Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Feedback from UC Berkeley

We just finished up our UC Berkeley bootcamp with me, Katy Huff, and Justin Kitzes teaching. Here's the feedback:

Good Bad
first day good with no programming experience couldn't run the VM on underpowered computer
good general intro to basics of Python and VC don't see why Python is better than R
liked the intro/advanced Python split would like a longer bootcamp with more focus on Python
good git introduction didn't want to learn Python
IPython notebook helped me learn would like to give anonymous feedback
got to see real software engineering didn't catch some important details that held things up
good coverage of Python + software engineering have better setup instructions, test scripts
wanted to learn Python Python instruction was too slow/basic
liked simple examples got left behind sometimes
IPython/shell interaction awesome not sure how to integrate git into workflow, have practical demos, case studies
good job squeezing a lot of content in hard to type/listen/watch all at once
introduced scientific Python would be nice to have a data cleaning example, workflow example
liked the showcase demos of matplotlib/IPython features could have sped up introductory topics
combination of topics was good have more content summaries, workflow visualizations
liked intro Python exercises reading suggestions to follow up bootcamp
understand the basics of version control wanted to see object oriented programming/calling C code

Unfortunately I missed a pre-workshop memo that most of the attendees would be experienced R users and I could have sped up/skipped some of the introductory programming material in favor of more scientific Python. The second day material on version control and software engineering still seemed to hit home, though, so we didn't totally waste their time. In future workshops I'll try to do a better job getting attendee profiles beforehand.

One piece of feedback I was particularly gratified to hear was someone saying that they thought the IPython Notebook was a good pedagogical tool for exactly the reasons Ethan White and I outlined in a previous post. The student enjoyed focusing simply on the language without the distractions of switching between editors and shells.


Dialogue & Discussion

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