Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Angry Unicorns

As I sit in office hours with no students around, I will share with you, dear reader, a tale of higher education, motivation, and an angry unicorn.

My students in CS222 are working in pairs on a two-week project, a little RSS analyzer. This was the halfway point, and we used our meeting today for each team to give a status report. After giving my introduction, I sat down so that student teams could, at their pace and discretion, come up and give their status reports. The first team came up rather quickly and did a fine job. After they collected their peer evaluation forms and sat down, there was a delay while the rest of the students considered whether or not to go next. I started a doodle, which turned out into a nearly-complete rendition of Strong Bad:
As the second group of presenters finally came to the front, I informed the class that I was one leg away from completing a sketch of Strong Bad, and that I didn't know what would happen if I had completed Strong Bad, but I'm sure it wouldn't be good.

We spent the next 50 minutes or so hearing status reports, at which time there was another lull, although by my estimation, about 20% of the class had not yet presented. So I started sketching again...
Once complete, I informed the class that I had completed my angry unicorn, and so I assumed that no one else wanted credit for presenting today. This was the first time I made any statement about the presentations being "worth credit," although the students knew that I was jotting down evaluations using the same rubric as their peers, and that I would email these later.

Immediately upon mentioning credit, there was hubbub and three more groups got up to give status reports. One of the groups had very little done, but they gave a great honest report. Another "group" was missing half, but the sole attendee gave a great synopsis of the team's status.

Most likely, it was mention of credit that made these last few get up and present, but I like to think it was the threat of angry unicorns.

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