PDXNode presents: nodeschool.io

A great turnout, a few hiccups, lessons learned.



The charge was led by PDXNode. We were fortunate enough to have 10 mentors, many our own PDXNode organizers and others who were fantastic community members willing to step up for mentor roles. We built a plan of attack by doing a little homework.

A huge thanks to everyone who contributed to conversations here for insight on how we could avoid some of the pitfalls of prior workshops and were able to offer an awesome experience to our students. After reading this and recognizing what would suit our strengths, we decided on group sizes of 18 to maximize mentor-to-student ratio. The mentors were asked to familiarize themselves with the workshops being offered in order to be the most help on-site.

We chose to kick-off nodeschool in Portland by offering three workshops concurrently: Learn You The Node.js For Much Win!, async You, and Functional JavaScript. We ran out of space for Learn You Node in a few days’ time. Functional JavaScript(18) and async You had a smaller following at 12. We were super fortunate to have only 3 no-shows from our rsvp list. I wonder now if that was out of how small we kept the ticket offering in the first place.

The attendee breakdown seemed to filter very well for the workshops. All three workshops seemed to attract new-to-node and new programmers alike. We had a 1:6 gender ratio for turnout. I’d like this to be better, but we have to be more cognizant and deliberate in our outreach in order to make that happen.

Quick Left was amazing and immediately responsive in supplying our students with food and drinks to keep them energized through the evening. Urban Airship was kind enough to provide us with a common space and breakout rooms to allow for flexibility in the learning environment. Our sponsors helped provide a really solid first offering.


We kicked off the event at 6pm.

Welcome! Get comfy, grab some pizza, and take a seat. If you don’t already have it, hop on our wifi and get the registered workshop installed on your laptop while we get situated and make friends. If you don’t know how to make that happen, find one of our smiling mentors and we’ll get you set up. This soft install start allowed us to mitigate wifi trouble for a little while. pdxnode-hall We’re all here to learn. We have a code of conduct. It’s mostly, ‘Don’t be a jerk.” My name is Tracy. Find me if you need to talk about anything. The other mentors are happy to help, too.

The mentors lined up, introduced themselves, and then we did the wave. Yup, the wave. It was mostly to shake things out and let the students know we’re a bunch of dorks and there’s absolutely no reason to fear asking questions from us. Keep it silly.

We’re going to be peer learning. When we break off into smaller groups, make sure and say hi to the few people sitting around you. They are probably new to this. They are happy to try and help. Be loud. Ask questions. Raise your hand. Most important, be kind. Even our mentors had hiccups trying these workshops. It isn’t easy!

pdxnode-inroom We moved out to the breakout rooms and the students jumped right in.

From Wraithan, one of our mentors:

Last week I got to participate in the first PDX Nodeschool event. I joined as a mentor and helped out in the Functional Javascript room. It was a lot of fun to teach students the value of using recursion and callbacks over traditional imperative programming. We had students that started as low as not even having node installed but all got at least 4-5 questions through it in about 1.5-2 hours. The session came to a natural close about 15 minutes before we were supposed to clear out. It was a great experience and I can't wait to mentor at another.


The eternal struggle of wifi haunts us at our events. We’ll have to continue to prioritize finding ways to not need wifi as much as possible during events. We were forced to ask students to drop off the network so that others could access it when needed. For future events, we plan on adding a call for thumbdrives donated by a sponsor. We’d love to be able to offer small storage take home drives that just contain the evening’s workshops on them. I had the MDN archived from a wifi-less flight I had taken recently.

While the air was chill and students were helpful, it was still a pretty quiet evening. The students were pretty helpful to one another. The intermediate attendees naturally paired up with a neighbor and helped out, calling mentors over for more clarification rather than help with the problems themselves. I’ve considered a more interactive approach for the next workshop--the intention being to encourage everyone, especially newcomers, to speak code and work through a problem together. After there's time for everyone to work on an exercise, a few students at a time get up and walk through their solution--or the lackthereof.

We also didn’t do proper introductions to the format of the command line interface after the break-off into each individual workshop. The Functional JavaScript mentors outlined the first few steps on the whiteboard. We should have been consistent. Our assumption that everyone was already comfortable with it made this less accessible than intended.

We were a bit haphazard with sponsorships. We went back and forth on whether we should charge for registration to keep rsvps compliant. We planned this event pretty quickly, which didn’t allow for us to prepare our in-progress prospectus for financial help. Fortunately for us, amazing sponsors like Quick Left stepped up immediately to make the event more comfortable.


We had a ton of excitement generated from nodeschool. Our students can’t wait for the next workshop night and were already reporting back on finishing what they’d started. Many jumped into other workshops on their own the weekend after. We had an even more successful Code & Learn/Nodebots night this week thanks to enthusiasm and confidence built from nodeschool.

One of our mentors, Dave Justice, wrote a tutorial after “students were digging around for Async docs and were continually being booted off of the WiFi.” We ended up getting a quick resource on how to help handle offline development for future events!

This wouldn’t have been possible without our sponsors. We’re lucky to have companies that see value in community. Everyone had an awesome time, and I'm looking forward to the next one! Thanks to the mentors who made this rock: @nvcexploder, @nrn, @justinabrahms, @jarofghosts, @wraithan, @chrisdickinson, @jondlm, @meandavejustice, and @dlmanning!