This post is a short overview of my experience at a career day in Valga, Estonia, hosted with the help of GreenDice.

Kind of felt like a teacher at one point.
Kind of felt like a teacher at one point.

I’ve never spoken at a career day before nor attended one as a student, which is why I instantly agreed to going to one when GreenDice reached out to me.

Why? I never had opportunities like that as a student myself, which is why I try to do my part in making sure that future generations have them.

After agreeing to speak at the event, I had to come up with an idea for a short workshop. Coming up with an idea was surprisingly tricky due to the set of requirements and assumptions that I could rely on. What I could rely on were Windows 10 PC-s that had a browser, reasonably fast internet access and 45 minutes per group. The target audience would be students from 9th grade with all sorts of backgrounds, so the workshop would have to be accessible to everyone.

I also asked my colleagues for ideas and got useful feedback: whatever you do, make sure that the students have the chance to find and fix problems themselves.

The workshop ended up as a simple website hosted on CodePen, an in-browser HTML/CSS/JS editor. It runs well in a browser and allows students to see the results of their changes visually. The web is also something most of us rely on daily, so working on something relatable is likely a good idea. Hopefully this exercise would also help demystify how websites work.

Software development solves problems using software as the tool, so the idea was to have students take an existing but slightly broken software solution and fix it together. I would give a 60 second long intro that was mainly about what HTML, CSS and JS do on a webpage and how to recover from any issues, and then we would get going.

Once everyone had opened up the editor, I asked the students what they thought about the webpage. Was it working correctly? Did it look good? Based on the feedback we’d tackle these issues one by one. The solutions also had to come from the students, so in a way I was there to just listen and try out fixes that the students came up with. At the end of the session we’d have a solution that functioned properly and looked good.

The issues I planted into the website were as follows:

  • the background image might have been cute, but not suitable for the site as it made reading the text difficult
  • the previous developer left a visible comment in the middle of the page
  • the page title is too small
  • there is a photo of two cute cats present when you load the page
    • students convinced me that it was a feature, so we kept that in
  • when you hover over the button, it goes blank
  • images of the food options are upside down
  • one image would not load properly
  • one food choice would have the wrong image
  • one food choice was missing an image
The masterpiece that the students started working on.
The masterpiece that the students started working on.

This was just the right amount of work to fit into 45 minutes and in general the students were following along nicely.

If I had to do something similar the next time, I’d definitely have someone else assisting at the other end of the classroom. Although I tried to encourage everyone to make mistakes and refresh the page in case things went really wrong, some students were a bit hesitant with making changes to the website.

I’m also thinking about doing something else with the students in the future if there are enough resources and time. Perhaps something related to game development, robotics or AR/VR would probably be pretty cool to show off.

If you have organized career days about IT yourself and have ideas to share, then please do reach out to me, I’d be happy to hear about your ideas and experiences!