The importance of being learned

Last month, I was busy looking for some kind of healthy distraction while on a break during a Maturity Level 3 SCAMPI-B appraisal. Don’t get me wrong: I love CMMI and nitpicking about what makes companies tick, but there are moments of the appraisal process that are totally boring. Anyway, I managed to wander to a section of Boing Boing I hadn’t really bothered to venture in before. Quick side note: If you don’t know what Boing Boing is, imagine a way more geeky Buzzfeed with a bit more emphasis on tech and censorship. If you do know what Boing Boing is, my apologies to the aforementioned comparison to Buzzfeed. If you don’t know what either Buzzfeed or Boing Boing is, I’d just like to pause for a minute and say, “Hi, Mom!”


nyway, apparently Boing Boing has an e-commerce shop where it sells insanely discounted e-learning courses. Since I’ve been considering getting my Project Management Professional certification for a while now, I was really happy to see a six course bundle on Project Management that would help me get my feet wet in the area. Looking around a bit more, I found an iOS course where you build 20 apps and a full Web program as well.

My learning style is a little whacked to say the least. Well, I think it is, because there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of places out there that teach based on the way I learn. I do very well when learning by example, so I can understand how the concepts apply to something. I have a subscription to both Lynda and Treehouse, but these places tend to show you the underlying concepts instead of any real hands-on project.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of courses on both Treehouse and Lynda that actually do have you making some random project. But they seem to be intended to be taken after some requisite coding foundation course first. I mean, I get it: Unlike learning how to use some kind of software that requires you make something in order to be able to learn how to use it, there’s all these rules and concepts you need to grasp when it comes to coding stuff. But I just have the worst time retaining any information unless I am doing something that shows me the results up front.

I already have a basic grasp of the basic building blocks of web design, but all the cool sexy stuff out there is completely lost to me. And it’s a bit problematic specifically for me because of the field I work in. Right now I’m in this weird grey area where I don’t really do anything technical, but I tell people what’s wrong and why it isn’t going to work. I’m really comfortable when it comes to the policy and organizational nuances of my field (hence the fascination with CMMI), but the actual programming stuff has always been completely foreign to me.

And I do love that boring administrative side of Accessibility, where I work with other people to write specifications, interpret them, translate them, and rework them some more. A part of me occasionally itches to do something that requires me to get my hands dirty.

So what attracted me to the iOS and Web programming courses specifically was that they seem to approach teaching it from a very hands-on perspective. There’s a little bit of the core concept crap I was talking about, but it isn’t terribly overwhelming that I’m not going to be able to do it. Each course has you doing something in it, where you’re applying the skills and technique right out of the box. And their all completely separate courses within the scope of the broader Web Programming course, which makes them that much more in depth.

So… I guess the purpose of this post is really to set up some form of accountability for myself. I’m throwing it out there that I’m going to be trying to teach myself something that has been really difficult for me to do in the past.If I were in college, I’d have some kind of asinine schedule I’d need to adhere to and keep up with deadlines and all that stuff. Since I’ve got a learning disability, I need to be at my own pace, but that can be as much a liability as it can a benefit. I really want to go beyond these courses into something more interesting, and taking forever learning stuff isn’t really going to do me any favors in the long run.

In order to help teach myself these things, I’m going to occasionally blog about what I’m learning so I can better understand the concepts. To help me remember all these new wonderful things, I’ll be using Anki, which is a free, sweet little tool that basically makes flash cards of the concepts I’m learning. When I start actually making something quasi-useful, I’ll post it on my Github page. The real prize for all this are these sweet collection of Journals I found:

Three Journals on a wooden table with a pen above them.

3 Journals on a wooden table. Cover of first one is a Marvel® superhero montage, second sports DC Comics® Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Supergirl with the words “Girl Power” in bold block letters at the top, and the last one is a pattern of yellow hedgehogs, because yellow hedgehogs are awesome.

Wish me luck!