Busywork With Benefits
January 19, 2017 2:19 AM   Subscribe

For reasons I have a number of 16-30 year olds who are required to spend an hour at a time (1-5 d/w) in the computer lab with me. They are excused from the usually assigned task, but their presence is sill required. Again, reasons. They rotate in and out so I can't do so much team-based or curriculum based stuff, but I would like them to spend this time on an enriching manner. I have some ideas (inside) but want more. Ideally quantifiable/defensible activities that could go on a resume somehow.

• I am intending to have a "movie of the day" that is from a curated Ted list and we can hen chat about it, that could work in small groups.

• Self-study of programming and 3D modeling is something I can help them with through TinkerCad, Inkscape and Codeacademy. I have very limited possibilities to download software or plugins should be mentioned.

• Participation in GalaxyZoo's citizen-scientist projects where they can count penguins etc. I am especially interested in no-fail "participation" and volunteering options like this.

• Self studies in Office package from YouTube, or possibly online (free).

• Duolingo for language studies. But also that they volunteer to help other people online with their language studies, partially as these aren't always study-ready themselves.

• Possibly some sort of brain-training, mindfulness or mood-gym activity or site if given OK from powers that be, many have neuropsyk, attention or mental health issues.

I am willing to learn the basics of anything that might be applicable in order to be able to support them in the task. I will also have some people help me with work related tasks away from the comuter but we can't have, say, people practicing the guitar.
posted by Iteki to Education (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This is a great list already! How about a typing game so they can increase their words per minute?
posted by lakeroon at 3:03 AM on January 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

A spelling test. Especially if it involves typing the word into a blank instead of picking from a list. I know I'm even worse with spelling due to spell check. Same for grammar.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:06 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Identifying an issue they feel more or less strongly about (could be anything from battery hens to cleaning up a local park) and get them to write a letter to the appropriate representative about it?
posted by greenish at 4:10 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

3D modeling using Google Sketchup!
posted by DarlingBri at 4:41 AM on January 19, 2017

CodinGame is a fairly simple and fun online coding environment. You can add an element of competition to make it even more entertaining. Participants do have to create accounts, although it's free. Asynchronous, so folks don't need to be completing challenges at the same time.

My local public library gives free access to online training at Lynda.com for library card holders. Huh. When did Lynda get bought by LinkedIn?

Speaking of LinkedIn, they keep sending me info on free online courses in their new LinkedIn Learning area. Not sure how that all works yet - if you can (or should) add a record of completing such a course to your profile, but something to investigate. Your students could start by creating profiles, and then move on to filling them up with a record of completing LI courses.

Anyone who teaches/uses Office should keep this link handy: Custom Guides Quick References. Printable too, so you could hang them around the lab.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:28 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Practice writing resume cover letters and interview thank you cards.

Take a personality test. Identify and match themselves with an associated career and industry.

Write a letter to their 'future-self in 5 years'. (after setting a goal and plans to accomplish them).

Take a personal budgeting lesson.
posted by mountainblue at 5:48 AM on January 19, 2017

Khan Academy offers free short DuoLingo-style exercises in math and a range of other subjects. Again, requires an account.
posted by terretu at 6:30 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

May only be of interest to a few, but they can add citations to Wikipedia.
posted by gudrun at 6:34 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

EPA's Watershed Academy?
posted by Michele in California at 6:53 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Along with speed typing tests, they could try to do online transcription work at rev.com or similar.
I think personality tests like Myers Briggs can be really useful for career guidance and it might naturally appeal to teenagers (I know when I was a teen I loved any kind of personality quiz).
I would also bring along a chess board and mancala board. I learned mancala in a similar "class" 20 years ago and still remember that teacher fondly.
posted by areaperson at 7:00 AM on January 19, 2017

There are a number of museums that recruit online volunteers to help with historical transcription projects, such as Smithsonian and the National Archives.

Or for educational busywork, the LizardPoint geography quizzes are great and addictive.
posted by veery at 8:08 AM on January 19, 2017

Condor Watch, group-sourced location and social behavior tracking of this critically endangered species native to the US.
posted by msittig at 8:43 AM on January 19, 2017

Code Academy or other places where the students works at their own pace but where you can pick the courses?
posted by wenestvedt at 10:14 AM on January 19, 2017

Digital literacy and information literacy. This is the prime age for people who think they know how to search and find accurate information, because they grew up with it, but in fact they really don't know how to tell authoritative sources from non-authoritative sources, identify fake news or propaganda, identify primary or secondary sources, etc. This delves right into issues about phishing scams and online safety, too.
posted by aabbbiee at 11:18 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

NYPL Labs has a lot of really cool digital humanities projects. They're fun to explore in general but there are also opportunities to contribute to some of their crowdsourcing (mostly transcription) projects:
Listen to stories from the NYPL community and correct the transcripts: Community Oral History Project
Digitize building footprints and names from old maps: Building Inspector
Transcribe real estate records: Emigrant City
Digitize the NYPL's menu collection: What's On The Menu?
posted by yeahlikethat at 12:00 PM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

OH MY GOD. The absolute best service you could provide to kids is a program that will help them learn to budget.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:07 PM on January 19, 2017

I moved my 6-8 graders to the web based version of sketchup due to out school using chromebooks. It works well for a beta and includes the 3d warehouse to help with more detailed designs.
posted by dstopps at 6:47 PM on January 19, 2017

There's a lot of great stuff here, thank you so much! The suggestions re. life-skills, resume's and career guidance are really spot on in a way because that's the actual work they're being let off doing!

We aren't in America, but those ideas have inspired me to look for local equivelants of for example that EPA site, and writing letters for Amnesty is going into the list there too. If any other ideas occur to youse, please do drop back in with them.
posted by Iteki at 5:30 AM on January 20, 2017

If you want them to also help others with language studies, may I recommend lang-8?

You can post free-form writing entries for native speakers to correct - AND you can correct the writing entries posted by people learning English, which is a great way to hone your own English skills and try to explain why one particular wording is better than another.
posted by kristi at 2:40 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

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