Video: How to keep high school kids awake while attempting to explain how a web shop works

I was asked to speak at this year's Career Day at our local high school, and thought it would be an awesome opportunity to skew the vision of young minds towards the possibilities that a work life in web design / development can offer. I did a similar talk a couple years ago at the last career day, and realized that in order to keep these guys from drifting off I had to make a concerted effort to break the third wall.

So, I put together this presentation that basically converts the room into a web development firm and introduces the multiple roles you can take on, all the while building out a spec for a popular web site clone (MySpace was the choice each time). I was really impressed with the kids' willingness to participate, and heard it went over pretty well.

Why you would watch this

I'm posting this video just in case folks out there are called upon to give similar presentations to one of the toughest audiences out there - the significantly-younger-than-you kind. The structure I used is low tech, brings the kids in for approachable tasks, and assigns roles to them based on what skills they see in themselves. I figured that if I could get them to connect what they consider their assets to a job title, it would have a greater chance of sticking in their minds, and when they get to the point of genuinely considering careers, they have at least a starting point. But, who knows, it was at least fun and allowed me to test out some ideas on how to make a presentation more compelling for a younger audience.

Stuff that worked well:

  • I started by asking for a volunteer to videotape the presentation. This insured that at least one student was going to be involved the whole time, and they were indeed the ones that asked the most questions. Plus, it also established a level of trust and broke that third wall immediately.
  • I asked the students what they were good at, and assigned them positions based on that. The idea was to give them a feeling like their positive qualities could have an impact on the roles they play down the road.
  • I gave them name tags and spoke to or about them when describing the position, making it less abstract. Also, if they kept the name tags on, I thought other kids might ask them about it and they'd have to articulate at least something that they learned during the talk.
  • I kept it low-tech, using just a white board. Doing this meant less technical overhead, and maybe making the whole idea more approachable, that you didn't need fancy tools to get a lot of the work done.
  • I practiced maybe 4 or 5 times while jogging to make sure I could fit everything into a half hour. I had to cut a bunch of stuff and really streamline the process to get this to work.



Comments

Dude this video is excellent. I'm currently mentoring a local high school robotics club, specifically their website group. I was going to go down the path of splitting the group into 2 parts builders/content editors and designers/themers. But after watching this I think they'll get alot more out of the experience of working as a team if each person takes a role within a development firm. Thank you for doing this presentation. It will give me a good explanation to show the leaders (teachers and other mentors) about how this will work and what will be accomplished. See you at DrupalCon.

Hey, thanks Dave! If you get a chance, let me know if you end up applying any of the ideas and how they go over, as well as any improvements you make. Looking forward to meeting you, too, and congrats on the Lullabot acquisition!

Thanks for making this video Chris. Very interesting to watch. Also, keep up the great work on your blog. This is very useful to the community.

Hey, thanks Mark! Will I be seeing you at Drupalcon? Seems like it's been ages since DrupalCamp Colorado...