I structured this evening’s class into two halves. In the first hour I showed them some software tools, and some demos that illustrate what can be done with those tools. In a way, I was just dangling possibilities in front of them, to get their own minds working.
Then, for the second hour, I asked them to organize into small groups, and to define their own project based on what they now knew to be possible. At the moment I am happily listening to the students as they work out designs, concepts, plans and schemes. I am very confident that some of them will come up with exciting directions that I would never have thought of.
It’s a balancing act, of course. You can’t just tell students to form into groups. You need to give them an exciting and worthwhile direction to aim toward. And you need to be careful about how you judge their work. For example, I’ve learned from experience that I must be scrupulously fair when assessing the presentation of each group. No playing favorites!
But once all that has been taken care of, you need to trust them. Sometimes the best thing a teacher can do for his students is to know when it is time to get out of their way. Students who are trusted to fly will find their wings.