Saturday, April 13, 2013

Learning Technology

Education certainly has changed. Today, anything you want to learn is available online.  Regular readers may remember that some time ago, I started working toward an MBA. The program I chose is completely online. 

Online learning is more convenient than sitting in a classroom, particularly for those that work full-time. It does, however, require a lot of commitment and drive. It is very easy to be ‘too tired tonight’ or want to watch another episode of Big Bang Theory instead. But, when motivation is low, I simply remember the overarching theme of one of the best books ever written, The Science of Getting Rich.  The theme in a nut shell: If you want it (whatever it is) badly enough, do what it takes to get it – then do even more. That, coupled with the advice of Winston Churchill, “never, never, never quit” keeps me going.

What I find amazing though is how much is available to learn for free and outside of formal learning institutions. I have written about that at length before, so I won’t cover that again. This time, I actually want to talk some other things available in education.  

Today, I read about several learning platforms that help children learn programming. Considering our dependence on technology, the skill gap in mathematics/engineering, and the number of jobs available in technology today, I think this is a great opportunity. Here are some great ways to learn about programming: 

Tynker: This is a platform designed for elementary age children and available for deployment at schools at no cost. I only wish that a version of the platform was immediately available to kids without having to go through a school. I fear that widespread school adoption may take too much time considering schools’ other priorities. I do, however, think that a lot of parents would encourage their children to use such a platform at home and even be willing to pay a subscription fee  to ensure their children’s future success.   Perhaps, Tynker will make the program more widely available in the future. For now, I do hope schools see the opportunity and jump quickly.

Treehouse: This is another site to learn programming aimed at adults and teens. This site offers videos, programming challenges, quizzes, etc. as an interactive, user friendly way to learn. The site teaches web design, app building, advanced programming,  and even business skills. This one has a nominal subscription fee, but I think it is very well worth it.

Code Academy: This is another learning platform to teach programming to adults and teens. Using this free tool, a person can build projects, participate in a community, and build a portfolio to show off your new skills with accomplishment badges and all J. The site offers learning in Javascript, HTML, CSS, PHP, Python, Ruby, and APIs. I am absolutely amazed and really impressed that this type of content is free. To the founders and developers of this site – YOU ROCK!

Right now, my schedule is a little hectic with work and school. But, as a technology product manager, I have long wanted to build up programming skills and this will likely be the way I do it… as soon as time permits. In the mean time, I believe that parents should encourage (push them hard!) their local schools to check out Tynker and adults who want to learn should check out Treehouse and Code Academy. Remember, if you want it – go get it!


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