I became a certified Carpentries Instructor! | Macarena Quiroga

I became a certified Carpentries Instructor!

The Carpentries is an organization focused on teaching programming and data management skills. It has three main branches: Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry and Library Carpentry; each branch has its own community of instructors, trainers, maintainers, helpers, and more. I met The Carpentries through Metadocencia, an argentinian community that was created when the pandemic forced teachers to teach online. Although I haven’t taken any of their courses (yet), I follow them closely, because it seems to me that they have an approach that is very close to mine. And, in truth, I got to know The Carpentries because at some point I got bitten by the bug of wanting to get certified in Tidyverse: since they are no longer giving the training course (who knows why), they suggest looking at the options of The Carpentries… and well, the rest is already obvious. I’m still looking forward to moving forward with that certification, but it clearly involves a lot more study (and money).

So what’s up with The Carpentries certification?

Well, what can I say. It was an intense but beautiful experience. In this case there were four meetings of four hours, distributed in two weeks; then, a week after the last class, we had the checkout meeting, which would be the set of activities required for certification. The training is not based on the content of the different tools, but on the teaching methodology, that is, on the didactics of teaching programming. There is a lot of emphasis on live-coding, on reflection on the cognitive processes (especially attention) of the people who are listening to the class, and the impact that our different ways of interacting can have. Already for the second class we were asked to give a mini-class, called a demo, with some element of The Carpentries lessons that we can explain in three minutes. We received a feedback from our colleagues and from that we gave it again during the following meeting.

The checkout, the closest thing to a final exam, consisted of three parts: a five-minute demo, a contribution to one of The Carpentries’ lessons, and participation in a talk-debate. The demo was semi-free: we had to choose a lesson from The Carpentries, but at checkout we were told which episode (that is, which part of the lesson) we should teach. In my case, I chose an R lesson for social scientists, which presented a very global panorama of R, its main elements and basic tools to clean, organize and graph data; the episode that touched me was about the types of objects that can be created. Then, the contribution to the lessons aimed at us making a pull request to the repository of the lessons with some improvement on the content or the form of the classes; in my case, I identified that at the beginning of the episode on basic elements, it teaches how to include comments in the code, but it does not specify what commenting is for, so I added a sentence that had the objective of convincing people that commenting code is a useful and necessary practice. Finally, the talk-debate in our case was with the same group with which we were doing the checkout, and it was about The Carpentries, about the activities and ways to participate.

When I started the course, I must say that I was surprised by the fact that the certification was not based on the technical handling of the tools; From some comments and questions, I understand that the same thing happened to several people. But the answer was clear: The Carpentries aims to democratize access to technology by improving teaching tools, for which what they certify is the ability to transmit information in an accessible way. Then, each person will choose which area they think they can teach. The Carpentries lessons are aimed at a beginner audience, which is why none of them work on very advanced content. And I definitely think that this proposal helped me identify with the project, since the impostor syndrome is always lurking.

This was the first step of what I hope will be a good path in the world of programming. Any questions you have about The Carpentries or its certification, do not hesitate to contact me.

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Macarena Quiroga
Macarena Quiroga
Linguist/PhD student

I research language acquisition. I’m looking to deepen my knowledge of statistis and data science with R/Rstudio. If you like what I do, you can buy me a coffee from Argentina, or a kofi from other countries. Suscribe to my blog here.