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Tech Savvy: Continuing education, social and business

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Tech Savvy: Continuing education, social and business

Always learning

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By JESSI PIERCE

I’ve always had an itch to learn. School was one of my favorite games to play — to my brother’s, the student, dismay — and when most kids were asking for a new bike, I wanted educational games. Call me a dork but learning, especially making it interactive and fun, was exactly what I yearned for.

And the learning doesn’t stop in childhood. Sure, given the option of going back to school to advance on my degree or to keep working, I would choose work hands down. But there are so many other elements and platforms to continue education of any sort with the aid of technology. My latest knowledge quests include domesticating myself and broadening my lifestyle in the following areas: cooking, learning another language and gaining and stable understanding of my fiances, just to name a few. So let’s take a look at the different ways you can further expand your knowledge in this areas at your convenience. After all that’s one of the joy of technology, all of these educational opportunities are learned at your pace on your time.

Stir it up

Nothing of course will ever beat the tutelage in cooking from my mom and grandma. But living a solid distance apart, left with nothing but my own devices and the wonderful hand-me-down cookbooks, my cooking ventures often result in numerous phone calls to the both of mom and grandma, constantly asking, “OK is this right?” “Is it supposed to be lumpy like that?” “What is a clove of garlic?”

That’s where YouTube is a marvelous teaching tool. Known by many for its user antics, the versatility of the video channel also creates an excellent way to visually learn. Yes, it’s like watching the cooking channel on the TV but you can select a recipe of your liking with YouTube as opposed to just cooking what the TV chefs are making.

Learning Italian the “easy way”

Learning Italian and cooking kind of go hand in hand for me. I love Italian food and with past brushes in Spanish, French and German I decided Italian is next on the docket to become versed in. I remember seeing commercials when I was younger for fun VHS learning tools and I am even more thrilled to learn a language now at the tap of my finger with a variety of free apps that make learning a new language easy. Rosetta Stone is another great option, one I admit I haven’t tried just yet, but my cousin swears by it as she used it for her trip to Chile. It’s something you can pick up and learn while on the go and something you will keep with you for the rest of your life. Provare ad imparare, non ve pentirete (Try learn it, you’ll love it).

Finances

How about having your own personal banker in your pocket? Apps like My Weekly Budget ($0.99 on iPhone) Debt Free ($0.99) among others are great, secure ways to get your finances back on track and include weekly tips for learning how to maintain a balance. Even better, most banks include a mobile app that allow you to keep on top of your banking.

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or jessi.pierce@brainerddispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jessi_pierce (@jessi_pierce).

A man of many hats

By PHIL SEIBEL

It’s not practical to send yourself to seminars or workshops, or classes that last even a couple of days to learn new skills in the workplace. But I feel it should be broken down into two main categories — Workshops/Seminars and Do-It-Yourself. Let’s take a brief look at both of these.

I should note, too, that these options are non-traditional options, and another obvious option would be to look at formal education options. If you’re looking at job change, complete revamping, or anything that requires certification, you should make sure you’re covering your bases. Many colleges, vocational and tech schools and other institutes are offering great options to people interested in continuing their education. With discounts on credits, registration and online classes, there are a lot of options for anyone looking at getting a second degree or specialty.

Workshops and seminars

This doesn’t necessarily fit the stipulation of fitting it around a regular work schedule, however, it has been the industry standard for years; if you want to learn about something new, attend a seminar. But how do you determine a quality seminar so you don’t feel you’ve wasted your time? How do you know which seminars and trends to learn about?

Many seminars focus on new trends in the workplace: social media, QR codes, cloud based computing and storage, etc., and the other main type of seminar is product specific — Office Suite, Quickbooks, etc.

