People are coming to my beginning workshop, what now?

Nicholle James

Wednesday 2:20 p.m.–2:50 p.m.
Audience level: Novice


Volunteers often love running introductory programming workshops. This talk covers how to help attendees get the most out of your volunteer time. We’ll look at how to make a tutorial easier for attendees to follow and tips that help students stay relaxed and learn effectively. The talk incorporates what I learned as a student teacher and includes a new source of help in revising newcomer material.


About me

  • I have been learning how to teach math and music for a long time.
  • When doing my student teaching I had to have at least 3 peer reviews on any lesson plans before I was allowed to turn them in. Even though the people reviewing them were the same level as me they all brought up points that I didn’t think about.

Motivation for talk

  • My experience attending a workshop
  • Words like “easy” and “fast” can make the attendee feel inadequate
  • Transition: Here are ways to help prevent this from happening to someone else.

Workshop/Tutorial Writers and Helpers

Break it down more than you think you need to

  • Have no more than 3 steps visible at a time. If an attendee doesn’t need all the steps you have written they can choose to skip them.
  • If it isn’t blatantly obvious where you want them to go have pictures with arrows.

Pair programming

  • This can help lessen the load on helpers

Red/green sticky note (poor man’s clicker)

  • “People ask questions because they need help.”

People may not think to google it.

  • Which of the 500 links that are returned will give the right answer?
  • Why Googling is not the answer for me

Not everyone’s vocabulary is the same

  • Outrageous example of “set”
  • Glossary/Notes - for, while, east, fast
  • Try to find an example to suggest they use

Test it!!

  • Workshops/Tutorials are a product. That means there should be project testing.
  • Boston tutorial examples from Asheesh

Disaster will strike!

  • Suggested backup plans

Conference organizers (Host)

How times has the workshop/tutorial been tested?

  • If the workshop/tutorial has not been tested ask them to test it before you it is delivered. It will improve the quality of the workshop immensely.
  • I will test anything you want done or I have people who can help you find someone else to test it for you.

Set-up slot

  • downloads/programs, web services, etc.

Advice to Attendees

  • No question is stupid or boring. The first question you should ask is has this been tested on someone. Sometimes you may not be asking the right question. Be ok if they need to ask you questions to see if you are asking the right question.
  • Have your own glossary
  • It is ok if you don’t feel comfortable Googling it
  • Please give your feedback, without it we can’t make it better (Boston Exit survey)



  • Testing is essential
  • Attendees will be confused, that is ok!
  • Disaster will strike
  • I will help you!

Buy your conference and tutorial tickets here! Tutorials are $150 per session.