Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Reverse engineering a workshop

I've been working on writing a technical workshop. I've not done it before, and I couldn't find any good, simple guidelines for creating such a thing.

Having asked a few people who've delivered workshops in the past, the advice I got was very generic and more about the workshops they've proctored rather than how to structure one or put one together.

So, rather than make it up, I started by trying to reverse engineer what good workshops do.

I want the workshop to be fully self-paced and self-guided. If it can be used in group or "instructor-led" scenarios, that'll be good, too, but I don't have any plans (yet) for this.

From looking at many workshops I've completed and thinking back to those I've participated in in the past, I was struck by how many take the approach of showing a completed project and then simply listing the steps to create it. I find this approach to often be disappointing.
Yes, as a participant, I get the satisfaction of having created something but it's not something new or necessarily specific to my needs. More importantly, the reasons for each individual step weren't explained, and the reason for taking an approach when others are available (or even what the other approaches are) wasn't given. This means that I don't get the wider knowledge I likely need to be successful. Is the intention that in completing a workshop, you have the knowledge to go and build other things and the confidence to do so, having done it once before? It probably should be. 

What I find many workshops end up doing (intentionally or otherwise) is providing a series of steps to recreate a piece of software and assuming that's enough for the participants to then go off and successfully create anything else.

Yes, saying, "Anyone can follow our workshop and create X", is great. But that's not the same as a workshop that teaches reusable skills and provides the knowledge needed to go and create your own software.

I want to create a workshop as a way of teaching skills and introducing a different way of thinking about a topic.

Aside: what's the difference between a workshop and a tutorial? I think it's that workshops are longer. Possibly a workshop is made up of a series of tutorials.

After initially struggling, I eventually concluded that a workshop is like teaching anything else. With clear learning goals and a structure, it's a lot easier to plan and create.

In this way, writing the workshop was a lot like writing a book. Only without an editor chasing me for progress ;)

More thoughts on this topic another day. Maybe.
Although, it has got me thinking about what I'll write next...

If you're interested in how my efforts turned out, you can see the results of them here.


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