Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogel Paul, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode we’re going to be talking about scaling your business, also contributing back to WordPress by teaching WordPress to others that’s right you can get others in your organization to learn WordPress, add this skill set to your agency or your brand your in house team and joining us back conversation is someone very knowledgeable on this topic and I’d like to welcome to Press This Courtney Robertson.
Courtney Robertson: David. It’s great to be with you today.
DV: Awesome. So glad to have you here. I know we got to know each other what was in WordCamp Philly reading into each of their guests for the first time there. It’s really exciting to hear about the work you’re doing. Educating those really great variety of contacts on learning WordPress. But what Courtney is really going to talk to us today about are the waterworks work in an organization called code differently, which I’ll talk about here in a little bit. It’s critical member of volunteer team working on expanding and optimizing learn.wordpress.org. She’s a master educator and educator, But really wish she’d been talking to us today, like how you can go about educating others in your business and just more broadly in terms of WordPress. So Courtney, the first question I asked every guest. You might remember it. When you created your wordpress.org profile so many years ago, but briefly tell me your WordPress origin story.
CR: Sure thing. So I was a high school business ed teacher, focusing in teaching programming, and I was teaching HTML and CSS, and lo and behold, content management platforms are starting to become more available, like Joomla and Moodle Moodle was a learning management is worse platform, and I have varying experiences with them sort of been around WordPress two three. And that’s when I decided to try it out. And I downloaded it and use it for as a personal blog at the time. I did have a couple of psychics where I was installing the revolution theme, the original before Genesis became what it is, and learning how to register the sidebars and the widgets, before they were available. And by the time 2009 rolled around we still didn’t have the foundation WordPress foundation but I attended my first work camp was wordcamp Mid Atlantic, when we were able to have, or regional not city based names for our camps. And during that talk for the keynote. A kneel dash of movable type launched a competitor to akismet. And so, Those were my early days, around WordPress, I had been involved for a good while.
DV: Citing times there what year do you think 2.3 was in you recall, or when you started like when was this.
CR: I believe that would have been. We could look it up on the WordPress history but I think it would have been. Yes. Yes, I think it would have been around 2008.
DV: Okay good deal, still early days and you mentioned revolution which was one of the first themes, as you pointed out to kind of feature widgets and also that moment, I consider this timeframe at WordPress WordPress became a thing you built websites with widgetized home pages really make a website with WordPress. To me, that was a critical moment. Now, my next question is, you know, you kind of do a lot, write your blog differently are involved with learning WordPress guessing your other ventures, help me understand like What does Courtney Robertson do.
CR: Yeah. These days, a lot of my focus is really on teaching others about WordPress and I am a former high school teacher so of course that’s going to be my passion. I, my backstory after I left the classroom for a number of years I took on my own clients and develop websites for them. Often small business and realtor based. And then I detoured back into the classroom where I taught WordPress as a long term sub took a few years away, having children and during that time I contracted with others that build websites for clients, including. Also, modern tribe who handles events calendar so I have experience working also within an organization that delivers WordPress products.
DV: You mentioned you know I mentioned and you also mentioned code differently. Could you tell us a little bit about what code differently does.
CR: Absolutely. So coat differently is a training organization that equips others with skills in various programming languages. And to date. We have not charged a single participant in our programs. Often, the outreach is specifically for those that are underserved and underrepresented. A lot of our funding is directed towards programs to reach those individuals, and I have taught this past summer high school students that were paid to learn how to use WordPress. That was an amazing opportunity. So the students in our program, learned how to go from installing WordPress and running backups, all the way through using some page builders and common premium plugins and themes. And after that time we started doing some planning for an adult business owner DIY track, helping business owners, especially those impacted by COVID. Get websites up and running. We hope to launch.
DV: All right. Yes, yes, yes, that distinction yesterday when we chat is like adult age business.
