Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

2015 Post-Workshop Instructor Debriefing, Round 20

On October 13th, the mentoring subcommittee held the 20th round of debriefing for instructors. At this round, we have a great discussion text editors, workshop organization and challenges for learners.

Adrianna Pińska wrote a great post about the workshop in Johannesburg that you should check out.

Text Editor

Instructors continue reporting installation issues:

  • nano was not installed,
  • Git for old version of OS X and
  • wrong version of Python

for one or two learners per workshop (with 40 learners). Installation clinic sessions at the day before the workshop should reduce the number of issues but will not make your workshop hit zero issue.

Related with the problems in nano, we discussed the use of others text editors (e.g. Atom). The strengths of using other text editor are:

  • graphical,
  • similar with others text editor and work procession they used,
  • more chances to be used in the future,

and the weakness are:

  • instructors offering support to many text editors,
  • distract learners when switching windows.

As usual, we need more data.

Workshop organization

On our discussion about workshop organization was mention that running a self-organize workshop when you aren't a university staff is challenging because obtaining university support can be challenging. If you are having this type of problem you should contact someone from a Python/R user group, free/open source group or hacker/maker space of your city since they can help you and probably will happy to do so. You may also find a broader audience interested in attending the workshop!

Another thing that makes the organization of the first workshop difficult is the lack of history of people that attend similar workshops. In other words, not having a local champion to advertise the need of programming skills makes things a little harder. You should be prepared for a smaller number of students, but this work will hopefully pay off with additional workshops there later!

Instructors also suggested to meet the helpers of the workshop in advance, so they will know what installation issues can happen and common errors that learners made at their first steps. Helpers should also be told ahead of time about the challenges used in the workshop so they can be prepared to help students.

Connecting sections

We discuss that one of the improvements for the next release of our lessons could be connect the sections of each lesson because in some cases they are disconnected. For example, use the same data for different tasks.

We also discuss that connecting different lessons could be positive. For example, finish the shell lesson with learners using cat to join some CSV files into one big file and start the Python/R lesson with learners reading that big file (instead of many CSV).

Thanks

We are grateful to all instructors that attended the debriefing sessions:

  • Adrianna Pinska
  • Anelda van der Walt
  • Blake Joyce
  • Fabian Held
  • Jonathan
  • Leszek Tarkowski
  • Marcin Klimek
  • Marian Schmidt
  • Michael Sarahan
  • Michelle Berry
  • Paula Andrea Martinez
  • Paulina Lach
  • Piotr Banaszkiewicz
  • Ron
  • Sam Hames
  • Sean
  • Tiffany Timbers

DEBRIEFING

Dialogue & Discussion

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