Checking in with New Zealand's Carpentries community post-COVID

On May 26, 25 members of the New Zealand Carpentries community gathered to touch base online. This was the second NZ-focused Carpentries community event of the year (see a recap of our first event here) and was a chance for attendees to get a feel for what their fellow Carpentries community members are up to, especially following the disruption of COVID-19 lockdown in NZ.

After a quick icebreaker where attendees, ironically, shared what ‘they hate about video conferencing’ — a lighthearted nod to the recent boom of online meetings — each attendee introduced themself to the group, sharing what they hoped to get out of the call. Responses ranged from general networking to brainstorming how Carpentries workshops could be embedded into a larger training ecosystem. Once each attendee had a turn to share, Paula Andrea Martinez, an elected member of the Carpentries Executive Council, explained to the group what governance in the Carpentries looks like.

Primed by the intros and insights into Carpentries governance, attendees self-organized into four breakout rooms to dive deeper into topics most relevant to those present. 

Summaries of the the four discussions are recorded below:

  • Discussion 1: Creating a community/chat/page where we know who is doing what, where and when.

  • Discussion 2: Instructor training checkout process, specifically ways for new trainees to improve the Carpentries training material.

    • One member of this group mentioned that fixing up a pull request (PR) that a previous author has abandoned is a great way to contribute to maintenance of the Carpentries GitHub repo: “Fixing up existing PRs is a good way to contribute, and would be a good way to onboard new instructors.”

  • Discussion 3: Making workshops more equitable.

    • At Carpentries workshops, the sticky notes that learners use to flag they have a question are typically red/green. Blue/yellow stickies would be friendlier for colourblind participants. Additionally, there are ways to make online sessions more equitable for hard of hearing participants.

  • Discussion 4: Lessons from moving training online due to COVID-19 lockdown.

    • Dharani Sontam from the Center for eResearch at the University of Auckland noted a clear increase in the uptake of online data management workshops during the lockdown period. Another attendee noted that, as an instructor for an online workshop, it is quite difficult to troubleshoot with a learner when you can’t see their screen. One solution suggested was to copy and paste errors into a shared document / etherpad.

As the Regional Coordinator for The Carpentries in New Zealand, I am so appreciative of community members taking the time to pop in to these calls. I want to continue improving the format so it is a valuable session for all, and so next time I will try starting our call with the breakout sessions so attendees have more time to dig deep into the topics that are most relevant to them.  

Our next Community Call is tentatively scheduled for the end of August, please subscribe to the Carpentries ‘au-nz’ Slack channel if you’d like to know when the next call is confirmed. Also, feel free to contact me anytime if you have questions about The Carpentries in New Zealand, if you'd like to become a Carpentries instructor, or if you'd like to see a Carpentries workshop organised at your institution.