Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Being Lazy

This week I'm teaching in a camp-like setting. I have ten students learning game programming, three hours per day. All of them chose to be here. I've never taught Scratch or game programming before.

After a first quarter that went at breakneck speed and after finally turning in grades midway through last week, I'm really tired. I also have a towering list of projects to finish. So while I'd like to give my all to teaching game programming, there's just not a lot of 'all' to give. Also, it isn't assessed and I'd like to save more of my all for my real classes.

So I'm being a lazy teacher. I always tell my students that the best programmers are lazy programmers - they look for ways to program that don't require a lot of effort. Thus, things like efficiency are important. Recursion is just an excuse to be lazy - do the least work possible and hand off the rest.

In this case, I gave them an overview of Scratch yesterday in about 90 minutes and I've handed them lots of resources to use in making their games (like the Scratch reference guide and Scratch cards). They know what games are, they have lots of ideas, and mostly what I'm doing is getting out of their way.

It's fascinating to watch them. First, they hate listening to me, so me not doing a lot of direct teaching is working for all of us very nicely. They're all engaged in what they're doing. And their styles are completely different. One is going methodically through all the handouts, following instructions and listening. One couldn't pay attention for the whole 90 minutes yesterday - by 10 minutes in she was taking the game and pushing it to the limits of her imagination. One student couldn't wait to get started on the game she'd thought up (Halo. For Scratch. By a girl.) Another one is spending huge amounts of time working with sounds.

I love camp because I don't care much about the outcomes. No standards, just lots of time for the kids to explore and learn what they like. And they're learning tons, all of it individualized. It isn't a good replacement for regular school, but it's a pretty nice change from the daily grind. And I'm glad to be reminded that when I'm lazy, the students rise to the challenge.

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