This weekend just gone by saw myself, Rory, De Wet, and 15 fantastic students gather at the offices of Praekelt for another RailsBridge. Our first RailsBridge was in July 2013, and we’ve run a total of 10 workshops so far (8 of those have were open to the public, plus one for GirlHype and one for Hesrchel school). That’s around 150 students that have come learnt Ruby in Rails with our Intro to Rails course. Wow!
I recently(ish) read Sharon Bowman’s Training From The Back Of The Room and I’m kinda hooked on it. It presents a strongly interactive, learner-led, way of doing things. I tried to make some small changes to the RailsBridge experience based on the ideas in the book.
- a warm-up exercise, emailed a week before the workshop. We asked “What are three facts you already know about programming? What do you plan to do with what you learn?”
- a Friday night exercise as the students came in the door. There were two tables with the question “What does a developer look like?” on. Students grabbed sticky notes and pens and wrote some answers down. On a separate table were lots of cards with questions: each question required a google search to find the answer (which was a developer somewhere in the world). Students were encouraged to compare their answers to the person they had found on the internet. (The answer may surprise you)
- a Saturday morning exercise giving feedback on the InstallFest. Students wrote down one good thing, one bad thing, and one thing they would change. They wrote one point, switched cards with someone, and wrote the next one.
We also did our usual closing survey, asking students for the best thing, the worst thing, and one thing we could do differently for the workshop.
One thing that came up was that students (understandably) sometimes feel confused. Sometimes about their location in the course, sometimes about the technical terms being thrown around, and sometimes about why the steps they’re doing are important. Our plan to help fix this is to make the Glossary and Command Line Glossary more visible, and to give students a way-finding activity to help them keep track of their progress through the course.
Students said that the teachers helpful, patient, and knowledgable. Well done, De Wet and Rory! They also said that the environment was non-intimidating, interactive, and welcoming. We try really hard to make that the case, so it’s great to hear that people feel that way.
Several students reported nothing as bad things. We will take that, thank you! \o/
Some students said that the course was too short, and that they would have liked a wider range of levels of course. We need to do a better job of running more than just our Intro course.
A few students talked about more days or follow up sessions. We’re trying to keep to running our weekend workshops every three months, and we’re looking at running an evening session more frequently.
Thanks for reading. Hope to see you at the next RailsBridge! :) Keep an eye on our meetup group for details.