Reflections on a workshop

At the start of last week, I ran an API Workshop for Brighton Java. It was a fun event, and people enjoyed it. But nothing is ever perfect, and I wanted to note some potential improvements.

The workshop had been designed as being freeform. As outlined in the previous post, I wanted to provide people a space where they could play with ideas. Everyone made some progress towards an idea, but future sessions could be much more engaging. The main changes to make are:

  • There need to be a series of wins at different levels. The first stage would be getting the basic example working, then perhaps amending that, and then converting the code for new functionality. Obviously, not all attendees will manage all of this, but everyone should come out of the workshop having achieved something.
  • While I had provided a working example and asked people to bring along a laptop and IDE, not everyone found it straightforward to get this example working . Java is never going to achiece the ‘write once, run everywhere‘ nirvana that Sun promised. Some people didn’t have a compatible JDK on their machine; others were more comfortable with Android and wanted to convert the example. One possibility is using VMs as a fallback, but that brings its own issues.
  • A workshop that was already potentially complicated had the additional challenge of picking an idea to work on. I should have prepared a set of possible examples, which people be inspired by, or even reproduce.

Running an effective workshop in a couple of hours is challenging, which is why good faciliators are in-demand and highly paid (and why it takes years of training to become a teacher). But I’m very excited about what I could achieve with some more preparation on the points above. It’s definitely a session I’d like to run again.