Level Up Training for Diversity/Growth

When I launched this site, I made a giant list of all the great things we could do to grow the community, and others suggested even more great things. I hope we get to all of them (I understand the impatience), but have found that trying to focus on rolling out one thing at a time helps get things launched and set to the point that someone else can take over. I focused first on the meetups.com integration, and now am passing the torch to Aaron Jorbin. Now I’m focusing on starting a training program to increase women’s participation in the contributor community.

We’re going to be creating a series of training workshops over the next next year aimed at helping people level up: from new user to advanced user, from advanced user to troubleshooter, from troubleshooter to theme modifier, to plugin author, etc. These workshops will be targeted specifically on teaching immediately useful skills, how to think about [topic x in WordPress], building confidence, and where to go next. Anyone who completes the workshop should be able to increase their professional range (and rates?), and will be primed to become a contributor to WordPress, in one or more of the contributor groups.

We’re starting with a focus on women for these in-person events, but will expand to other underrepresented groups, and the training material will also be posted for free online for anyone to use, and we’ll be encouraging meetup groups to run trainings with these vetted curricula as well.

So what’s the plan? Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Each training will have a specific topic and a specific audience, aimed at leveling them up. If our first workshop is Troubleshooting, our target audience will be women who are savvy enough with WordPress to manage sites, possibly fiddle with html/css, and not afraid of a challenge, but who lack the technical know-how to figure out why a site is broken. By the end of the workshop, they should have skills to troubleshoot a handful of common problems, be comfortable with tools like debug bar, firebug, etc, and have the confidence to ask questions without feeling like an idiot. Also, be able to start answering questions in the forum.
  • Each workshop will be over a weekend, with a Friday night installfest (a la railsbridge), a full day workshop on Saturday (with breaks), and a wrap-up on Sunday morning that is part feedback session, part graduation, part brunch or coffee before people head home. The Saturday portion will be broken into 2-hour segments, which could be taught independently in a series (like once a week through a meetup group etc) if desired.
  • Each two hour segment should have these components.
    1. Initial intro to topic/short orientation lecture.
    2. Guided walkthrough of the problem, q&a.
    3. Break into groups and solve 2-3 additional examples of same issue. Teachers provide help and answer questions in the groups as needed. After each example, make sure everyone has been successful. If a group has not, use their work as a walkthrough to show where they went off track and how to get back on/solve the problem.
    4. Everyone does one last one on their own (test).
    5. Final discussion of topic, lingering questions.
    This format will mean we need to set up some test sites with broken things in advance so that everyone has the same problems to solve in an environment where we have control/full access.
  • The first one will be in DC, with the 2nd in San Francisco. Talking to a few people currently about donating space in DC (though if you have any leads, send ‘em my way), and Automattic has offered its new office space for the one in SF. Other locations will be decided after we’ve run these two pilots. In all locations, we’ll use local women as teachers/teaching assistants whenever possible, to help grow the local community. We should plan to have 2 ringers (such as trusted contributors in whose knowledge of the topics we’re confident) in each teaching group, regardless of location.
  • If space works out, would like the DC workshop to be the weekend of March 1st, and for the SF one to be sometime shortly after sxsw.
  • Once a draft curriculum is agreed on, we’ll do a dry run workshop virtually with a couple of people in our target audience to find weak points/confusing things/etc.
  • All teaching materials will be available online afterward. Later, we can potentially spruce up courseware and create online courses people can take, vs just having the teaching material online, but that’s a ways off.
  • We’re not going to use the name WordSchool, as has been bandied around in the past. We’re going to call the series Learn WordPress, so this one would be Learn WordPress: Troubleshooting. This will tie in well with building out the site at learn.wordpress.org (we’ll need a designer who wants to dig into this).
  • In an ideal world we would already have handbooks for all our Learn topics, but we don’t. We should just barrel ahead and make classes, and we can sync up with handbooks (and they can borrow from training materials) as they’re created.

The brain trust working on the troubleshooting curriculum is Christine Rondeau, Mika Epstein, Andrea Rennick, Amy Hendrix, and Kailey Lampert. Curriculum effort lives on make/support.

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Yes, I know we need a new page on make.wordpress.org, and better docs, and a lot of things. We’ll get there. Please keep comments on this post relevant to the topic of the training program. Thanks!