[hackerspaces] How To Teach a Hackerspace Class?

Will Bradley bradley.will at gmail.com
Sun Dec 9 21:23:04 CET 2012

Chris' mill class was great, by the way. I taught a second class a few
weeks after his first one, and I have to agree that going over the basics,
then giving each student ample hands-on while connecting the dots and
filling in info is a great way to do it.

In larger situations like soldering classes, we tend to have one teacher
and a number of helpers, perhaps one per 2-5 students, to assist with
individual questions and deal with issues like broken equipment or letting
the teacher know to slow down / speed up. A small briefing of helpers
beforehand tends to be all that's required.

Side note, we use guestlistapp for our class registration and Google
calendar for all scheduling. We have a draft wiki article on how to run
workshops too: http://wiki.heatsynclabs.org/wiki/Workshop_Policy It's not
great (too formal for my taste), but it outlines the basic idea. I prefer
checklists and tutorials to policies.

Does anyone have software that lets instructors schedule, announce, and
manage their own classes? We want to reduce volunteer involvement in
paperwork and increase the regularity of classes.
On Nov 15, 2012 12:12 PM, "christopher lopez" <coyoinu at gmail.com> wrote:

> hey guys,
> i'm from 23b shop in Fullerton, CA.  while i'm out in Phoenix for work
> training, i've made some time to visit HeatSync Labs, and taught a class on
> the manual milling machine.  the hope is to bootstrap the community there
> to be more willing and able to use their machine equipment, to work up to
> being competent on their new CNC mill.
> teaching is a learned skill, just as much as the skill one is trying to
> teach.  it's one thing to say you have a personal understanding of a skill,
> however, it's an entirely different thing to say that you can explain a
> skill to someone new, in a dynamic way, who probably doesn't think like you
> do.
> a lot of what hackerspaces do is artistic, rather than scholastic.  you
> can only learn so much about coding, machining, welding out of a book, but
> you'll never be an expert with only theoretical knowledge.  i had a guy
> tell me he "theoretically" knew how to operate my bridgeport, and
> subsequently mounted a tapered shank into a straight collet.  it was a
> small mistake, hardly noticable unless you had an intimate knowledge of
> the machine.  the only reason i noticed is that the drawbar looked unusual.
> mistakes happen, and they're an incredibly essential component to the
> learning process.  Scrap parts, burn holes through metal, and write buggy
> code, because hopefully the next time you do it, you'll scrap them better.
> you can't expect to be a great welder after reading a book.  while it does
> help, lacking the practical, physical experience will always be a barrier
> to true skillfulness.  it helps to have someone show you the basics and
> turn you loose, rather than giving boring, endless instruction without any
> physical interaction with the equipment.
> my teaching style felt very improvised last night, and it generally HAS
> to.  when you are trying to teach a skill to a group of people, you can
> generally expect a wide margin of experience in any particular subject, so
> a dynamic, flexible teaching style shows that you are adaptable and
> knowledgeable.  when i taught dirt bike skills years ago, i generally
> limited my class size to 4 students.  being a very physical skill, limiting
> the size seemed best so we could spend most of the time practicing, getting
> a sense for your body's kinematics and sensing the feedback coming through
> the bike.  the milling class last night had 6 students, so everyone was
> able to get their hands on the machine, so they could each
> individually feel the collets clamping, the tool cutting, etc.  things will
> inevitably turn out wrong, you might lead someone down a dead end by
> accident, all you have to do is make it look like you were supposed to do
> that, show some nice scenery or an important point, then quickly change
> direction rather than being distracted because of struggles on a specific
> concept or direction.
> i constantly find myself surrounded by a bunch of paper engineers who have
> no practical shop experience.  while these guys are highly intelligent,
> they lack the physical component of their education, which is essential for
> my line of work (i program CAM software).  i'm on the other side of the
> spectrum - no degree, just a little shop time and diverse experience, which
> goes a long way when interfacing with these machines.  it's my niche, but i
> suppose that also makes me some kind of "expert" as well.
> On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 10:31 AM, Doug Philips <doug at hackpittsburgh.org>wrote:
>> On 11/14/12 12:08 PM, Michael Zeltner wrote:
>>> Excerpts from Jerry Isdale's message of 2012-11-14 09:32:52 +0100:
>>>> Hackerspaces quite often have classes, right?
>>> I'd say sharing not only infrastructure but also educating each other is
>>> one of
>>> the pillars of interaction at spaces ...
>> Agreed. This year at HackPittsburgh we'll have done 12 classes (we were
>> shooting for one/month, and by end of year we'll have averaged that). Three
>> of the classes haven't happened yet, but are advertised and up for ticket
>> sales so they will be happening.
>>  sometimes these are for members only, but many spaces teach public
>>>> classes as
>>>> a revenue stream (and to build community).
>> All of our classes are open to anyone who can satisfy the prerequisites.
>> We charge to cover cost of materials (and food, if provided) and a little
>> bit more; members get a discount so they're paying for cost of materials
>> only.
>>  Just to put it out there as well: there are spaces which have a no-charge
>>> policy. Whatever happens at Metalab is free, including "renting" a room
>>> for
>>> the meeting, whatever that may be for (Esperanto class, soldering
>>> workshop,
>>> counter-lobbying organisation meeting ...)
>> We also open our space for outside groups to meet, so long as they are
>> free and open to the public. For insurance reasons they're restricted to
>> use of tables, chairs, internet; no tool use that might cause injury (saws,
>> soldering irons, etc). Given that our due structure is inexpensive and that
>> we don't have \sugar daddies, we're not in a position to offer free classes
>> where there are materials expenses.
>> We also, sans holidays, have a free and open to the public event every
>> Friday night. The event is designed, like our classes, to get folks in to
>> see our space and our community, and also to educate members and
>> non-members alike. Often our events are put on by members, but other times,
>> they're put on by outside folks. We don't pay for these events, and if they
>> have materials costs (not usually), we pass the hat or some members will
>> chip in before hand.
>>  How have you prepared for teaching a class?
>>>> Have you tried teaching when you were only a bit more advanced than the
>>>> students?
>> We don't have any formal process for vetting teachers, and usually
>> members are hesitant to step up and volunteer unless they're pretty versed
>> in what they're teaching, so that hasn't been much of an issue. It's been
>> more the case of convincing them that they do know enough to teach.
>> Hope this helps!
>>     -=Doug
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