Development is an immanent part of every person’s life. Evolution-wise, whoever fails to develop, dies.

A while ago I wrote a few words about Allegrotech.Youth, a program that inspired a drive for knowledge among the next generation of ambitious students of Toruń-based technical high school ZSMEiE. Now, I want to sum up the course, present developments in the last 3 months and share the experience we have gained.

We did as we said we would

Students were divided into 3 subject groups of 10 members selected on the basis of a placement test taken by everyone interested. Each group focused on a different area and had its dedicated instructor. As IT specialists, we all received a perfect opportunity to improve our skills in conducting workshops, team communication and public speaking. It was great fun for both the instructors and participants.

The game

Divided into teams, the students were taught various new skills that ultimately led to deploying a single app displaying a timetable with additional information on teacher replacements or canceled classes. The participants learned about new technologies that helped them to spread their wings, take off and have their first flight to the land of numerous possibilities. Michał Karykowski, Mirosław Gołda and I assisted the group of developers. Patryk Krawaczyński and Łukasz Szulc talked about infrastructure, while Krzysztof Muzalewski focused on web development.

Technological mixture

Our workshops touched upon a number of issues. Some of them were more important than others. We placed the greatest emphasis on technologies that we use on a daily basis, demonstrating practical use of tools that lie at the root of the IT industry today. For developers this was Java accompanied by Spring Framework. We showed how to use Gradle and provided an introduction into TDD using JUnit and AssertJ.

Web developers focused on Twitter Bootstrap and HTML5. They worked with Grunt and discovered the world of dynamic styles with Less. They also learned more about NPM.

The infrastructure group worked in Ubuntu, where they used VirtualBox managed by Vagrant to develop virtual machines using Puppet for the purposes of the app created together with the two other groups. Virtual machines employed NGINX server and MongoDB.

The joint work was supported by GIT and two popular sites, where we kept our code: GitHub and BitBucket.

IT specialists vs. educating others

“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”

We applied these words by Confucius into practice. Now let us share with you our impressions from the role reversal we participated in. On a daily basis we know what to do. We know how to use our knowledge and experience to band the reality to our needs. However, in the new role we had to figure out how to communicate the knowledge we have to others. Everyone who has once tried it is aware that knowing how to do a thing and teaching someone else to do it are two different things.

Our impressions from the course are the following:

“We see it obvious that we daily absorb a great doze of information and want to have it served in the most user-friendly and concise manner, containing only key facts. When standing on the other side, we were forced to properly sort the technical (and other) knowledge we have and use in everyday work. Going too much into detail may overburden the audience, while treating a subject too superfluously may cause too many yawns. Sharing knowledge with a younger generation is not that easy and requires verification of one’s own expertise. But it also feels great when you finally manage to speak the same language. For me personally, the key aspect was to persuade the students to individually search for solutions.”Patryk Krawaczyński

“Our pace of work came as a surprise. It was nothing new for us, but the students saw it as extraordinary and unexpected. We had to learn how to communicate in the possibly simplest and comprehensible words, and to make a quick recap of the basics.”Michał Karykowski

“Great experience. I had an opportunity to verify my skills as a teacher. Attendance at classes showed I was not that bad ;) There were usually 6-7 people. The classes helped me “polish” my patience and composure ;) as it was sometimes necessary to repeat or explain the same thing a couple of times. It seemed the students understood what I was saying. We could talk and create a new reality together. Unfortunately, I failed to encourage/persuade them to code more (or at all) at home. I don’t think they tried to extend the new knowledge on their own either. It happened we had to repeat something we had already done before. However, what makes me particularly happy is that I managed to “fish out” one very talented person – Oskar. It’s clear the boy has quite a potential, and used it by participating in both Java and my classes. A single word was all that he needed to act and knew how to find the right answer on the Web when the knowledge he had was insufficient. I assess the classes as very effective! Thank you!”Krzysztof Muzalewski

We all learned something new about ourselves. We gained new acquaintances and experience. Both sides benefited.

Feedback is the key

To have a full picture of the course, we asked the participants to sum it up and respond to a few questions. We asked about the best element of the whole program.

“Communicative workshop leaders that maintained humane relations with the participants. A tip for the future is something that the school will not provide. These were professional IT people that we met, so we could hear some really useful advice.”

“Direct contact with the person conducting the workshop. He was patient and explained every doubt we had. We could always approach him and ask about everything.”

We also asked the students whether they would recommend Allegro workshops to their younger colleagues.

“If this is what you are interested in, I fully recommend it. I learned quite a lot, indeed. Yet, if you consider the workshop simply because you have nothing better to do, drop the idea and don’t take the place.”

“I would definitely recommend it. I was very satisfied. I think that using every opportunity to learn is important. If you really consider doing something professionally, every training is worth gold. Here you will get quality and great atmosphere”.

On a 0-10 scale, the participants gave the whole program 8. Regarding knowledge and skills they gained over the last 3 months, they gave us 7. Instructors’ preparation for the classes and communication during and outside the course were rated 9 and 8 respectively. We also received several remarks that will help us conduct future Allegrotech.Youth training in a more effective way and on a larger scale. We are happy the whole program received a very warm welcome.

We haven’t said the last word on our quest for the better and passion-driven future of a younger generation.