On the Flipside

Today was the first day of PyCon 2009 tutorials. And for the first time, me and two of my teammates were on the other side of a tutorial.

In 2007, at PyCon in Dallas, I attended Titus and Grig‘s tutorial on functional testing in Python. In 2008 at PyCon in Chicago, Pam and Kevin attended Titus and Grig’s tutorial again on functional testing. And that brings us up to now, 2009, but this time Titus and Grig weren’t giving the tutorial … we were.

In short – it was really great – and I hope our audience enjoyed and learned as much as we did. Quite interested in seeing the feedback when it gets processed. I think we were lucky to have a small class of 16 people that were really interested in our subject and it really helped that the attendees weren’t shy about participating.

A couple of things that I learned that are worth noting:

1. Don’t Trust the Wireless: Last year, I heard a couple of horror stories about how the wireless network was kind of flaky and really derailed some tutorials. So our strategy going in was “Don’t trust the wireless.” What’s funny is that the wireless was flawless. However, I think our strategy worked out since even if it did konk out we had a fallback.

2. Don’t Format CD-ROM’s For Macs: We didn’t have handouts, but we did create a pretty deep site that contained a lot of content, examples, code and even source packages in the case the wireless was wonky. However, the discs we did end up burning were formatted for Macs … so the Linux and Windows guys were scratching their heads. Luckily, one attendee, Martin had a couple of USB drives to pass around and copy the data to people’s machines. Thanks again, Martin.

3. Be Flexible and Go Where the Audience Wants To Go: There were many times during the tutorial where I wanted to be sure that everyone understood the concepts we were talking about, so I asked. And more often than not, the audience would ask questions, want to see it demoed, want to see how we code, walk line-by-line through examples, talk more in detail about some things that we breezed over and talk about ‘real-world’ cases where these concepts can be applied. It was really great and I don’t want to leave anyone out, but thanks Yannick, David, Thomas, Walker, Mike, Curt, Martin and Perry for slowing us down and redirecting us to the places YOU wanted to go.

4. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare and then Prepare Some More: Kumar and Feihong gave a tutorial last year and I talked to them about what they learned and how to get ready. After pulling together the proposal and outline back in October, it’s been a long slog transforming that into a 3 hour curriculum.

5. Having Three People Helps: Really it broke down where I was doing the talking, Pam was running the machine and demo’ing code and Kevin was really a killer color commentator. We had worked out all the roles beforehand and I think it played out really nicely.

I’ve never “taught” anything before, so the process, preparation and delivery were really quite eye-opening. Maybe we’ll do it again next year, maybe not. In either case, I had a lot of fun. At some point in the not too distant future, I’ll upload the code to our site into a public repo on Bitbucket … for now it’s hanging out here if you want to take a look.

Comments 5

  1. csh wrote:

    Nice work Terry. I’m impressed at how much effort you put in and glad everything worked out well. “Teaching” is tough but can be really rewarding if you do the preparation and get a good group of “students.” Sounds like you did/had both!

    Posted 26 Mar 2009 at 8:31 am
  2. terryp wrote:

    C – Absolutely we had both which was awesome. I think the prep work gives me a much better appreciation for the kind of work that educators do.

    Posted 26 Mar 2009 at 8:34 am
  3. Mike wrote:

    Congrats Peppers, sounds like a success!

    Posted 26 Mar 2009 at 9:03 am
  4. Dr. T_Bone wrote:

    I think you taught young Tomas very well. I always knew you had it in you!!

    Congrats Bro, when you have the time, we’ll celebrate proper-like.

    Posted 26 Mar 2009 at 10:51 pm
  5. von wrote:


    Posted 27 Mar 2009 at 8:22 am