Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

My Favourite Tool - Videoconferencing

My favorite tool: Videoconferencing

I know most of the blog posts so far in this series have been about the tools people use to enable them to conduct research. However, I feel quite strongly that the video conference systems that allow me to speak to other people have had the most profound impact on my development as a researcher and educator over the past three years.

Google Hangouts was the tool of choice for the Software Carpentry Mentoring Subcommittee when we started hosting post-workshop debriefing sessions in 2015. These virtual meetings gave instructors around the globe the opportunity to share their challenges and successes from recent workshops. Even though the discussion focus was on teaching, I always learned something new about the tools we teach - R, Python, SQL, UNIX, and Git/GitHub - through these discussions.

BlueJeans was the tool of choice for monthly meetings when I joined the Software Carpentry Steering Committee in 2016. As the most junior person on the Steering Committee, I felt that it was a great privilege to be a part of a global group of people trying to make the world a better place through best practices for computing and teaching. It wasn’t always easy to pick a time of day that accommodated the timezones of all committee members, but we made it work.

Finally, Zoom has given me the capacity to spread Carpentry teaching practices to Latin America without leaving the comfort of my living room! Okay, of course, I would prefer to actually travel to teach in person, but that isn’t always logistically or economically feasible. Additionally, I’ve been hosting bi-lingual teaching demo sessions where these instructors can practise teaching with live coding in their native language. It is a beautiful thing to listen to someone teach Python, R, UNIX, Git, or UNIX while speaking in a foreign language.

In summary, those are just a few of the reasons why my favorite tools are video conferencing systems that connect me to like-minded people around the globe so that I can learn more about technology or practices that I can use in my research and teaching.

– Rayna Harris, Scientist & Educator / Graduate Student / Behavioral Neuroscience and Genomics, Austin TX

Have you got a favourite tool you would like to tell us about? Please use this form to add a bit of detail and we will do the rest. You can read the background to these posts here, or see what other tools people have written about.


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