Step 1 – Project Briefing
It’s best to start from the very beginning – give the young people background information about the project, and outline what is expected of them. For example: What are the aims of the project? What activities are needed to get these desired results? What will the young people’s roles be within the project?
Step 2 – Underlying Skills (if required)
It’s likely that data arts projects will also require transferable personal skills, such as communication, research and community engagement. It may be necessary to hold some early workshops to ensure that the young people are confident in these areas, to ensure that their later work is grounded in good practice.
For example: the young people are working on a project that aims to get local people physically active; they will use community generated data from a recent survey on health and fitness to create data visualisations. You could start with a workshop about community engagement: ask them to consider why it is important and how they might go about it.
Step 3 – Art Workshops
Now the young people know why the project is happening, and how to go about achieving their aims, you can move on to skills development in artistic disciplines. In most cases this will be more familiar to the young person than starting with something technical like coding or geotagging.
For example: the young people have been asked to make a map of the local area and tag the locations of all the benches. They will go on to make this into a mobile phone app. Eventually the team will be using geotagging—embedding photographs they take around the area into a digital map using geo-coordinates. By starting with a creative workshop in photography you ensure the young people feel confident with a camera before they start. This can be followed up with a workshop on geotagging, so they can learn how to embed their photos onto a digital map. Organising things in this order, if possible, means that the young people have the best chance of creating high quality work.
Step 4 – Code
Irrespective of the scale of your data project, it is likely you will need to work with an experienced web developer or coder who can facilitate several workshops with the young people to train them.
However there are places where the young people can go to make a start for themselves. Code Academy is a free online learning tool where the young people can easily pick up the basics unassisted.
WORKSHOP TOP TIPS:
It can be challenging to deliver projects on time if you are working with a team of young people who have no experience of data projects. It may even be their first experience of working to deadlines. It’s important to give yourself more time than you think you need: always overestimate! Impose strict deadlines from the start with the team of young people and be firm with them.
- Time to Practice
If possible, give the young people time to practice their new skills outside of the workshop, especially if some time is going to pass between the time of the workshop and the time for the knowledge to be applied.
- Distribute talents evenly
If there are enough young people to be split into groups, make sure to split their talents evenly. Forming groups and then realising that one group has only artists will cause problems later on. Try to have one artist and one coder per group.
When giving young people a workshop, make sure that they are taught consistently. Having three different facilitators teaching three different coding methods may get confusing and you may end up with an inconsistent project.