[hackerspaces] How To Teach a Hackerspace Class?

Lisha Sterling lishevita at gmail.com
Thu Nov 15 14:46:27 CET 2012

While most of the classes I teach are on subjects that I already know quite
well, I have taught some classes where I was just a step ahead of most of
the students in the class. I come to all classes with an attitude that I am
a co-learner, though, so I assume that in any class there is likely to be
some new question or challenge that I haven't dealt with before.

In August I taught a series of classes at Jigsaw Renaissance in Seattle.
The first few classes were from a series that I'd already taught many times
(HTML in one hour, CSS in one hour, Javascript in slightly more than  one
hour). Then, the students in the class asked specifically for a Python
class. Thing is, I had only used Python a few times and am not well versed
in it at all. So, I went off, studied and organized the material in a
logical way, and showed up to class to teach and learn more with the
students. It worked out pretty well while working with the newbies. (The
one day that 3 advanced Python programmers showed up to the class that was
billed as "Intro to Python" was horrific, though. The 3 men played "look
how far I can pee" with code, and the one person who was actually new to
Python mostly sat there with the look of a deer caught in headlights. I
think that if that happened again, I'd send the advanced users off to
another room/area/table to play by themselves and I'd teach the course to
the one newbie who showed up to the class as listed.)

For someone who is just teaching a one off class, I suggest just going at
it in the same way you do when you share your knowledge with a group of
friends. You don't have to be overly precise, you don't have to be mistake
free or have a prepared speech that goes for the full time of the class.
Decide what the goal of the class is, what people should come away knowing
or having accomplished. Figure out the steps to reach that goal, and then
do that with your class. I believe that it's best if you can do something
hands on, and I also think it's best if you can model the activity for the
class. If you make a mistake while you are modeling the activity, that's
great! You've just modeled graceful failure, and that's one of the most
important lessons of all.

For someone who teaches lots of classes (or wants to teach lots of
classes), I recommend developing a style of your own. Spend some time
reading and/or listening to educators you respect talking about how they
run classes. Build up a basic format (or two) for classes and write your
class notes for each new class or workshop based on that.

As an example, I usually teach sysadmin and programming classes with my
computer projected onto a screen and everyone in the class working on their
own laptops. I'll explain something, show examples, and then have students
try it out for themselves while I also do the activity at the same time up
on the screen. Then, if people have questions or ideas about a different
way to do something, they dictate and I try it on the screen so that we can
all discuss the results. Then I teach the next concept, rinse, repeat.

- Lisha

On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 8:32 AM, Jerry Isdale <isdale at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hackerspaces quite often have classes, right?
> sometimes these are for members only, but many spaces teach public classes
> as a revenue stream (and to build community).
> but hackers are generally not teachers and teaching, especially teaching
> the public can be difficult.
> How have you prepared for teaching a class?
> Have you tried teaching when you were only a bit more advanced than the
> students?
> Sometimes this is necessary when starting a space - bootstrapping member
> knowledge!
> Jerry Isdale
> isdale at gmail.com
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss mailing list
> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss

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