Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Instructor Training in South Africa

Thanks a lot of hard work from Anelda van der Walt and the support from the North-West University, University of Cape Town and Talarify we were able to run the first face-to-face instructor training in South Africa. We trained 23 new instructors from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. The event was a great success and we are looking forward to expansion on Software and Data Carpentry workshops South Africa and other African countries.

Anelda has been developing Software and Data Carpentry in South Africa for a while now and her efforts led to this first face-to-face Instructor Training. We started off on Sunday, 17th April . evening with a short ice-breaking session of lightning talks during which the participants talked about “The coolest thing about their job” for 2 minutes. Everyone had something interesting to say. What was even more impressive, nobody ran over time, which is not the usual case.

On Monday we introduced the participants to the Mozilla Science Lab Study Groups. The goal of this session was to create foundations for collaborative, peer-to-peer environments in which researchers can share their knowledge and skills. All participants, split into groups of 4, came up with possible topics for their study groups. Then they discussed who they would like to see attending these sessions.

South Africa Instructor Training (Photo: Wille du Plessis)

After lunch on Monday we started off with the Instructor Training curriculum. Since the participants already had a chance to meet each other during the previous sessions, they felt very comfortable working on the interactive exercises, giving each other feedback and discussing the task outcomes. One of the most memorable moments was the conversation we had about the motivation and demotivation in educational setting. Many attendees openly shared their experiences from their school or study years. We also discussed students’ approaches to learning and the difficulties faced by the teachers who need to deal with demotivated and discouraged learners.

The organisation was absolutely perfect. We were hosted by the North-West University where we had not only a nice venue allowing us to run interactive sessions but we also had very comfortable accommodation at the Sports Village.

We closed the workshop on Wednesday lunchtime. During the last session, the participants practiced their demo teaching lessons. Then we discussed the next steps needed to complete become certified instructors. Everyone is very keen to become certified and run workshops at their home institutions. It would be fantastic to see the existing Software and Data Carpentry community provide mentorship and guidance support to these newly trained instructors. Many of them will be the first ones advocating for this type of training in their institutions. It will require persistence and they will need help from those of us who already have the experience in organising and teaching at workshops. So if you can and want help, please step in and fill in this form. Thank you!

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