LaTeX Course at 1st Day of Semat

Today was the first day of my course about LaTeX that I talk yesterday (see the post here). Around 20 students attend it and you will find more information about that below.

I try to follow the plan with the pads (one for the contents and other for feedbacks) and the rounds:

Round 1.1
Ask students to draw a concept map of what they already know about LaTeX and what they want to know.
Round 1.2
Talk about the history of LaTeX and the IDE (integrated development environment) that we are using, TeXworks.
Round 1.3
The name of the LaTeX related things as commands and environments.
Round 1.4
Information about paragraphs line breaks and fonts.
Round 1.5
Give some places where to look for help.

Concept maps

Looking for the concepts maps I deduce that most of the students never use LaTeX.

Since I told that they can write “What they want to know?” almost all have give me some tip for it.

After I “read” the concept maps I try to write all the questions in the pad.

Below you will find some of the concept maps they produce. Since it was in portuguese I make a digital version in english of it using Dia.

Sample of concept map.

The original of the concept map above

Sample of concept map.

The original of the concept map above

Sample of concept map.

The original of the concept map above

Sample of concept map.

The original of the concept map above

The pad

I really expected that the student edit the pad. Only one students do it and after I ask him to add in it what he has done.

When adding the code examples in the pad I enclosing it with HTML tags like below:

<code>
\documentclass{article}
\begin{document}
Exemplo de documento LaTeX.
\end{document}
</code>

Many students copy and paste the HTML and it cause troubles for the LaTeX engine.

And when talking about the texdoc command (that as far as I know can be used only from the command line) I must have give clear instructions for a GNU/Linux and Windows machine. Most students don’t know that the dollar sign, $, in the Unix-like shell and the greater than symbol, >, in DOS command line must not be input and is just a visual sign.

The video projector

Most of the time the screen in the video projector was showing only the pad.

Screen showing the pad.

And just when I’m editing the example it show the IDE (I copy and past the example in the pad).

Screen showing the IDE.

Now I think that will be better if I keep the screen in the video projector only showing the IDE as below.

Screen showing the IDE.

The feedbacks

Only one of the students give me a feedback. She has written:

“The class was good but I think that it should have more examples and the instructors do the ‘commands’ with us since many people like me didn’t know how to use the IDE.”

In my opinion, this comments show how bad a graphic user interface is bad when teaching something that are base in plain text, like a programming language, since there are no way of save a log of the stuffs that you do.

In the second day I will back in how to use the IDE and try to give more examples (unfortunately teach a basic of LaTeX is very hard like any programming language).