Welcome to the Virtual Workshops
What is a Virtual Workshop?
It's a phrase that I blatantly stole from my ex-colleague at QMUC 'Uncle' George McMurdo (I have no idea where he 'acquired' it ;-). To summarise, many people on the Net have developed learning materials that were designed to replicate practical learning activities that were traditionally taught in a workshop environment. These are sometimes called, and certainly by me, virtual workshops.
What do you cover in your Virtual Workshops?
The virtual workshops have a definite theme of producing web based databases. Currently these are organised around the technologies although I'm developing an overall 'lesson plan' that will take a novice all the way through several technologies and introduces some theory as well.
There are also a few Excel workshops which are the start of a 'Practical Office' series that will look at the basics of the MS Office packages.... if I have time to write them.
Why did you start the Virtual Workshops?
There were two reasons:-
When I learn something new I usually teach myself using web-based materials, however quite often these materials are aimed at programmers (or people of similar experience) and when I recommended these materials to novice developers they found things hard to follow. Equally, some of the 'novice' books and materials aren't particularly helpful, often concentrating on a specific end product rather than explaining what is going on. Thus I decided to write the VWs in a way that echoes my own learning style - to jump in and actually do, but adding enough explanation along the way that makes understanding easier for the novice.
Secondly, after I had begun to lecture at QMUC and was using some of these materials, the motivation for producing them changed from hobby to work (although I was still writing in my own time) and a focus to meet the needs of the modules I was teaching.
So are you an expert then?
I certainly have expertise, but i feel that expert is an overused word and that there are those more 'expert' than I, who are actually developing the software that I use.... so can I just call myself a 'highly proficient'. That said I would call myself an expert at explaining these technologies to a novice and bridging the gap between expert and novice. I deliberately simplify explanations of the techologies that I use (often with the omission of 'stricter' best programming practices)... BUT the aim (as hinted at above) is to get people doing and learning - the correct time to introduce ideas of best practice is once the concepts have been understood. So I tend to introduce things that work easily, explain them and build it up from there, rather than explaining everything beforehand. That said I can turn my hand to most 'computery' things and thus have an unhealthy (for my career anyway) breadth of skills.
Are you finished with the Virtual Workshops?
No, I genuinely enjoy developing these as, if nothing else, they make me stop and think about the technologies I use day to day. If you have a comment, suggestion or question please email me as feedback will help me make the VWs better.
Update August 2004: Actually not had much time to write new VWs in a while due to work and life pressures. Will leave the existing ones here until I find more time to write again.
So, for the moment, I'll shut up and let you get on with actually using them.