Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson

Years ago, I lost my temper while arguing with my brother, and said, "Jeff, I could teach you everything I know and you'd still be an idiot." Please keep that in mind as you read this site.

Co-founder of Software Carpentry
Editor and author of books on computing and teaching
(and for children)
Ph.D. in Computer Science
Parent, spouse, and proud Canadian

Twelve Weeks, Twelve Tools

Mar 21, 2019

Suppose you have a group of junior developers who have built moderately complicated web applications using Express and React, but don’t really understand how their tools work. Suppose further that they want to learn, both because they’re curious and because it would help improve their software design skills. Finally, suppose they have six hours a week for twelve weeks in which to build simplified versions of a set of basic tools. What would you have them build? My list would be:

Educational Paramedics

Mar 20, 2019

Garrett Grolemund and I just wrapped up a couple of days of instructor training for RStudio staff, and one of the things I learned from participants’ questions is how little I still know about teaching outside a classroom of some kind. Many of them are in customer support roles where they teach in short, intensive bursts (typically 10 minutes to half an hour). Their audience may have very specific questions or may need general background information to build a better mental model of what their problem is and how to solve it. To complicate matters further, their audience will also often include a wide spread of abilities: it’s common to have novices, competent practitioners, and experts in the audience at the same time.

Christchurch and Shopify

Mar 15, 2019

Man I can’t honestly tell if it’s just transference because I don’t know what to do with my anger and pain about it, but it sure does fucking suck that every alt-right influence the Christchurch shooter cites makes money via Shopify.

Johnathan Nightingale

Leadership Training for Open Science

Mar 15, 2019


We propose a three-day workshop to give people in open science the practical skills needed to get their universities and companies to change for the better.

Keep Me In Your Heart for a While

Mar 14, 2019

Shadows are fallin’ and I’m runnin’ out of breath
Keep me in your heart for a while
If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for a while

Reviewing Lessons

Mar 12, 2019

I had a great discussion yesterday with Garrett Grolemund about reviewing slides for lessons. We’re teaching a class together next week, and while I’m happy waving my arms and telling stories, he likes to put lots of meaningful graphics in front of learners, just like cognitive science tells us to.

The Tool I Want

Mar 10, 2019

We talk about “programming” as if there was just one kind, but in the past three months I have:

Learning to Program

Mar 7, 2019

A colleague recently pointed me at The Immutable Laws of Brainjo, which explains how to master a musical instrument more efficiently based on the neuroscience of learning. As I was working my through it, I realized that while I know a fair bit about how to teach programming, I know far less about how to learn to program. A quick flip through recent conference proceedings confirmed that most research is done from the instructor’s point of view; there’s very little about the equivalent of effective practice strategies. I know about The Learning Scientists (whose book and six-part handouts I highly recommend), but that’s not programming-specific. If anyone knows of research on what learners can do to improve their programming skills more quickly and more reliably, or better yet to programming-specific summaries of such research, I’d be grateful for pointers: you can leave comments on this post or reach me by email.

Things I Didn't Tweet This Month

Feb 28, 2019

Making It Work in Practice

Feb 25, 2019

From 2011 to 2016, Jorge Aranda and I tried to get software engineering researchers and practitioners to talk to one another by writing reviews of papers written by the former that we thought would be of interest to the latter. The site, called It Will Never Work in Theory, never attracted much of a following: at peak we had a couple of hundred readers, but only a handful ever left comments, and the community contributions we hoped for never materialized.