Every time we conduct a workshop in some college, we try to improve our method of delivering. We started years ago by taking our own computers and trying to show things with them. With time it improved to they providing us some computers and we try to show with them. Things further changed that we have laptops and they just need to provide power supply, projector and other logistics, and indeed audience. With improving facilities we tried to improve the method, making it more interactive from what was once running through boring slides. Still we need to have a minimal presentation with slide for the basic introduction. What all can be shown interactively do not have slides.
When we were invited to conduct a workshop on GNU/Linux and FOSS by VLB Janakiammal College of Engg and Technology, we decided to introspect on our methods a bit and likewise prepare. We learnt from earlier experiences that doing is better than viewing. Second, having general topics first and deciding on specific topics during time of delivery depending upon the situation will also be better. Our last workshop wasn’t very much satisfactory as we were provided with a small projector while the hall was longer and had around 250 students packed, most of them would have been just sleeping all the day.
When we landed there we were told that we will be having only students from MCA and hence a very limited audience. Its better to talk to MCAs than BEs because  they already have completed 3 years of college education and hence are more molded,  they do not have the mind set that they are BEs and know things more than others do, and  MCAs know they have to do something extra to keep them competitive with their BE counterparts. We were also surprised that most of them had knowledge of Unix and their labs were running FC4 in dual-OS mode.
Hence we decided to try a new method, though it might reduce the total time available. We were more interested in making them understand and enjoy what we were to show them for the 2 days than the volume of knowledge we were to deliver. What we did was, after every topic we covered we called one or two volunteers from the audience and asked them to have an hands on experience. Thus, students actually tried out installing, using the desktop, networking, using Glade and QT Designer, database with PostgreSQL and some perl and python scripting as well. Though the first volunteer was hard to get, once he was able to do things the other were looking for an opportunity to try their hands as well. We got a very good feedback from the students as well as the faculty. They are actually looking back to do more things like workshops on specific topics, covering more depth in each one as well as even a faculty training program for all interested faculties.
We have decided to follow the same in our future workshops as we have found this experimentation to be really successful. In addition we will try to find where we might have done better and correct it out in our next endeavor. At last, landed on an occasion to feel contented for all the efforts we have been taking for the past couple of years. Got to carry the same spirit forward and enlighten more minds 🙂
Photos are already in my Flickr, do not forget to check them 🙂