Week 6, Day 5

These final projects have been a trial by ordeal for the girls. Short deadlines, lots of interruptions, learning on the fly, many failures, a few successes, and a million decisions: it’s a little like a reality show without the rancor.

Here’s what they are up against: their goal is to come up with a working prototype of their project, along with a pitch, a poster, and a website that describes the project. The deadline for the prototype is Tuesday lunchtime. They have a check-in with the teaching staff on Monday morning, where we will talk to them about what they might have to cut from their plans – the rest of the day is for debugging, so no new features should be added. Wednesday is their poster deadline and then they work on their pitches and websites. Luckily, they had some practice on the pitches today.

Accenture was generous with us (again), and allowed us two hours of video studio time with five experienced employees. Each of the five groups got to make short (2-3 minute) production quality videos (better than many local television ads I’ve seen) about their projects – essentially their pitches. This took between 20 and 30 minutes for each group. They had to get mic’d, learn where to stand, where to look, and how to act in that time. All of this was done in a green screen studio with three live cameras, a teleprompter, and lights – the whole shebang. While one group was doing this, another group was up in the control room watching as things were recorded with the backgrounds put in. The backgrounds could be Powerpoint slides, or, if the students didn’t provide that, a view of downtown Chicago taken from a window in a skyscraper.

Every group had come up with something different, from all the girls in the reading at once, then taking turns with different parts, to have just two girls present. It depended on the nature of the girls in the groups and the nature of the project. We should get the completed videos by Wednesday, I’ll post them if I can.

Meanwhile, back in the classroom, a little more of that magic happened. “We’ve got circles!” rang out this afternoon. That may not seem like a big deal, but it was. One group has been working extraordinarily hard (and Courtney the TA with them) on making a cell phone app. Their app, named Wakey, Wakey, sounds an alarm to wake the user up as their train stop approaches. They decided it was essential that this be an app rather than a website. Creating an app is difficult – the tools are hard to get working (you have to have exactly the right equipment) and even harder to understand. Students in this group have been working through their lunch and even at home into the wee hours of the morning. Today, about mid-afternoon, they got one of the hardest pieces done: a map of Chicago with a circle around each stop on the Blue Line.

Another group was having problems of a different sort: communication problems. There were two factions working on different pieces of the their project. Both sides got stuck, and there was no communication between the groups. It was so clear to see late yesterday afternoon. Each faction was on the opposite side of the table, studiously working (sort of) on their part of the project, and quietly resenting the other side for not doing their part.

Today, with one member of the group absent, progress ground to a halt and some students started complaining about the others. Shanzeh came to me and let me know what was going on in more detail that I could glean simply by looking. My sense was that the students all knew the right thing to do, but were afraid to be the first one to take a step, thinking the others would be mad at them. They really needed to break through this barrier. Being no fool, I sent Shanzeh into the foray (it seemed better to send someone with less authority in so it didn’t seem to the girls like they were in trouble, plus, you know, self-preservation on my part), where she worked her magic and got communications going again. Just a few minutes later, all the girls were LITERALLY ([expletive deleted], psychology and language are so intertwined – I just love it when the figurative becomes literal) on the same side of the table, making a lot of progress. One said “Let’s work like this from now on, so we can all see the computer and pass it around!”

In other news, I’ve started composing (at least in my mind) my graduation speech. I’ve got five minutes. How do you condense seven weeks – almost 250 hours with 19 girls and two TAs into five minutes? 150ish words per minute – about 750 words. Choose wisely, write carefully. I have three angles I can go from. I’ll have to see how they work, and if I can weave them together somehow. No, I won’t tip my hand. If I have it typed, I’ll post it here; well, an approximation anyway, I tend to ad lib a bit.

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