WordPress DC 2017 – HTML, CSS and JavaScript Workshops

wordcampdc

This weekend we had the first ever WordCamp DC.  I have been part of the DC WordPress Community since it’s early days so it felt wonderful to have such a great 3 Day ~500 People Inaugural Event.

On the third day of the event we had 6 workshops running concurrently with Contributor Day:

  1. Beginning WordPress
  2. Beginning Marketing
  3. Beginning Brand/Design
  4. Intro to HTML
  5. Intro to CSS
  6. Intro the JavaScript

The user, marketing and design workshops ran at the same times as the HTML, CSS and JavaScript workshops.  I heard all of the workshops were great, but I wanted to highlight the coding ones since it is a slightly different approach to WordCamp Workshop Tracks I have seen lately that solely focused on JavaScript.

Not Just Teaching JavaScript

This year I have been to a number of camps with JavaScript workshop tracks.  Usually they start with an intro to JavaScript, which I have done, then more advanced workshops on topics like frameworks, the WP API, or new JS features and tools.

WordCamp DC took a more general approach and offered Intro workshops on web design overall, including HTML, CSS and JavaScript.  This has some benefits since many people were able to get a big picture look at the common front-end languages.  The downside is that folks interested in more advanced JavaScript topics did not have a workshop option.

When designing workshop tracks I think it’s important to have a pulse on what your community wants and needs.  This approach worked really well for WordCamp DC, but it might not have been the right choice for all camps.

What I Was Able to Teach About JavaScript in 90 Minutes

You can see the slides and practice files for my workshop here.  The main outline included the following:

  1. JavaScript Language Basics
  2. The DOM
  3. Events

Each section had a few slides and a few practice files.

I am very grateful for Beth Soderberg, one of the camp organizers for TAing my workshop.  With her feedback we went much slower than I would have otherwise.  This was good since most people had very little web design or programming experience.

Even some folks who had taken a few online JS courses shared they learned a lot more about how JavaScript interacts with a page using the DOM.

We were able to work through JavaScript Language Basics and The DOM but did not get through Events or the little project I put together.  So, everyone got homework and I hope a few folks try working through it.

In the future I might leave out a few things in order to make the workshop fit better into 90 minutes.  I have been doing different versions of this workshop for a couple months now and learning a bit more each time about what is essential to include and what is not.

Thoughts on Workshop Lengths

I have written about this a few times, but I want to repeat it here.  Workshops can be a great addition to camps.  However, to have a good workshop it needs to be long enough for people of various abilities to follow along and have enough time to practice as a group and individually.

Sometimes there is not enough time to allow for this, but I do think folks will gain more out of 3-4 hour workshop than a 90 minute one.  Sometimes this means you cannot offer as many workshops or cover as many topics, but it does mean people will leave having absorbed more.

One way around this is rather than trying to teach an actual subject, like HTML, JavaScript or Vue in a single 90 minute workshop, do a live build out of a specific feature or project.  For example, rather than a 90 minute workshop on VueJS and WordPress, a better 90 minute workshop might be How to List Blog Posts with VueJS and WordPress.  You can make clear you’re not teaching all of Vue in 90 minutes, rather showing how it works in action.  As long as you provide enough time for everyone to follow along with coding out the project it can still be a beneficial workshop and you’re more likely to get through everything.

Keep Up the Teaching!

Workshops at WordCamps have been going on long before I started writing about them, but since I am trying to be more involved in teaching JavaScript in person at WordCamps via Workshops, I would like to encourage camps to really think through and plan how they can offer the best workshop offerings at their camps.

Some suggestions I have for WordCamp organizers include:

  1. Poll your community on what it wants to learn about in more depth via workshops
  2. Try to provide 2-4hrs for a single workshop
  3. If you are planning a Workshop Track, make sure workshop leaders discuss with each other how to tie their talks together and not have to reteach the same thing
  4. Have multiple TAs in the audience to help attendees and give feedback to workshop leaders on pacing

I’ll just end again with praise and props to WordCamp DC for coming up with an amazing workshop track.  Everyone I talked to learned something and having workshops on non coding topics was really popular.

 

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