Thursday, September 24, 2020

Independent Project Inspiration

This fall in one of my computer science classes I'm reserving half of each class meeting for students to work on independent projects of their own choosing. From the first day about half of my students knew exactly what they wanted to do or at least had some ideas. The other half struggled to come up with some ideas. That changed when I showed them the Remix Contest being held by Instructables. 

The Instructables Remix contest asks contestants to find an existing project on the Instructables site then remix and build upon it. Entries have to include credit to the original source and directions for replicating the remixed version of the project. 19 prizes are being awarded with the top prize being a $500 Amazon gift card. So far there are only 13 entries with 46 days left to enter. The contest is open to students over the age of 13. 

The Remix contest is one of eight contests that Instructables is currently hosting. Some of the other contests are a pumpkin contest, a Halloween costume contest, and a "back to basics" contest with a STEAM theme. Take a look at the contest page on Instructables to see if there is something that will inspire you or your students. 

Using Google Docs to Lead Small Group Discussions

Last week I received a question from a reader who wanted to know if I had any ideas for running small group discussions in a socially distanced classroom. Here's what he wrote: 

We are back in person at school, but wearing masks and sitting 6 feet apart. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for running a class or small group discussion (like a breakout).

I've done this a few times in my own classroom this fall. The process that I've been using begins with writing discussion questions in Google Docs, adding a small table below each question for students to write comments, and then making copies of the doc for each small group. While the students are using the chat and the table to exchange ideas I monitor all of the documents and occasionally stop the group to call out good comments and or bring the group back together for a whole-class conversation. 

The process that I've described above for using Google Docs to lead small group discussions is also outlined in the video below

If you're not sure how to make contact groups to use in G Suite, watch this short tutorial