I talked about teaching laser cutter design classes and the struggles of getting a general slice of the public to do a series of tasks on their individual computers. I wrote that I "Encouraged people to spy on their neighbors to make sure we're all on the same step, since we've all got to get there together. This didn't work like I hoped. It basically didn't work at all."
Anyway I wanted to publicly thank randomdreams for this comment:
I suspect that unless you somehow enforce people checking on their neighbors, like only giving every other person a computer and having them share, you're not going to get that at all because it's inherently a space violation.
Giving every other person a computer would force them to work together as "partners"... hmmm. So it gave me an idea. At the next class, I still gave everyone a computer but told them they had to be arranged in pairs, two laptops together. No rows of three in the classroom... only rows of two or four. And now you have a partner. Meet your partner. Say hi to your partner.
Guess what? It worked out AWESOME!
For some reason, telling people to check on their left and right neighbor had no effect, but telling people they had a partner was radically different. They worked together through the steps. Some partner pairs took off on their own, but together they were less likely to miss stuff, which was happening a lot when people individually took off on their own. There was a significant reduction in me getting called over for individual help and an significant reduction in anyone falling 12 steps behind and not saying anything.
I'm not sure I totally understand the psychology of it but it was such a good class I'm now thinking I can increase the size and reduce our backlog of people wanting to take it and I'm really thrilled. YAY!