DV: Thanks for the shout out really happy to support you they’re definitely gotten to know Kevin differently, better since we met, Billy at least in terms of like research and seeing some of the news stories about it really impressed with their work, their Broadway in terms of technology and and representatives but also, certainly in terms of WordPress so I was wondering if you can quickly tell me about your work on learn.wordpress.org.
CR: Sure. So I joined the WordPress training team in 2013. We have been developing lesson plans, behind the scenes if you will for a number of years. This summer I was able to rejoin because I had need of using the lesson plans on how to facilitate a WordPress training workshop. And I decided to get involved with the team again. At the time, not a lot of the team was pressing to global pandemic and people have a lot going on. So, we launched the Learn WordPress website, and we’re also rebuilding a team at the time. So, a lot to have happen at once. We have conducted an audit of all the lesson plans that are out on the site, and we are in the process of a full launch coming on in a few months, right now we’re at a soft lunch stage. That means that there’s some work to be done specifically with the lesson plans under the hood. We have some need for some volunteers in those areas.
DV: Okay Good deal. Thanks for bringing that up and obviously your background and certainly the projects you’re involved with a very good person to talk to you about educating folks, or right kind of helping folks understand what it takes to educate someone on bird pricing. So, as an educator what strategies do you use for curriculum planning and teaching WordPress like there’s like how you do it in the moment, but like, where do you start installing WordPress like setting up a post you have to go through like wizards like how do you think about the curriculum planning.
CR: So it really depends on the specific group that I’m working with all user programs are going to be about the same, but the outcome of these programs really can vary. So, a business owner, that has a small business website. They might be best suited for having a page builder. High school students, they’re going to get through a lot of the user materials, and those that are aspiring to work in this industry as developers need to go through all of the user materials of course before we can really start digging into a lot of code. Generally what I have done is all users will still need to know how to install WordPress. If possible, both on their local laptop or computers and also on their hosting. When we get into hosting I walk them through the ideas of staging and backups and those type of things. After we get through getting our areas set up and created. We then move through an entire user type of program to learn everything about the block editor right now. And I add in information about what’s going on in the community so it’s not just.
DV: If I can interrupt just real quick. It sounds like from a high level though what you’re doing is you’re kind of finding their their outcome, like what are they driving towards what do they need to learn to achieve something. Then, kind of, for the most part you have these boilerplate skill sets that like everyone needs to know how to install WordPress or a plugin or plugin or deal with hosting and so on and so forth. So that you’re tailoring it though that the curriculum to this outcomes they’re driving absolutely want to dig a little deeper on this, but we’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back.
DV: Welcome back to press this WordPress podcast on w Mr. Steven global poll I’m interviewing Courtney Robertson scaling your business and contributing back by teaching others WordPress already right before the break you were talking a little bit about curriculum planning and you’re kind of telling us this notion of like you’re you’re planning the curriculum based on the outcome and the students strategy. You’re gonna go a little bit more detail though about how to kind of how you craft that curriculum for those are just curious if you could expand on that. What does it take to create that reverse engineering.
CR: So, at the user level and, again, everyone learns the same things. I sprinkled in with it. What’s going on in the development of WordPress right now, we’re in the throes of massive changes going on involving the block editor. And while we don’t see with every release a big change happening. We’re marching towards full site editing, and I do my best to connect users when they’re learning how to be a user to connect them to where in this process are we on what changes can we anticipate.
DV: And then as I was counterproductive Sorry to interrupt I said it’s gonna follow up question ever do you find that’s counterproductive like is it not better to just teach them like what works right now like Do you find that helpful to connect our true story?
