July 20–24, 2015
Portland, OR

Build a community of practice, one PR at a time: Using GitHub to teach the values of open source

Peter Bell (Wheelhouse.io)
5:00pm–5:40pm Thursday, 07/23/2015
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 2 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

Familiarity with programming is helpful, but not required.


The pull request is both a feature and a philosophy—it takes a stand on openness, collaboration and culture. While most PR use cases are straightforward, other novel uses offer deeper learning opportunities. We’ll walk through different ways to deploy pull requests to model the values of open source, share understanding, learn from mistakes, and build a community of practice.

In this session, the GitHub Education Liaison will walk through classroom and educational examples of different ways to use the pull request to maximize understanding and craft a collaborative learning experience. We will point to examples from FIRSTRobotics, Delft University, Stanford University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to show the concepts in action.

  • Help learners get unstuck. Users can attach works-in-progress to a pull request for evaluation and peer feedback
  • Meaningful conversations around PRs. Critique work in a way that fosters revised contributions
  • Deploy prompts and assignments. We’ll highlight ways to use pull requests for design challenges or homework
  • Pull requests across teams. We’ll show ways to improve learning projects and cultivate a sense of community.

In addition to more robust code quality, relationships, and a portfolio, pull requests model the values of open source by surfacing interconnectedness and constant improvement.

Though this session would be most useful for educators and trainers, anyone who manages teams of developers will find the lessons around collaboration and openness applicable.

Photo of Peter Bell

Peter Bell


Peter is the founder and CTO of Ronin Labs. Training is broken – we’re fixing it through technology-enhanced training! Peter is an experienced entrepreneur, technologist, agile coach, and CTO specializing in EdTech projects. He wrote Introducing GitHub for O’Reilly, created the “Mastering GitHub” course for code school, and “Git and GitHub LiveLessons” for Pearson. Peter has presented regularly at national and international conferences on Ruby, Node.js, NoSQL (especially MongoDB and Neo4j), cloud computing, software craftsmanship, Java, Groovy, JavaScript, and requirements and estimating. He has been on the program committee for QCon in New York, Code Generation in Cambridge, England, and the Domain Specific Modeling workshop at SPLASH (was ooPSLA); and reviewed and shepherded proposals for the BCS SPA conference.