In my professional travels recently, I found myself in a district between meetings. I went down (by invitation) to watch a guy named Steve teach some tech. What I found was inspiration from high school students. Steve teaches three classes, all at the same time. He had website design and two levels of gaming/coding going on simultaneously!
So let's talk logistics and classroom management. Of course Steve doesn't know I'm writing this, and if you have read this before you know I stay truthful with my observations. You could definitely tell which kids were in each class. Their level of interest and enthusiasm generally grew as the course became more challenging. I thought is was pretty amazing how kids in each class remained on task while Steve had to explain things to the other two classes; juggling at its best.
Enough with that stuff....What about the learning! Immediately it became apparent to me that students were encouraged and comfortable with helping each other learn/create/share. Kids were moving around and offering constructive criticism. It wasn't a matter of "Your character is weird" or "why doesn't this block jump right". The kids were talking like programmers. Everything sounded like helpful advice. "Change this code", or "have you tried this command?" Even more cool was how students actively sought out other students to TRY their games and wanted help making it better. The collaboration was amazing. Several students let me sit down and chat with them about class, their projects and I got to play several games that I would gladly have shoved a pocket full of quarters into a machine for!
One young lady, in particular, was working on some really moving digital illustration. As a long-time video game nerd, I appreciated someones ability to animate/illustrate nature. Water, hair, and flora are difficult to render in a realistic way. This student was creating an amazing tree. I know a tree, doesn't sound to impressive. After I got her to take her head phones off, she was in the zone, I sat down and talked with her about her project. She let me see the wire drawing that gave the tree life and showed me how she was working to make it sway in the breeze. Her resources to learn all of this? Of course her teacher, Steve, but also Google and YouTube. She was watching tutorials and pulling information she need to solve problems in her own work. She showed me a tutorial of a waterfall and explained that she really wants to try and conquer such a hard animation. The way she talked about her work and how she never stopped working while we spoke reminded me a professional artist; heart and soul in what she was doing.
Below are a few pictures I snapped during my visit. It was really cool to see kids so into creating projects. They had the structure and knowledge of Steve, then the freedom to own their learning. I would have taken more pictures, but I didn't want to interrupt class, and I never think of taking pics until it is too late!