When I hear about these types of seminars, I really consider two things:

1. Is this completely relevant and do they cover the subject thoroughly?

2. Are the presenters reputable?

The first question is fairly subjective and you really need to understand your business and your market to answer that. Will attending this seminar provide you with the resources you need to accomplish your marketing goals? Any investments you make — monetary or time — need to work toward your marketing goals. At first glance a seminar titled “Social Media Trends” may sound like the best way to spend a day ... but if the agenda has sessions like “Learning to use a computer” or “MySpace in the world we live in” it may be a waste of your time. You want to find seminars that either include information you’re not familiar with or present new strategies in order to make it more time efficient.

The second question is also fairly subjective, but really the issue is not necessarily asking if you know who the presenters are, but if their resume gives credibility to the information they are presenting. Do they have work experience in the subject matter? Are they published? At the very least, can you find any indication of their expertise anywhere? The important thing to take into consideration is: will they teach you anything useful and can they present it in a way that’s applicable to you.

DIY digital learning

The other side of learning new skills is the DIY approach — you feel confident in yourself that you can pick up on the material and can instruct yourself using guides and tutorials to accomplish your goals. The great part about a lot of these online learning opportunities is that you can compare more than one source side by side, and with many of them you work at your own pace, which may save you some time too.

Once you decide to try out online learning options there is certainly no shortage of choices; professional blogs, libraries of downloadable whitesheets, video tutorials, and the list goes on and on.

If you’re looking for some all-in-one options, there are four that come to mind: the Khan Academy, Instructables, Codeacademy and the iTunes U. All of these are available online and are also able to be referenced, at least to a certain degree, on a mobile device. I am least familiar with iTunes U, it is the newest, but all of these choices seem to some of the better ones I’ve played around with.

The Khan Academy just received an update for their iPad app, and focuses on both educational level and business level courses that range from math, to economy and even test prep. They use video as the main delivery tool on the app, and then include subtitles that give you an idea of what will be covered. I like the Khan Academy for the fact that they cover such a wide range of academic subjects presented in a quick easy to interpret format.

Codeacademy is a really neat way to get into some more of the back end of web development. If you’ve dabbled in HTML and remember making websites using just code, like me, you need a refresher course from time to time, and I am intrigued by how Codeacademy packages this. If you go to their website you can sign up for daily lessons emailed to you, or simply work through some of the courses right then. What I love about having them emailed to me is that it’s a daily reminder of something I started and need to finish. For a lot of my website questions I also reference the w3schools.com site. Using the combination and some help from web developer friends I have nearly all the information I need to add new features to projects I work on.

iTunes U is something that Apple has rolled out in the last year. Apple and education institutes have begun working together to provide new learning methods to our children using an iPad. While the practice is not in use in every district, you could compare the integration to what the idea of computer labs was in the 1990s. iTunes U is a compilation of textbooks that Apple has compiled and now provides to students as replacements for the ten pound tomes that we used to lug around giving us spinal injuries for life. Many of the textbooks are interactive, offering video, immersive projects, and take advantage of the iPad’s ability to collaborate in groups. While the program doesn’t include every single textbook you will need, for the ones that are available it is an incredible step in our regular education.

I saved my favorite for last. Instructables is a website that is devoted to share user submitted DIY projects that help people solve challenges they have faced. The projects are broken into categories like shop projects, tech, food and outdoors. They are further broken down and you can sort by popularity, recent submissions and site featured projects. The neat thing about all of the projects is that they aren’t all “serious” projects and you can just as easily find a 10 minute project that will give you something fun to do and help you make your own gadget. The skill level required ranges from beginner to expert, and most of the projects can be created with items from a hardware store and things you have laying around the house. I really enjoy looking through these because it encourages me to be creative using the things I have available, it is also a simple way that I can look for solutions for work or any projects I am working on.

The need and desire to continue learning is very prevalent right now, and there is certainly no shortage of options out there. Break out your thinking caps, it’s a good day to learn!

PHIL SEIBEL, Digital Manager, may be reached at 855-5862 or phil.seibel@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pseibel(@pseibel).

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