Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

First Workshop in Venezuela

Last November Francisco Palm taught the first ever Software Carpentry workshop in Venezuela, the second country from Latin America to enter in our list of previous workshops. We are very excited with our expansion across Latin America and we hope to add more countries to that list next year.

Learners from the first workshop in Venezuela.

Francisco allowed us to share some of his words about the workshop:

I plan this workshop for a small group because I knew that I will not have a teaching assistant. I spread the info on the social networks and I receive a very fast response from a group of professors from the National Experimental University Simón Rodríguez, Campus Mucuchíes. This is a small campus specialized in Agrotechnology and Tourism.

I had 13 learners the first day, 12 learners the second day, all from the same university. It was a very enthusiastic and collaborative group, and also with a great difference of computational skills between them. I had from lawyers to electronic engineers, they are mostly teachers that want to improve their computational skills for different kinds of research.

Francisco explaining Python.

Mucuchies is a small town at two-hour drive from Mérida, my city, along a mountain road, must of them had to travel this two hours to arrive everyday.

Although I had traveled a week before to Mucuchíes to help them with installation, they had many problems installing the tools, specially due to viruses that interfere applications installation and running. We had to use notepad.exe instead of nano because of lack of Internet connection to install SWC for Windows. Old versions of Windows (XP) give problems with Git Bash.

For all these reasons we lost a lot of time the first day, without an assistant if only one person has problems everybody has to stop. Teaching assistants are a must in Software Carpentry workshops.

Was taught Shell, Python and Git. Shell and Python each one more than a half day, Git half day. Everything just as written in the lessons, we couldn't complete Git, was a rapid tutorial. I found some inconsistencies between the instructions and directory paths in shell lessons, I'll send pull requests directly to the repo.

The experience was great, it was a very nice group, they know each other and were very collaborative. Working with a group of colleges it is fine. We have planned to have an additional session to cover SQL lessons, and to install Linux.

As a final thought, I believe that for people that come from a social sciences context it is better to try an approach not too focused on data, turtle or ipythonblocks sound promising in this cases. People with limited computer skills need a gentler introduction.

In this moment I am planning another workshop for researchers of the Universidad of The Andes for the next year. It's a lot bigger University with Faculties of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, among others.

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