Now a Certified Data/Software Carpentry Trainer

A few weeks ago, just before the start of the Spring semester here, I attended a "train the trainers" session of Software Carpentry held on the beautiful campus of the University of California, Davis (#t3davis). The training session was led by Greg Wilson, the head of Software Carpentry, which advocates for proper computational techniques and using educational psychology to teach them. The trainers are all volunteers, and there was a nice group there. Software Carpentry focuses primarily on teaching good computational skills to scientists. It was a great experience, and I learned quite a lot about pedagogy that is applicable to many different domains. There was a lot of videotaping of teaching and some great discussions about lesson design. I haven't done much work on pedagogy outside of language teaching so it was quite useful for me. I am teaching a Digital Humanities Seminar (the topic of my next blog post?) so it is quite relevant to what I am doing right now.

I attended a session of Software Carpentry at Michigan State University a few years ago and found it quite useful. The greatest thing I learned, from my friend Tracy K. Teal, a microbial biologist and current director of Data Carpentry, is what is called tab completion—a way to complete a command on the command line by hitting the tab key. I wish I had known that years before.

From my perspective, there is a huge amount overlap in what scientists and humanists like myself need in terms of computational training, and Software Carpentry and the new Data Carpentry workshops are a great way to teach a lot very quickly.

We are going to be hosting a simultaneous Data Carpentry and Software Carpentry session at/after the HASTAC 2015 conference held at my university, Michigan State. (It's apparently pronounced 'hay stack' and stands for Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory.) The conference will run from May 27–29, 2015, and the workshop will be on May 29 and 30 (Saturday and Sunday, until 3pm). There are a number of humanists and librarians, in particular, who have gotten involved with Software/Data Carpentry projects, so we should have a great group of volunteers running those bootcamps. We are still finalizing the trainers. I will volunteer there, too.

There is some work that needs to be done to tweak the content of the Data/Software Carpentry lessons for humanists, but there is not too much to do.

I have also been thinking about trying to teach my current DH students a little bit of Javascript, which is the language used in most web programming and, as I learned at the Davis session, can even run a full-fledged server in four lines of code using the MEAN stack. (Insane!) I haven't tried that out yet. Since the goal of Software Carpentry, which uses the languages Python and R, is to teach proper programming technique, there is no reason some of the lessons can't be adjusted to use Javascript, too. It's useful for DH people as there are quite a number of neat mapping and visualization tools that work primarily through Javascript. It's also everywhere and difficult to avoid, even if you want to.


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