In our series of guest posts by #GCDRB participants, Dr. Lavelle Porter shares his experiences as a faculty member at our inaugural Digital Research Bootcamp. Lavelle is a graduate of the Ph.D. Program in English at the CUNY Graduate Center, and an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.
For four consecutive days in January, I participated in the Graduate Center’s Digital Research Bootcamp (#GCDRB), a week of intensive workshops on coding and data management for academic researchers at various levels in their careers. Workshop members included new graduate students, Ph.D. candidates, junior faculty and senior faculty.
For myself, as an Assistant Professor of English at City Tech, I was interested in learning more about the nuts and bolts of coding, in order to improve my pedagogy when teaching writing to students who are majoring in technical fields, and I wanted to get some ideas for building digital projects with my students.
There were varied levels of proficiency and varied interests represented in the room. Some were researchers who were already working with data and had advanced experience with programming. Others, like myself, came with more limited knowledge of programming languages. The Digital Research Bootcamp was the perfect place to be introduced to some of these concepts, such as the basics of command line and Python, HTML functions, and working with GitHub.
On the fourth day, as we made introductions about our research interests, I found myself networking with other scholars whose work overlaps with mine, including others who work on higher education, literature and African-American studies. There were students and professors there from a wide range of disciplines including literature, art history, theater, biology, history, sociology, the philosophy of science, and others.
It was immersive, it was intensive, it moved fast, but that’s what a bootcamp is supposed to be. It seemed to be designed to give us just a bit more than we can handle, but that was an opportunity to push ourselves and find out how much we could do. I left the workshop with new knowledge and new resources to further my digital education.
And that education will always be an open-ended process. As GC Professor Matt Gold told us near the end of the workshop, (I’m paraphrasing), you will never truly understand how to code the way you want to. Some of the most important skills you learn come from the community around you.
Over the course of those four days, working together and making plenty of mistakes, we learned some specific languages and codes, but we were also reminded that the most important components of digital education are Participation and Collaboration, and we experienced plenty of both during our time together.