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Teaching in Yangon

By Ben Marwick / 2015-03-25

On Sat 7 March I spent a full day teaching a Software Carpentry workshop at the University of Yangon with 23 archaeologists from the Department of Archaeology. The workshop is part of a training component of an archaeological research project funded by the Australian Research Council, the University of Washington and the University of Wollongong. The group included graduate students, tutors and lecturers. Archaeology in Myanmar has a strong art history flavour, partly due to its British colonial heritage (where archaeology and art history are often paired, compared to the where US archaeology is usually a sub-field of anthropology) but mostly due to the country's extreme isolation from the rest of the world, where archaeology has taken a scientific turn in recent decades. This isolation takes several forms: travel restrictions that make it difficult for locals to travel overseas, and until recently, for foreigners to visit; small library budgets that make it difficult for university libraries to keep their collections and subscriptions current; and slow and unreliable internet connectivity make browsing the web, watching videos, and downloading files a lengthy, uncertain and frustrating process. All of this meant that the group's familiarity with using computers for research was lower than what might be expected from a Western audience, and so we adapted the SWC materials to accommodate this. We knew we wouldn't get through as much as a typical workshop, but we had the advantage of everyone starting at an equivalent skill level, so the sticky notes all went up and down at much the same time and we had a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere.

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Weekly Update: March 16 - March 22, 2015

By Anelda van der Walt / 2015-03-22

Highlights

Resources

Opportunities

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April 2015 Lab Meeting

By Greg Wilson / 2015-03-20

The next Software Carpentry online lab meeting will take place on Wednesday, April 1 (no, really) at 10:00 and 19:00 Eastern time. (As usual, we will hold the meeting twice to accommodate people in different time zones.) Please sign up on this Etherpad to let us know whether you'll be attending, and if so, and what time. We'll post an agenda next week; if there's anything you'd particularly like to discuss, please let us know.

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Workshop at iPlant

By Uwe Hilgert / 2015-03-17

The iPlant Software Carpentry Workshop in February at the University of Arizona in Tucson was an awesome realization of iPlant's and BIO5's collaborative nature. Bringing together iPlant, BIO5, the UA and Software Carpentry, this workshop served a large group of students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds and a wide array of interests. 53 participants registered within 36 hours of publicizing the workshop. Participant demographics were as follows:

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Weekly Update: March 7 - March 15, 2015

By Anelda van der Walt / 2015-03-17

Conversations

  • Get some fantastic teaching tips from novice and seasoned trainers. Join the conversation by adding your tips.
  • Useful advice is given about what to pack when you teach. Your contributions can potentially help fellow trainers.
  • The Steering Committee has voted to remove SQL from the list of core topics for workshops. Instructors should still teach it if they think it's right for their audience, but they may also now use that time for more programming, testing, or other topics.
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And Now We Are Three

By Greg Wilson / 2015-03-17

The four core topics that every Software Carpentry workshop is supposed to teach are automating tasks using the Unix shell, structured programming in Python, R, or MATLAB, version control using Git or Mercurial, and data management using SQL. In practice, many workshops omit the fourth, either because instructors want to put more time into the first three, or because they don't think SQL is relevant to their learners.

The Steering Committee has therefore voted to take SQL out of the core. This doesn't mean that it can't or shouldn't be taught: it's still useful for many researchers to know, and the best way we've found to introduce key ideas in data management like atomic values, keys, and how to handle missing information. However, if instructors and learners would rather cover something else, they can do so.

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Teaching Tips

By Greg Wilson / 2015-03-15

Last week's post on what's in your bag generated so many useful comments that we'd like to follow it up with another: what tips do you have for new instructors? The ones we've collected so far are listed below; please tell us what else we should tell people who are about to teach for the first time (and what else we should remind experienced instructors about).

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What Do People Want to Learn?

By Tiffany Timbers / 2015-03-15

In the planning phase of organizing a Software Carpentry workshop for my home department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry I started to wonder what participants want to learn. I designed a short survey to answer this question, and from my small department, ~20% (30 people) filled it in. Here's what they said:

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2015 Post-workshop Instructor Debriefing, Round 5

By Sheldon McKay and Rayna Harris / 2015-03-13

At our fifth round of post-workshop debriefing this week, we discussed workshops held at the New York Academy of Sciences, the University of Oslo, and the University of British Columbia. This was a very instructive meeting with important lessons learned from the perspective of both new and veteran instructors. One of the key take-home lessons is that new instructors would benefit from attending an instructor debriefing prior to doing their first workshop.

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What's In Your Bag?

By Greg Wilson / 2015-03-11

What do you have in your knapsack when you travel to teach a workshop? My list is:

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