By Meryl Brodsky, Moody College of Communication Librarian & School of Information Librarian University of Texas Libraries
I first heard about the Data Carpentries when I attended a meeting of the Midwest Data librarians in 2016. I was surprised to learn that librarians taught what basically sounded like programming. How did this relate to data? Why librarians? Why were there all these requirements to be involved in the training?
The Carpentries is a non-profit organization that teaches computer programming and data science skills to researchers. It started in 1998 with a series of weeklong workshops on Software, and has evolved to also include Data Carpentry and Library Carpentry.
Carpentries workshops are typically two-day workshops led by volunteer instructors who are certified through the organization’s training program. A typical workshop would be an introduction to a programming language such as Python or R. Workshops under the Data Carpentry program focus on subject disciplines, such as life sciences or social sciences.
Because these workshops developed as software programming, they are not your typical library training. All the lessons in The Carpentries curriculum are licensed under Creative Commons licenses which means they are available to all. There is a code of conduct that is inclusive and respectful to all learners. Last, the trainers must complete the instructor training, which includes contributing to the curriculum, teaching, and a stint as a workshop helper, in order to teach.
Lessons are delivered in small chunks in which an instructor demonstrates something (writes a line of code) and shows what it can do and then offers a short assignment to the attendees to practice that function (or chunk). This pattern is repeated throughout the day so that attendees never sit too long without practicing. In no time at all, you can go from being a novice to doing a little coding. In addition to an instructor, the workshops are staffed by helpers (1 or more for every 8 attendees) who can guide those who get lost or stuck. Attendees feel like no person is left behind and that we are learning together. Lessons are reinforced at the end of each section, and are well documented on The Carpentries website .
The Carpentries offer training so that learners can analyze and visualize data, and write code to create more usable datasets. The pilot offered by TCDL is operating as a Train-the-Trainer program, so that we’ll be ready to offer workshops in our own institutions. As a training cohort, we are all participating in learning to be instructors as well as planning future workshops. It’s been fun to be able to develop our skills in these areas, while at the same developing contacts at other Texas institutions. I’ve also been serving on the workshop planning committee and I’ve been working with librarians from Texas A&M, the University of Houston as well as UT- Austin.
I am very grateful to have the opportunity to participate the TCDL pilot. It’s been refreshing to learn about The Carpentries and how they teach. I look forward to sharing this knowledge with the TCDL community.
If you are interested in registering or learning more about The Carpentries workshop at TCDL please click here.