CR: Well, in the middle of my high school group this past summer. Everything about the block editor interface changed. So, preparing them for these changes to occur, is I think vital and also setting the expectations for those that are in a track to become developers to be aware that they’re stepping in and here is how something is at this moment. But we’re in the middle of this big project, and to have eyes on. By the time we are out in the workforce, we might see locks in the widget area going on and you might need to be aware of how to develop for those things, painting the picture that things are changing and we do need to keep up, but also to say, WordPress has existed for 17 years and really the block editor is relatively new in the space of that time, but it feels like it’s a lot all at once. When you’re right in the middle of it. So just helping them to see that and a little bit of the industry trends, so that they’re it’s on their radar, as they are moving into the workforce again.
DV: You are a master educator like you’re dropping these lessons, even though it might be kind of confusing the message and the moment. rodder message that things change. You need to adapt as well, like that are very clever. So how do you think about the rest of the curriculum that like how far do you take, or how do you how do you know I kind of like break up the content and what content to provide that’s a lot to provide on the podcast. Great.
DV: that rings true thinking back through some of our social engagements and we met at wordcamp Philly. You got really excited about the post I did from z net that showed an 864% increase in PHP positions, Junior PHP positions. Over 2020, so that you know I knew that was exciting to you because obviously you’re advocating and working for your students to get these jobs. And then, you know, also the questions you had around the company I work for for this listing web. web engines hiring practices to know like what am i optimizing for. So if I’m in an organization with say an agency or have an in house team and I have team members I want to train up on WordPress. It sounds like like one angle would be like well what is their objective as a student right what job do I want them to have, but also like, what would their tasks be in that job so it sounds like you’re kind of a blend between like everybody gets this content. And then if they’re building up for a specific outcome and a specific role. What requirements are there so in other words it my agency doesn’t have blocks and maybe I don’t need to teach them how to use blocks or build blocks. So is that safe to say like, if I was in house that I would be thinking about like what projects do I want them to do to then craft my curriculum to favor that versus like going too far outside the bounds.
CR: That would be correct. I think everyone gets to be a good user. And then we have some that will stop at being a website builder where they are using products that they install a plugin theme, etc and they’ve got a completed website, and others may pursue being the developer that makes those products. And so, those specific skill sets are going to look a little different depending on each individual.
DV: That’s really helpful as people listening, think about how they might structure their training curriculum. So let me switch gears a little bit, you know, with COVID in the global lockdown obviously we have were restrained from from literal in person, training, but maybe we could use the surrogate things like zoom in virtual meeting spaces but how do you decide between, like, I’m going to schedule an in person training event, whether it be on zoom or actually in person, versus consume anytime content like videos and articles like obviously you’re probably using both kind of the homework and the coursework kind of stuff. And how do you think about that vision like what becomes coursework and what becomes consumed anytime content are.
DV: So in that context it’s like the first phase is a bit of self teaching by consuming the material. When you come back together that’s when you do the double click. Is that beneficial because it’s easier to grasp the content after you’ve played around with it a little bit.
CR: Yeah, absolutely, giving people a chance to be some hands do some hands on assignments with it, and then being able to ask questions of myself and each other during our class time is really valuable. I do also provide as much as I can connection back to the WordPress community because that’s their ongoing professional development and where the opportunities are. So, I also share a good bit of workcamp. tv videos or Press TV videos with them. And I say, these are clearly optional extensions beyond our class time, they are not required. Do your work first. But if you would like to explore this topic more here are some resources available for you to do that. And that I label, very overtly as optional, because I don’t want to overwhelm but I do want to open every door I can.
DV: Oh is such a valuable part of WordPress as a matter of fact I even this morning I was saying like the community is half the product. The relationships and the learnings and all the benefits, folks get from participating in the community is such a big part of WordPress. I do have some more questions I kind of like to go a little bit deeper on some of these points but we’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back.
