It is crucial for students to understand the importance of collaborating in groups and discussing ideas openly with their peers. One of the key features of our pedagogy is the belief that collaboration and social support bolster learning and need to be explicitly modeled. We facilitate the development of interpersonal skills at many levels through designed activities; this helps students effectively communicate their ideas in a clear and professional way as well as help students learn to respectfully engage in hearing the ideas of others.
Students brainstorm ideas for their Arduino projects. (Image by H. Sharon Lin, MIT OpenCourseWare.)
For the modern technique of collaborating on software projects, we have included a short GitHub tutorial at the beginning of the class and provided access to a common repository where groups can create websites and include relevant documentation for their projects. Collaboration ideation is modeled by organizing a brainstorming session before team formation to align students with similar interests together. Students are encouraged to learn from other groups in the class in case they are working on achieving similar goals and/or face similar issues while debugging their projects. We use group exercises adopted from Improv comedy during the course to help students become comfortable and familiar with each other’s communication styles. Exercises originally designed to prepare Improv performers work great to prime students for group activities, serving to improve communication between group members and across groups. Exercises are chosen by the instructors depending on the activities, some work best to prepare students for brainstorming and other exercises work well as ice-breakers before team formation.
Andrew Ringler provides an overview of the GitHub software collaboration toolset. We use Git and specifically Github to facilitate collaboration and documentation within and between groups. This video introduces students to concepts of collaboration with Git.
Kyle Keane leads the class in an improv comedy activity called “red ball” in order to help students become more comfortable with each other and get to express themselves a bit non-verbally.