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I often represent my software development company at conferences and other events. However this time I got assigned to introduce school children (12-18) years to the job of a software developer. Now the problem is that our PR guys told me to use Facebook ("use the cool stuff kids know") to leave a good impression.

Now I'm stumped and have no idea how to bridge the gap between presenting the role of a software developer, requirements engineers, and programming in general to Facebook. I intend to give a 5 minute talk and then let them "do something" that invovles Facebook.

Has anyone got an idea how to do something like that? Is it possible to let them develop a simple facebook app?

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closed as off topic by Yannis Rizos, Matthieu, rjzii, Mark Trapp Jan 20 '12 at 10:07

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Don't listen to what PR guys tell you, I don't think you'll find a single way of presenting what we do to 12 and 18 year olds. Facebook and the workflow of its apps is far from typical, so don't even go there. A possibly better idea would be to use something like Kodu, a visual programming language for creating simple games. I don't know how the older kids will react, but I played around with it for hours when I first discovered it (age 31). –  Yannis Rizos Jan 18 '12 at 16:03
We would be better off as the PR guy. –  Ubermensch Jan 18 '12 at 16:10
@ZaphodBeeblebrox: PR guy is right about what he should do. He is wrong only about how. –  Goran Jovic Jan 18 '12 at 16:24
@GoranJovic Not the PR guys I know :) –  Yannis Rizos Jan 18 '12 at 16:25
@ZaphodBeeblebrox: No no, I was talking only about Chris' PR guy and what he told him. Definitely not all of them :) –  Goran Jovic Jan 18 '12 at 16:27

4 Answers 4

Are you getting all those kids in one sitting or is there some chance they will be broken into groups according to age?

Anyway, I'd be inclined to use Angry Birds and games development rather than FaceBook. Another option is something like how you'd go about designing a crytonography program - say you wanted make files secret on your computer so that people who weren't your friends could read them - you could get kids talking about requirements around that really fast. How many 12 year old girls have diaries with little locks on them?

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it will be a short, presentation session, and a workshop-like setting afterwards -> i will have my place where i can setup a computer / poster etc –  Chris Jan 18 '12 at 17:32

Facebook is not the only cool thing kids know about.

Your PR guys know their trade, you should definitely use something that kids consider interesting as an example. However, what they don't know is how much complexity a service like Facebook is about. If you were to even start to talk about all that you'd probably bore them to death.

Try to choose something as simple as possible. A Facebook app is probably a good choice if you manage to avoid explaining too much about the platform itself and focus on the app instead.

I don't know what does your company make, but also consider other things potentially interesting (to kids) but relatively simple enough to be explained:

  • mobile apps and games
  • anything with geolocation
  • augmented reality or something with image recognition (ok, this one is probably difficult to explain, but it does look cool)

Whatever you choose be sure you include lots of screenshots with something cool on them and it would be best (if feasible) to include a live demonstration of the app in front of them.

I recently read in newspaper how a new physics teacher in some highschool in my city started the very first class by bringing an actual robot to the class (one of these Japanese robots we see dancing in commercials, I have no idea how he got one). His point was to show these kids how physics is used for cool stuff, not just boring calculations. Do something similar (with software, not robots).

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Of course, applications can be developed with Facebook's Open Graph platform. But the real problem I find here is Facebook is a populist platform and if somebody is going to introduce software development based on this platform, I amn't sure how things would be interpreted. Still, as your PR guy insists I suggest the following

  • Show the children the sheer volume of facebook users - IMHO, it would really amaze them
  • Stress the importance on technical aspects (database, front-end servers) with this sheer size
  • Give them the taste of facebook's user interface and how that could make users love or hate a site

Regarding application, I would suggest the children do a homework application that could be shared among friends But 5 minutes seems too little a time to do these things

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IMHO, my ideas really look bleak. Would try to post something better –  Ubermensch Jan 18 '12 at 16:08

The PR guys have the right idea (although it doesn't need to be based on "facebook").

A one-time, ~5 minute talk followed by a short activity means you're going to HAVE TO be operating in the "affective domain". The point is NOT to give a structured overview of software development. Instead, you'll want demonstrate something "cool/interesting/inspiring" and relate it to the students in a way they can understand on a very basic visceral level.

The purpose of these things is to give a positive impression of whatever you're trying to introduce (in this case, software development) so that when the students come across it again in their studies, they'll be more receptive to learning about it.

If you've ever been to a science museum like the exploratorium, that's the kind interaction you want to aim for.

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