane mode to conserve bandwidth, fired up their machines and 'clocked-in' via a sign-in board with the following available task options: individual video tutorial work, pair coding or help desk.
Pair Coding allowed students to not only share the fun of learning something challenging together but to naturally troubleshoot with a peer. Our initial fear of no collaboration quickly flew out the window. The help desk was a central location in the room where a teacher would be available for group or one-on-one instruction for those students who had been absent or were stuck and needed a fresh set of eyes. Students who usually had a hard time asking for help were encouraged when they saw other students engaging with teachers in the help area. We also employed 'student experts' who were quickly becoming acquainted with the many errors coding was throwing our way. We soon had 'SIGBRT' and 'Breakpoint' experts who we could simultaneously inspire confidence within and acquire the assistance of with help desk operations. One other tool that we employed was Evernote for personal reflection and documentation. Each student keeps an Evernote notebook updated with a reflection of the days coding session which could include photos, screenshots, bullet points, audio notes and more.
With these new measures in place, students were given the structure they needed but also given the freedom to manage themselves in a 'workplace' environment. Our teaching team was given a small reprieve from so many waving hands and a chance to grab a coffee ;)
As I sipped my coffee, I witnessed students mingling with other students that were not necessarily in their day-to-day peer group, a genuine excitement to be 'in charge' and non-native English speakers slowly coming out of their quiet shells. And as I am in the midst of truly loving this experience I check my watch. For the first time EVER I needed to remind students when class was over - they simply did not want to leave! "But we have a few more lines of code to write!" and "I'm so close to figuring this out!" they would say. I'd say we've got something good going on here...
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