Our long awaited student tech conference is in session! There was a very cool suspended silence in the meeting room for about an hour, then 45 kids arrived at once on a bus, followed closely by 25 more via taxi, on foot and being dropped off. Registration went well, we fed them full of pizza and coke, and sent them off to their first session: programming in Java, MineCraft, Starcraft, writing a movie script (to be made into a move later tonight), and a tour of the CNN offices in town.
My first impressions were that it was a type of controlled chaos. I wanted to avoid too much 'sage on the stage' addressing the crowd, but of course there was a lot of logistics to share. As we spoke, I saw kids on their computers, gaming, texting, posting on FB...it looked a lot like they were doing anything but paying attention. But it soon became obvious that this is how they work. Once the boundaries of adult control ("I'm the mom and I said so") were released and they realized that this was THEIR conference, to be run the way THEY want, they soon slipped into the learning mode they were most comfortable with. When it came time to sign up for sessions (a not-so-simple task), they quickly learned what they needed to from each other, and got the job done. It's obvious that they were motivated to figure out how to do it, so they learned. I'm looking forward to seeing if the rest of the night works out the same way. I feel optimistic.