A look back at JS for Absolute Beginners

Aleks · 07 August 2012

Participants of the OTS JavaScript workshop

OpenTechSchool held its first workshop, JS for Absolute Beginners, on July 21-22. Here is a look at the event from three perspectives: that of a participant, a coach, and an organizer. Thanks to everyone who made this event a giant success!

The participant

Magdalena Mues works for the online marketing agency AKM3. She took this weekend to learn more about the daily work of some of her colleagues and was happy to participate:

“I really enjoyed the workshop. It gave me a valuable insight into programming with JavaScript. I liked the relaxed learning atmosphere between the participants and the coaches. You were never left alone for long when you were having a problem, but could always ask the coaches or other participants for help. I also liked that everyone had brought something and put it on the gift table.

The curriculum of the workshop was written very well and included various programming tasks, spanning many fields of JavaScript. Although the tasks on the first day were a little tricky, each participant (whether with or without help) came up with the right solutions at the end of the day.

Overall, the workshop was a great success for me and I’m looking forward to attending more OpenTechSchool workshops in the future.”

The coach

A few words by Misha Reyzlin, one of the awesome coaches for this event:

“I’ve been thinking about teaching JavaScript for quite a while by now and when this opportunity came up, I joined the team of coaches immediately. I got into programming after one of my friends showed me how exciting it was: he had been programming for a few years at that time and made his living from it. It also turned out that the fear of programming being very complicated is nothing more than just a fear. You can start with simple things and through them reach very complex subjects. This is what I wanted to share with others – this fantastic feeling of being able to command the computer to draw a shape, react to a mouse click, calculate a Fibonacci sequence or anything, really.

We had participants with completely different backgrounds and interests, and, in my opinion, we managed to keep it interesting for most of them, helping when something was not very clear. The process went something like this: students were going through the material with their laptops and coaches were hanging out around the tables looking for puzzled faces. I think this was great, as everyone could find a coach with whom communicating felt most comfortable for them.

I would like to specifically thank Marijn Haverbeke and Tiffany Conroy for taking the time to shape the curriculum. I’d also like to mention our use of github.com – the material for the course was put in the source control and whenever someone had an idea for improvement, or when translations were made (the course material was presented in both English and German), a simple pull request could be made, leaving a place for discussion and easing the work flow for coaches. Hooray for git and github!

All in all, teaching was great experience and I am definitely going to do more of it. Thanks to the organizers (OpenTechSchool), to co.up for hosting this event, to the students for giving us chance to give them a glimpse of the awesomeness that programming is, and to other coaches for making this event a success.”

The organising team member

Benjamin Kampmann oversaw the whole event and looked for lessons to take to others groups and later meetups within OpenTechSchool. Here is what he has to say about it:

“The workshop was amazing. We actually wanted to adopt the RailsGirls way of coaching, where one coach works with a couple of participates in a quiet spot, learning together the whole time, but as we had a bunch of desks in the main area where there was only supposed to be a short introduction, the participants just sat down and opened their laptops, expecting to get started. Since the coaches didn’t even sit down (knowing about the introduction), at some point all the chairs were occupied and the coaches were still standing.

Because of this, we changed to concept on the fly: we all stayed together in the main room. While the participants were going through the curriculum, the coaches walked by and helped where help was needed - you can actually see that look on the participants’ faces. That worked pretty well. This style of coaching can not only accommodate a bigger participant-per-coach ratio and give the coaches some time to chat with each other, but also lets that participants get to know several coaches and find out whose teaching style fits them best. This definitely makes it the most efficient learning experience for the participant. Though born of a mistake, I’ll take this approach to other workshops, too, as it proved to work really well.”

About the Author


is the community manager of Co.Up, the coworking space where it all began. At the OpenTechSchool she helps with organising events and as a magician with words is in charge of copy-editing.

aleks at OpenTechSchool dot org