` Step Three

Step Three

a not-so-secret plan for saving the world

Greg in a toque

Greg Wilson

July 2019 CC-BY logo RStudio, Inc.

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 listen to what follows...

This Isn't The Talk I Planned To Give


March 15, 2019

This Isn't The Talk I Planned To Give

Nightingale tweet

Meeting My Jargon Quota

  • I teach end-user programmers

    • Who outnumber professionals 4 to 1

  • I teach free-range learners

    • Who are also the majority
  • I use active teaching in a hybrid setting

    • Live coding, pre-emptive formative assessment, …

    • Video conferencing in the classroom

How Was He Radicalized?

I wish someone would teach scientists…

1998: …how to program

2011: …how to teach

2019: …how to fix what's broken

Carpentries logo

"We teach foundational coding and data science skills to researchers worldwide."

Carpentries map

2000 certified instructors


2012 381378
2013 933212


Teach researchers how to use GitHub for version control

So store the lessons there

1100 people made contributions to 36 lessons for the June 2019 release

A partial solution to the Reusability Paradox?



Still Some Work To Do

Lesson #1

Those who radiate are not representative

Dark Matter

Scott Hanselman: Dark Matter Developers

Lesson #1

Those who research aren't representative either

Denny, Becker, Craig, Wilson, & Banaszkiewicz: "Research This! Questions that Computing Educators Most Want Computing Education Researchers to Answer", ICER'19.

  1. Have people propose questions they want computing education researchers to answer.

  2. Have a larger pool of people rank those questions.

No question places in the top 10 for both researchers and non-researchers.

Lesson #2

The future (of teaching) is already here…

Book: How Learning Works Book: Small Teaching Book: Teaching What You Don't Know

…it's just not evenly distributed

Lesson #3

We have enough answers

Unlikely there's an unknown 2X improvement

Focus now should be on adoption, not discovery

Lesson #4

Academia does not value good teaching

How many permanent lecturers
have ever been chairs of departments
at major universities?

How many researchers
have ever been denied tenure
because of poor teaching?

Lesson #4

As for the tech industry…

Cartoon of the blind leading the blind

Lesson #5

Most people would rather fail than change

Magazine cover claiming global warming is a myth

(and scientists are people too)

Lesson #6


Unix shell

Git / GitHub

Python or R



…And Switch

automating tasks

tracking and sharing


structured data


Lesson #6

Bait and Switch

  • learner personas
  • formative assessment
  • cognitive load
  • novice, competent, and expert
  • motivation
  • allyship
  • classroom techniques
  • teaching as a performance art

CC-BY logo


CC-BY logo

Lesson #7

It takes a commons

Governing the Commons Think Like a Commoner

Lesson #7

It takes a commons

Something managed jointly by a community according to rules they themselves have evolved and adopted.


Innovation happens in the margins

Lesson #8

Institutions only change in three ways

  1. People see the light

  2. People feel the fire

  3. Your vote counts

1. People See the Light

"Of course they'll listen—we're right."

Sow today, reap tomorrow

It's hard to tell "In the long run"
from "I don't want to make a fuss."

2. People Feel the Fire

"Because I said so"

(Very) slow progress on reproducible research

Even less on adoption of better teaching methods

We can't count on the powerful to see the light

2. People Feel the Fire

Women in CS

I no longer believe my generation will fix this

3. Your Vote Counts

"If you don't have a vote, you're not negotiating:
you're begging."

"We don't need allies in government:
we need to be in government."

"Comrades! We must seize the means of promotion!"

Lesson #9

We are not the first to try to change the world

Building Powerful Community Organizations Fearless Change

Lesson #9

We are not the first to try to change the world

1928:Supreme Court decides that my grandmother isn't a person
1942:My mother's Nisei friends are interned
1963:My favorite pianist is denied service at restaurants in Toronto
1981:Police raid bath houses in Toronto

A Modest Proposal

Learning is our thing

So let's learn how to do this

A Modest Proposal

Six half-day workshops over three days

Strategies for institutional changeRising
Grassroots community organizationBrown
Marketing and communicationKuchner
Leadership and managementNightingale
Personal digital securityOkuda


We can train 60 people for less than $70,000

Why It Will Work

It already has

Fosters alliances with like-minded communities

Helps participants meet their immediate goals

Why It Has To

Heather Heyer

Heather Heyer

May 29, 1985 – August 12, 2017


Thank you




Mike Caulfield: Choral Explanations

  • How many of your colleagues have ever run for their local school board?