Warren Code recently forwarded this post by David Wiley, a serial innovator in open education and educational reform. In it, he recapitulates the history of "learning objects" and the paradox at the core of the idea of remixing and reusing teaching material. Since Software Carpentry is (sort of) trying to do exactly that, I think everyone who's currently teaching for us or helping us meet our first publication deadline should look it over....read more
We have spent a lot of time thinking about how to assess the impact that Software Carpentry is having. We've done some small studies and collected a few testimonials, but it's been small potatoes compared to the 5000 people we taught last year alone.
After some back and forth with a colleague whose work I have admired for years, though, I realize that I've been trying to do this the wrong way. My training as an engineer taught me that only controlled, quantitative experiments were "real" science—that as Ernest Rutherford said, it's either physics or stamp collecting. I now understand that there are other rigorous ways to generate actionable insights, some of which are better suited to our needs than something like randomized control trials. More than that, I finally understand what one of my first teachers told me:
Teaching only works well when the teacher is also learning.
We just finished* a workshop at the American Astronomical Society. I was lucky to recruit 3 instructors (in addition to myself) - Matt Davis, Erik Bray, and Phil Rosenfield. We also had Pauline Barmby volunteer as a helper (and on the fly instructor). While I wrote this blog post, you will see comments inserted by the instructors....read more
We wrote about the digital skills classes at the British Library last October. We were therefore very pleased to see that James Baker, a Software Sustainability Institute Fellow, is piloting a new program called Library Carpentry. The first run will take place in November 2015 at the Centre for Information Science at City University London; the program will consist of four three-hour sessions, each for 40-50 participants. The announcement has more details, including a call for participants and another for volunteers. Please check them out, and lend a hand if you can....read more
Back in October, we explained why we don't teach testing in Software Carpentry workshops. In response, Ian Hawke has put together a really nice series of articles about how he would test a small numerical program. It's great content, and it also shows yet again how Jupyter (formerly the IPython Notebook) is changing the way scientists create and share ideas....read more
If you could access thousands or even millions of hours of computing, how would it transform your research? What discoveries might you make?
Each year the NSF-funded Open Science Grid (OSG) selects a group of 25-30 students to attend the OSG User School, a week-long dive into high-throughput computing approaches, technologies, and skills, within a larger context of computational research design that students can take into their future careers as researchers. Students across the country from nearly any research discipline are invited to apply, and selected applicants will obtain direct access to the OSG beyond the duration of the school....read more
Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) are one of the building blocks of academic bibliography systems. It's now possible to get a DOI for a GitHub repository (or more accurately, for the state of a GitHub repository at a particular point in time). We are going to use this to publish a citable version of our core lessons....read more
Worried about the rising tide of retractions, Nature Biotechnology recently announced that, "Its peer reviewers will now be asked to assess the availability of documentation and algorithms used in computational analyses, not just the description of the work. The journal is also exploring whether peer reviewers can test complex code..." That's a welcome step in theory, but I worry about how it will play out in practice. Scientists already complain about how much time they spend reviewing papers: reviewing code as well will take even more time, particularly if:...read more
The mentorship team held our latest round of post-workshop debriefing sessions for instructors who taught recently. Instructors from workshops at Clemson University, University of Miami, University of Melbourne, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Harvard School of Public Health, and Weill Cornell Medical College joined us for our discussions, as well as a few new instructors who will be teaching in coming weeks. Here's a recap of common themes and highlights:...read more