NodeSchool Atlanta 1

This past Tuesday we had the first NodeSchool workshop - Atlanta chapter of 2015. During the workshop, I help people with programming questions almost non-stop for 2 hours. By the end I was exausted, but in a good way - like after playing a three-set tennis match. In this post I'll recount

  1. how the event was put together
  2. how it went, and
  3. what to improve for next time

Time Of Day

I chose to do this in the middle of the day, from 2pm-4pm. I did this mostly due to personal reasons - I have children and associated responsibilities, therefore I am keeping night outings to a minimum. I realized that this would make it difficult for some people to come - I do plan to do something at night in the future, just not on a regular basis. This is a test to see if I can get a good turn out during daytime.

Class Size

I have done workshops before, and 20 is an upper limit if you want to give students good one-on-one support when they are stuck. I didn't have any mentors helping me. I could have tried harder to ask for help, but I didn't because partly of dreading the coordination I'd have to do, and partly because I have devised a scheme which allows/encourages students to help each other, which - if it works, and that's a big if - would obviate the need for additional help.

So, I aimed for 20 students. I got a speakeasy room at Atlanta Tech Village with exactly that capacity. Then, I created an event on (our group is Atlanta JavaScript), where I capped the RSVPs to 38. Why 38? From experience, with free events done via, in Atlanta, the actual turn out rate has pretty reliably been 50% of the RSVP count. Therefore, if I am aiming for 20 students, the reasonably thing to do is to cap it at 40. Then I subtracted 2 as a safety cushion - because after all, I have a venue with a capacity of 20. The RSVP's maxed out in 2 days! So yes, people will come during the day.

The Setup Videos

Having been to many NodeSchool workshops at NodeConf and I know that setting up is often a huge drain of time. If every student had install the required software beforehand, how much better would the workshops go?

So I made screencasts instructing the students to install Node, the workshopper of their choice, and a text editor. There is

I emailed links to these to the members who RSVP'ed to the event 4 days prior to it.


I had a couple of tricks up my sleeve:

These strategies were devised to help me in case I got flooded with requests for help. If there were more than a few posted notes put up, I would enlist the help of a student who is ahead of the others. If the someone in need has a high flag count, I can prioritise him/her lower because they're already doing good in terms of confidence and remaining lessons vs remaining time.

The Event Page

Check out the event page. I allow the students a choice between the javascripting workshop and the learnyounode workshop.

Day Of

I got there half an hour early to get set up. A few students showed up early too, enough time to chat a bit about learning to code and code bootcamps. I am happy to report that an early survey showed that 5 out of 6 students came prepared with the software already installed, Yes!

I wrote up the WIFI settings and instructions on my laptop, which was connected to two large displays. In retrospect I should have put them up on the whiteboard because when I left my laptop it quickly went to sleep.

Some students did follow my instructions and shout "yes!" when they solved one of the lessons - that's a really natural thing to do so all I had to do was give them permission. This lifted the mood in the room. I could see the flags being put up one by one as they complete the lessons. Some of them did really well!

I jumped from student to student almost non-stop, but I was never really overloaded. The students were pretty good about helping each other out, and I didn't have to tell them to. Some of the more experienced ones took charge and lead the inexperienced ones next to them.

Software Hiccups

Software installation wise, we did pretty well. However, we did have some issues nevertheless:

I didn't take time to debug these issues further because I felt helping the students with code was a better use of my time at the moment.

Issues With Workshopper

Here are some issues we experienced with the workshoppers, specifically "javascripting" and "learnyounode".

High Points

At the end of the workshop, some students exclaimed more than once how amazing this workshop was to them. They had tried to learn on their own using various materials with incremental success at best, but this workshop was clearly a turning point for them. I attribute this to the act of doing over reading. Also, having mentors to help you is very important as well. Thanks to Substack, Max Ogden, Mikeal Rogers, Rod Vagg, and other contributors who made NodeSchool a thing!


For the next workshop, here are the things I would like to do better:

blog comments powered by Disqus