I suspect that there are a lot of programs and websites available that let teachers enter a class roster and randomly pick out a student name. I know several teachers who like to use such tools to make sure they call on students fairly. This week I decided I wanted to start doing the same thing. I had a bunch of options. The other computer science teacher had a program he wrote and was using with some success and I could have asked him for a copy. There are teachers in the building who are using other tools and I could have asked them for a copy or pointer. Or I could have done an Internet search for something available online. Those are all easy. So of course I did none of those things. I wrote my own.
Obviously to some extent I was reinventing the wheel as they say. On the other hand I write code for fun when I have the time and so I saw this as justified. Sort of.
I wrote a basic program and it worked. But of course I was not satisfied. I wanted to make my life as easy as possible. Well at least I wanted to make using the program as easy as possible. So I wanted to track the class roster files and add them to the menu. After all real programs, like the Windows Live Writer I am using to create this post, do that sort of thing – include recently opened files in the menu.
This I did not already know how to do. I’d never needed to know it before. So I started looking things up. After a little bit of searching and reading through some documentation and sample code I was able to do what I wanted.
I consider any project that teaches me something new to be a success so now I feel doubly justified in writing this program.
From time to time students ask me if they can work on their own projects in their free time. This always surprises me as the answer is an obvious YES! So I am not sure why they ask first.
Other students just start working on projects and tell me about it later. Well actually I most often find out about it when they are having trouble figuring out how to do something they need for the project. Others like to report back on success at creating a program that solves a problem or need specific to them. In all of these cases students learn things. I think most people learn best when they struggle to learn what they need to know for a project of their own interest.
While some students find these sorts of projects on their own others need help. I wonder if this is because students are too used to being consumers of what others make available and so don’t think of themselves as empowered to create their own solutions/tools. That is something we as educators need to work on.