Pair-programming-ish learning model and Code With Me Miami thoughts

First, this post is incredibly tardy, yet I am going to publish it anyway. This Lab-hosted event was just too cool! Two weekends ago, Feb 2-3, Knight Lab hosted a Code With Me workshop at the University of Miami's School of Communication.

This was the second of the two-day introductory web-making workshop for journalists offered by co-founders and Medill School alumns Tom Giratikanon and Sisi Wei. The first one was hosted by NPR in D.C. last August. In designing this little project of theirs, the co-founders placed a high premium and focus on the value of mentorship when learning programming, and this workshop is effective.

Taking their cues from the agile software development technique pair programming, in which two programmers work together at one workstation to promote knowledge-sharing, Code With Me developed a web-making basics workshop that pairs one mentor to two students. As a workshop specifically intended for journalists without coding experience, students learn HTML, CSS and Javascript by playing games, laughing, being entertained, and writing code. The co-founders want to not only teach the basics of code, but also give students necessary skills and confidence to keep going on their own as well as introduce them to a community of support.

While all of the presentations and exercises developed for this workshop are crafted with care and intention, the "paper code" exercise is one of particular brilliance. The students assemble 3"x5" cards with HTML and CSS on them into the proper order, in order to solidify the lessons from the prior day's instruction. What I love most about this exercise is that despite it being hard, the students work in teams and begin to solve the puzzle together, thus reinforcing one of the core lessons in this workshop: none of us learned how to make the web in a vacuum.

The Knight Lab was proud to sponsor this workshop, helping to bring training to a community of journalists in South Florida, an area that desperately needed the support. There are strong networks of training and support in regions like New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago, but they do not really exist in areas like Miami. We are so grateful to the University of Miami's School of Communication for lending us their classrooms and to all of the volunteer mentors who gave up their weekend. We hope to see more workshops planned in the future, for other communities like this one.

About the author

Miranda Mulligan

Executive Director, 2012-2014

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