Watkinson Web Slam

I had the privilege of working with a group of students and teachers from the Watkinson School on one of their Web Slam projects. This Web Slam is comprised of a self-selected group of students who had an interest in learning how to develop web sites. The faculty made arrangements with a local non-profit group, the Wintonberry Land Trust, to be the customer for this project. Students spent two weekends with the Land Trust learning about them, their goals, and gathering media to support an improved web presence. Having no experience working with students this age I was a apprehensive regarding how well they would take to it. We would also not be starting with a formal training period, and all the normal technology, such as project tracking systems, we would use to support the process would be missing.

Image of student giving a demo
One of the exceptional students from the Watkinson School demonstrates the work to the client
I was invited to bring a formal software development process, giving the students exposure to how projects can be approached in the business world. The faculty and I developed a shorted version of a Scrum cycle that could be represented effectively over the course of one day. For example, a typical sprint in Scrum is between one and four weeks - in this case, we created sprints that were one hour long. This gave us about 8 iterations for the students to complete the build of the new web site for the Land Trust. Within each hour, the students committed to what they could get done from the task list, then worked for most of the hour. At the end they showed what they had accomplished, talked about how it went, and planned the next hour.

To this day I am amazed at the level these student operate at. One things the Watkinson School stresses with students is a habit of always explaining why they have a certain opinion. Part of each hour long sprint is a few minutes looking back at the past hour and discussing what went well, what went bad, and what they could change for the next hour. Normally it takes some facilitating with new teams, but these students required no prompting and the answers were honest and well thought out. They were also very accepting to try the process and while we made some adjustments along the way, they all did a great job. Some students even spoke of using the same methodology with some other projects they were doing at the school.

At the end of the day, the members of the Land Trust arrived and the team of students did an demonstration for them of what they had built, why, and even covered how the process helped them to achieve the goals of the day.

This was quite possibly the most fulfilling activity I did this past year. For me, it confirmed that a good process does not rely on fancy technology or tools to be effective - it only requires people who are willing to give it an honesty try. The students picked up on it very quickly and became very enthusiastic.

image of the workspace we used at the Watkinson School
The Watkinson School

Composed on October 10, 2017

Bill is a voracious learner who believes every process or methodology has something worth stealing. Over three decades of IT experience, and his own Fortune 100 development department, provide the confidence to experiment and push the boundaries of how we think about development, developers, and methodologies. The mantra is to improve even a little every day, but have the five year vision in mind. Learn more about Bill by clicking here.

Watkinson Web Slam - October 10, 2017 - William B. Chmura