Liz Douglass

Being a trainer at the JAMS 2012 Workshop

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At the end of March I had the pleasure of being one of 5 trainers at the JAMS 2012 Workshop at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The workshop was run by ThoughtWorks in partnership with the Grameen Foundation, with further sponsorship from Yo and SMS Media

Most of the 50 workshop participants were second or third year students from the university. For many of them their only prior experience with Java was from a single semester subject. Before we arrived we thought that the ratio of 50 participants to only 5 trainers was going to be quite challenging. We needn’t have worried though because all the participants were very patient and very switched on. 

The curriculum of the workshop was a combination of agile business analysis, project management and, for the majority of it, hands on developer skill training. As part of the course we ran quite a few of the object boot camp exercises. These exercises, put together by ThoughtWorkers several years back, are often used for internal training. They aim to reinforce the principles of object orientation and introduce some design techniques and patterns. The bootcamp was run in Java, as is often the case. 

Despite never having heard of JUnit and not being clear on language essentials like constructors and equals methods, the participants really impressed us with how they applied themselves. The bootcamp exercises intentionally give participants bandwidth to try things out for themselves and discover what works and what doesn’t. Group discussion is used to drive out the learning points and as instructors we look for code smells like YAGNI. Interestingly with the JAMs group we rarely found that we needed raise the same point twice – even where we expected to. Writing unit tests first and implementing value objects are just two examples of concepts that the students picked up immediately and just started using.

In the last 2 days of the workshop we worked on a web application with the group. The app uses the Java Play framework. It’s called MakVibes and it’s intended help Makerere students track what’s happening on campus. The idea for the app came from one of the workshop participants – Alex. It’s already deployed on Heroku and it’ll be extended in the monthly code jams that are currently being planned. The jams will also involve the attendees working on some code kata problems as well as tech talks. There is a lot of fantastic enthusiasm in Kampala for this kind of ongoing learning as well as a desire to increase the use of technology in business. Uganda is an exciting place to be!

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Written by lizdouglass

April 22, 2012 at 11:30 am

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