2016 Post-Workshop Instructor Debriefing, Round 02

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

On January 26, we ran the 2nd round of Post-Workshop Instructor Debriefing Sessions. Rayna and Christina hosted the morning debriefings while Bill and Raniere hosted the evening debriefing. A topic of interest today was on installations. Read on for details.

Thoughts on the “check installation” scripts

There is in an ongoing discussion about whether or not the “check installation” scripts for workshop pages should be updated. So, we asked the attendees how often these were being using and how useful they were. Some comments we received were:

  1. only a handful of students use them before coming to the workshop
  2. instructors/helpers use them when diagnosing install problems on site
  3. some cleaning of the script would be useful to remove checks for outdated and/or irrelevant tools

If you want to contribute to your two cents, the you can submit an issue here.

Thoughts on dealing with installation problems

We know that poor planning, sub-par wifi, lack of admin privileges, improper installs, power outages, and a bunch of other things can give rise to installation problems for a learner.

A number of groups in Australia have used a cloud-based service for providing learners with homogeneous running environments; this solution has performed well a number of times, but is subject to server and network outages as was the case in the Brisbane workshop discussed in the evening session.

So, what do you do when this happens? One idea is to have a handful of USB sticks with all the files needed for quick transfer. This has its own issues but is a good plan B. Maneesha Sane and Kate Hertweck are working on a list of things that should be on this.

What worked well

  1. The Oklahoma group is developing a Git that they are very happy with. Check it out here.
  2. The Boston group gave a 10 minute session on implicit bias and stereotype threat that went over really well. Multiple said they were glad it was included. See this link for details of the session or check out these two blogs.
  3. Learners really love the Data Carpentry Spreadsheets Lesson. The lesson is still under development and has room for improvement, but it is helping people make the transition from using Excel to using the command line in their research
  4. The City University of New York group found learners were much more motivated after taking time to explore a narrative explanation of realistic tool usage.
  5. Waterloo found that reaching out to students on a number of new mailing lists dramatically helped attendance.

What could have gone better

  1. The University of Boston group need to cap the number of University of Boston students admitted to allow seats for non-University of Boston attendees, but this was tricky to do within Eventbrite.
  2. The University of Washington group taught two concurrent workshops, with a R-centric group in one room and a Python-centric group in the other. Managing a single waitlist for both on Eventbrite was not smooth. Maneesha is looking into solutions for this.
  3. The University of Washington instructors taught Bash and Git in the mornings, think its best to teach this in the morning. But, the learning didn’t like having their 6 hour R or 6 hour Python lesson split up in two. What do y’all think? What’s the best order for teaching?


We are grateful to the instructors who attended the debriefing sessions this round. By taking the time to share their experience and listen to the experiences of others, they are truly making the Software and Data Carpentry community even more awesome!

Morning attendees:

  • Ariel Rokem
  • Arthur Endsley
  • Christina Koch
  • John Moreau
  • Keith Ma
  • Mark Laufersweiler
  • Matt Aiello-Lammens
  • Sarah Clayton
  • Sarah Stevens

Evening attendees:

  • Ivana Kajic
  • Jennifer Shelton
  • Pawel Pomorski
  • Sean Aubin

Dialogue & Discussion

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