[hackerspaces] How To Teach a Hackerspace Class?

Lisha Sterling lishevita at gmail.com
Thu Nov 15 14:58:53 CET 2012

I just want to clarify about my comments about the 3 advanced Python users
at the Intro to Python class... Had they been helping the newbie learn,
that would have been awesome. The reason that one class went so badly was
because they sort of took over the class and turned it into a masterclass
for themselves, leaving the one person who showed up for the class as
listed completely in the lurch.

I have had wonderful situations in classes, workshops and lectures where
some of the attendees were more advanced than the material being delivered,
and those people were helpful and supportive of the learning of the other
attendees. When that happens it's great.

Also, in respect of the pay issue, I make a portion of my living by
teaching these classes. I do expect students to help each other, and I do
expect to sometimes be completely out-shined by an attendee who knows more
than I do on a subject. The first is the case always, no matter where I am
teaching. The second is simply part of the culture of hackerspaces. The
classroom teachers and professors that I respect most in more traditional
settings are all about student collaboration and facilitating opportunities
for students to learn from each other. I don't believe that this is a lack
of professionalism, but rather the height of it.

- Lisha

On Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 1:46 PM, Lisha Sterling <lishevita at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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
> --
> http://www.alwayssababa.com/

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