A little while ago, we held our fifth RailsBridge Cape Town workshop. Thinking about it after the fact, perhaps we should have made more a party of it: one year of RailsBridge workshops done, hopefully many more to come!
This workshop was at the very snazzy digs of iXperience Cape Town. Thank you Aaron and Alexis and gang for letting us use your space!
The InstallFest was the usual blur of activity, but Saturday calmed down a bit and the students rocked through the Intro to Rails course.
Improvements from the April workshop
We want to keep making each RailsBridge event better than the last. Here are some of the things that we’ve changed, based on feedback from the April workshop.
- Added another lightning talk. Rory reprised his “Why Software Development” talk, and we added Ben to the roster, with a talk about how Ruby on Rails is used to build really cool things.
- Collected feedback during the day, rather than at the end of a day in a retrospective. We still struggled a bit with this without having a dedicated person to organise it. We’re going to try and make sure we have a friendly ScrumMaster on hand for the next one.
- Made the survey more informal, and were more vocal about it. It’s mentioned in the docs again, and we talked about it at the start and end of the day. We had more responses than last time, but hopefully we can get even more for the next one.
We also experimented with having lunch out of the venue. The food was great, but timing was an issue. Going out as a large group to a venue is always a lengthy affair, and it makes a big break between bits of coding. If we go out for lunch again, we’ll look at a set menu, or at ordering in advance.
As usual, we bugged our students for lots of feedback about the course and the workshop itself, and they gave us lots of great info to help make it better. We ask them to complete a short survey before and after the course, we gather feedback during the day using sticky notes on the walls, and we all make scribbled notes on any surface that looks like we can write on it.
Development tools and tasks
Before and after the course, we asked our students about their familiarity with development-related tools (e.g. database tools, programming languages, developer kits) and with Ruby and Ruby on Rails. Both went up by at least one smiley: that’s great! :D
Best, Worst, Differently
We asked them what the best thing about the workshop was.
- Lots of students mentioned the friendly and helpful teachers. Teachers, you rock!
- People also mentioned how fun the learning was, especially for programming stuff.
- Another theme that came up was the inclusive and friendly environment. This is particularly happy-making: we try really hard to do this, and it’s really good to hear students say that we’re getting it right.
We also asked them what the worst thing about the workshop was.
- Students said that all the new information can be overwhelming, and that the technical terms and language can be confusing. We’re going to have another look at the Glossary, and see how we can improve it.
The last thing we ask is what we could do differently next time.
- We need to encourage closer reading of the documentation and typing the commands out, rather than copying and pasting.
- The “What next?” was also mentioned. This is a bit of sticking point for us, but we’re trying to make it better! Over the past few events, we’ve improved the resources page, and added RailsBridgeBridge events between the main workshops (next one is at the end of the month, come and join us!), but these need to be more obvious and explicit. We’ll look at making links to these things more prominent, and talk more about what routes a student could take to continue learning.
- The differences between local and heroku, specifically about running a web server, were also mentioned. We’re going to add deeper explanations of this to the docs.
Some things the RailsBridge team learned
- The section in the docs on deploying to heroku for first time / every time isn’t clear. We either need to change the formatting a bit, or split these into separate page.
- Shared laptops are difficult. We experienced this at our RailsBridge at the Bandwidth Barn recently, and it came up again here. It looks like a good solution for this is to create a new user account on the computer for RailsBridge, so we’ll be adding this to the docs.
The next one
The next official workshop will be at the end of October. If you want to come back to do one of the other courses in the curriculum, we would love to have you back! Why not bring a friend along and introduce them to the Intro to Rails course? Keep an eye on our meetup group for more details closer to the time.
In the meantime, there’s a RailsBridgeBridge at the end of this month: Saturday 30th August from 11am to 2pm. Come along and ask us more question about Ruby, Rails, and software development!