Building capacities to teach data science in Latin America

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


On March 16th, 2020, all in-person classes and training opportunities were canceled in Argentina due to the pandemic with no clear indication on when they will resume. Hence a group of academics, researchers, and teachers with deep ties to the Latin American research and teaching community that have been working in the R community together co-founded MetaDocencia.

MetaDocencia means MetaTeaching in Spanish. Our mission is to nurture a community of Spanish-speaking educators by teaching concrete, evidence-based, and student-centered educational methods.

We collaboratively develop open, reusable, and accessible resources to foster effective training practices.

You can read more about our mission and materials (in both Spanish and English) on our website


Despite the existence of open educational communities throughout the world, they are mostly English-speaking and language is an enormous barrier in Latin America. Translations of contents are necessary but not enough for culturally-responsible teaching. Meeting our learners where they are in Latin America means to not make assumptions about the knowledge of technologies such as Zoom, Slack, or Google docs and being conscious about internet access and accessibility differences.

There is a ton of terrain leveling work needed before meaningful international integration is feasible. Communities of practice are still a new concept in our region and tools like active classrooms powered by minimal technology such as peer instruction, shared note-taking, or a code of conduct, are far from being standard in online classrooms throughout Latin America. Nor are tools such as licenses for sharing educational material known. We work at MetaDocencia to help bridge this gap by empowering educators from underserved countries.


We have largely focused on a 3-hour workshop called Introduction to Online Teaching Essentials. This hands-on workshop builds on open educational resources to teach how to run a synchronous classroom and includes practical evidence-based tips for delivering an engaging online class that we learn from The Carpentries and RStudio Instructor training. This is a first-steps workshop where we introduce the key aspects from our teaching philosophy (e.g., code of conduct, open licensing, community building, active teaching). Participants experience each of our tips and advices starting at pre-registration and stay in touch afterwards through our Slack. Since March 27th, 2020, we taught this workshop 38 times to a large fraction of the 1,250+ Spanish speaking teachers from 19 countries, who registered their interest, with over 90% completion rate.

map showing the countries where our students come from

We are piloting a 2-hour hands-on workshop about how to use Zoom to teach online, which is the most common request from our participants. We are also creating a 3-hour workshop for creating interactive tutorials to teach to code with R using the R package learnr that will be part of a longer track on how to teach programming.

We foster a community through a 100% Spanish-speaking Slack workspace, where the 350+ members are encourage to share their material, resources and experiences. We are also active tweeps and asynchronous content creators.

With whom?

We also build community by working together with other communities and institutions at local, regional, and international levels. For example, our current materials have been repurposed to suit audiences of early career researchers at the National Agricultural Technology Institute in Argentina.

logos of the communities we have worked with

We taught tutorials for LatinR, a Latin American conference for the use of R in research and development. We also repurposed our materials to encourage the Spanish-speaking R-Ladies community worldwide to continue having events, gatherings, and teaching online through pandemic times.

We also translate to Spanish educational and technical material like the book Teaching Teach Together by Greg Wilson.

Finally, thanks to the generous support of the Carpentries, we hosted an à la carte instructor training workshop in Spanish that had a 95% checkout rate.


We achieve our mission with the work of a fast-growing group of volunteers with experience in teaching technical skills, delivering online classes, and working remotely, both locally and globally. Our team now includes 11 collaborators in 3 countries and 6 different cities in Argentina. They are RStudio Certified instructors, Carpentries instructors, and/or regionally-knowledgeable accessibility experts.

All MetaDocencia’s activities are free and open and are carried out through 100% volunteer work, with a small grant by Open Bioinformatics Foundation to cover infrastructure costs.

We are also blessed by an international advisory team that is guiding us in our goal of thinking globally while acting locally.

What we learn?

  • Teach with the example: use in your courses and in your community all the tools and advice that you teach.

Excelente el curso de hoy, súper claro, didáctico, aplicable, una recomendación buena tras otra, cierra por todos lados. Recomendable 100%. Y además, grátis! Infinitas gracias por tanta dedicación, empatía, y compromiso

— Fernando Torres (@torresf1973) April 11, 2020

Tweet translation: Excellent today’s course, super clear, didactic, applicable, one good recommendation after another, everything so usefull. 100% recommendable. And also, free! Infinite thanks for so much dedication, empathy, and commitment.

  • Remix, reuse, reshare: materials with licenses that allow derivative works, such as translations and remixing of courses, reduce the time to generate content, increase quality resources and ensure a successful teaching-learning experience, because are proven materials.

Compartir material y mantener la autoria. Todos se ven beneficiados! Buenisima la iniciativa y los consejos de @metadocencia

— Virginia García Alonso (@VA_GarciaAlonso) October 13, 2020

Tweet translation: Share material and maintain authorship. Everyone benefits! Very good initiative and advice from @metadocencia

  • Every crisis brings an oportunity: the pandemic and the concern of its students forced many teachers to teach online. The tools we teach are also useful for in person classes and more learners will experience an active and interactive education: a better way to learn and teach.

@metadocencia @mariela_rajng @yabellini En relación a “Intro al ABC para enseñar on-line”
Les quiero felicitar, una maravilla tode, excelente lo q hacen x todes
En estos momentos de crisis, su ayuda es el camino para salir adelante
No bajen los brazos. Este mundo necesita d uds!

— Cristian Rodriguez (@Cristia42038941) October 2, 2020

Tweet translation: In relation to “Intro to ABC to teach on-line” I want to congratulate you, everything is wonderful, excellent what you do for everyone. In these moments of crisis, your help is the way forward. Do not give up. This world needs you.

  • Shared pain is lessened, shared joy increased: our most important capital: the community, the support of fellow teachers in our language through sharing advices, experiences, materials, frustrations and successes build a strong community that make everything less hard.

Recién terminado! Espectacular, sumamente interesante y constructivo. Muchas gracias por compartir su experiencia y conocimiento, en esto que para muchos es nuevo y que ademas de todo requiere de creatividad, humildad y generosidad (las 3 estuvieron en el taller).

— Lorena Laffitte (@lorelaffitte) April 11, 2020

Tweet translation: Just finished! Spectacular, extremely interesting and constructive. Thank you very much for sharing your experience and knowledge, in this [situation] that is new for many of us, and in addition to everything else, requires creativity, humility and generosity (3 things that were present in the workshop).

Stay in touch

If you like this initiative, if you want to take one of the courses, if you want to help, or even you want to replicate this experience in your country, we are always happy to welcome more people in MetaDocencia. There are many ways to participate, drop us a line and follow us.