[Texas] [python-advocacy] [dfwPython] brainstorming new ways to teach Python 101

Brad Allen bradallen137 at gmail.com
Mon Aug 16 02:54:25 CEST 2010

After having a discussion with a friend who ran a university tutoring
center, I'm convinced that an coordinated tutoring approach is worth a
try for PyTexas. Let's call it the "Python Teach-In", unless anyone
has a better name. The benefits include:

* Beginners experience an engaged and helpful Python community
* Beginners can be routed to tutorials relevant to their individual
skill level and interests
* Beginners can seek help in specific areas of need
* Tutors can help beginners get setup for the Python Koans lab
exercises later in the day
* "Breaking the Ice" -- Forming social connection between beginners
and veterans early in the day will break the ice for the "hallway
track" and the RackSpace party in the evening
* One-on-one tutoring is generally more effective than a lecture
format, and I'm convinced that the result will create a lot of
interest in Python at local universities.
* Tutors who understand a subject well will find that they understand
it better after tutoring
* Tutoring greatly enhances your ability to communicate what you understand.
* Tutoring volunteers experience the satisfaction of helping make
PyTexas a success, and of building the local Python community.

Of course, this effort requires a lot of volunteer tutors and a few
volunteer tutorial coordinators. I won't ask them to do a lot of
advance preparation, especially with only two weeks notice. Instead,
let's put together a plan which will allow tutors to rely upon their
existing knowledge and set an expectation that tutors are merely
designated knowledgeable individuals with a willingness to help.

Here's the plan I have in mind:

* During the next two weeks, we'll select a repertoire of suggested
tutorials, including the Python Koans. As the tutorial selection
develops, we'll setup a wiki page to create links to the content. Any
tutor volunteer will be free to add a favorite tutorial to the list.
* The day before PyTexas, I'll burn a handful of CDs containing the
tutorial content, to be given to tutorial coordinators. The plan for
distibution will be to copy the content to flash drives and pass them
around. There will also be an easily type-able download link.
* Tutor volunteer preparion can be minimal; they will mainly draw upon
their existing knowledge and briefly familiarize themselves with the
content of one or more of the suggested tutorials. On the wiki they
will register their name as a tutor volunteer, expected arrival time,
and summarize any areas of special interest or expertise.
* At the registration desk, attendees will be asked if they are
beginners, tutors, or neither.  Tutors will be given a badge with a
distinctive color, and directed to the see the tutorial coordinators.
Beginners will also be given a distinctive badge color, and be asked
to go to the tutorial room and start getting setup. If they don't have
a laptop, Baylor students will be told they can check one out at the
* At least one tutorial coordinators will handle receiving beginners
into the tutorial room and interviewing them about what kind of
tutorial they need.
* Outside the tutorial room, a different tutorial coordinator will
initially meet with tutors briefly discuss which tutorials or subject
areas each tutor has the experience.
* As new beginners and tutors arrive, the coordinators will move back
and forth between areas handling introductions and assisting in
getting people situated in the right places.
* The tutorial coordinators will attempt to arrange one-on-one
tutoring as much as possible, but will keep tabs on what is happening
and may be able to adjust if several students all want the same basic
* The main tutorial room will probably be the large 70 seat room; that
should ensure everyone is mostly in the same place at by 11am for the
main part of the conference to be kicked off. However, we need to do
some analysis on this; other rooms may be better suited for
rearranging desks along the walls into a formation which better
encourages collaboration.
* By 11am, most tutors will be released from tutoring, while a few
hardy tutors remain to help students as they progress on additional
lab exercises over the next hour or two. Some tutors may find the
experience of tutoring so rewarding and interesting that they have
more than enough energy to carry on additional tutoring through the
day. Of course, they'll get a break as the various beginner talks
start up.

Now that this is forming into a specific plan, we can take this
discussion back to the main PyTexas mailing list into a new topic
thread to facilitate the details of this effort and round up
volunteers. Anyone outside the Texas region interested in following
the progress of this effort should stay tuned to the PyCon blog, where
we'll occasionally post status updates. And of course, those of you in
Texas not signed up to the PyTexas list...should register here:


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