DV: Hello everyone welcome back to press this the WordPress community podcast on w EMR. This is your host David Vogel Paul I’m interviewing Courtney Robertson, about how you can scale your business and contribute back by teaching others WordPress. Courtney right before the break you were talking a little bit about the difference now you think about content in terms of in person or consume anytime. Most of the listeners are probably thinking about this in the adult learner context. So it’s handled like your recommendation was to allow them to kind of self consume content and try on their own. And then when you meet in person it’s a follow up to that lesson to kind of re emphasize key points and answer questions and guess guessing and things like that. So my next question for you is like what mistakes, do you see people make when they first get started, educating people on WordPress like as a professional educator what makes you just like cringe like I wish they wouldn’t do that. What are they doing wrong.
CR: I would say there are actually three things that I point to first is thinking that things are simple or easy for getting what it’s like to be a beginner, we really need to approach, everything with a beginner’s mind, learning how to install WordPress, even though it’s the famous five minute install can be quite challenging. And if you’re not geared up for this might be hard for people to log in and remember all the places they need to login, they need to log into their house, they need to log into WordPress once it’s installed, they might need to log into my class site. It’s a lot of things for people and it can feel overwhelming. And then at maybe local installs. It’s overwhelming. And so we need to remember to be kind and that we never want to claim something as simple or easy, because for that individual. It may not be in that time. I’ve installed WordPress, probably over 1000 times at this point. Throughout my career, and it’s easy for me. It may not be easy for the individual that’s building out their portfolio site. I would also indicate dependencies, so before a user can start to build blocks we need to have to use them. That’s the one that I’m in the middle of obviously this week of my students so it’s really on my mind. Dependencies can indicate if I want to start teaching a child theme. Do they know the HTML and CSS well under the hood. They don’t need to know everything possible. But I feel that there is a certain amount of other dependencies. When we’re aggregating several languages and building a content management system with that, that we need to account for, and so factoring in what they have to learn the prerequisites before they do this thing. And then, again, the community. The third option there is, when we’re educating people about WordPress, we have a wealth within the WordPress community people that are eager to provide assistance resources training. Sometimes tech support, it depends upon where you’re turning and what’s going on but we have a wealth of people that make up. WordPress, and it would not be where it is, if there was not the community behind it, there are real people there. And they’re eager to invite others into this community, I believe. So, how to connect people to the community will be just as important as the material I teach. When my students are done in their time with me. They need to know how to turn to the support docs, they need to know how to submit support tickets, where they can go for additional training and resources. Whether official or unofficial outposts of the WordPress community and I think that’s a heavy, heavy part of areas people often overlook.
DV: There’s just so much good there could not agree anymore. I love how you answered the question in the positive as well, are calling out the counter to the mistakes or calling out should I say the counter positive message from the mistakes. Sounds like things that kind of make your eyes twitch when you see people try to teach is not being kind, right, trying to say that things are easy because you’re the expert in that thing. And if you come in with that mindset I’m guessing you’re not setting your students up for success because you can’t expect them to operate at the level you are not acknowledging those dependencies and prerequisite. That seems like a pretty easy one to catch when you’re teaching people things but I can imagine a lot of people like overlook that straight in, how to build a block wild person has nothing about blocks, or at least haven’t gained those kind of base skills I also like how you talked about how you start with that kind of user journey within WordPress, and then graduate on to the more technical parts, regardless of what they’re writing. And then, you know, not, not acknowledging the community and kind of see yourself as separate from that and not inviting that person in like it was everybody’s first day. Everybody asked them questions at some point. So like acknowledging that making that part of it sounds like like a very positive way to approach education with regrets corny I wish we had more time I have 70 more questions for you, but I just want to say thank you so much for joining us today.
CR: it’s been an honor to be with you.
DV: If you’d like to learn more about what Courtney is up to and all the different missions she’s on to support WordPress, please check out learn.wordpress.org. And then if you’d like to check out her work on Code Differently, you can visit codedifferently.com as a reminder code definitely is a great place to go if you’re looking to hire developers, not just in WordPress but beyond, please check that out in your hiring. Thanks everyone for listening to Press This WordPress community podcast on WMR. This has been your host David Vogelphol. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to here every week on Press This.