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Geekwise Academy

The Big, Fat Idea [ 16-26 year-olds, please take the survey. ] There are some of us in the Valley that think we can do tech education, specifically for web development, better.  We think we need more geeks — good ones — to help push our region in the right direction. You see, there’s about to be a big gap in the industry.  We can already see the beginning of it.  People who are not developers are having ideas (some of them are good!) and want to build the next big thing.  Instead of hiring out to software firms, or potentially spending tens of thousands of dollars to have their idea built, the smart first step is to get a rapid prototype out there and see if the idea floats. The Problem We’ve seen a lot of this happen:  Entrepreneurs — … Continue reading

In Pursuit of Happiness. The Prequel.

Warning:  There are a lot of parenthesis in this blog post. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Over and over again you hear this thing: “Do what you love,” or, “Do what makes you happy,” or some variation on that theme.  Which, I have to say, sounds like great advice except that it’s useless to me. And if you’re like me (you are, I can tell) you have a pretty severe problem with that advice.  The problem is that you don’t know what you would love to do. Or put another way: We don’t know what makes us happy. Does that sound ridiculous?  Ok, kind of.  But not when you think it through.  Consider this scenario: You are given enough money to make your ends meet for 6 months; no strings attached.  That’s enough to quit your job and start fresh.  What do you do? (Or … Continue reading

Good Teacher

I was a teacher, once, for a year, at a high school where I learned that: There are students who will succeed no matter what you do, how you teach, or how hard you work. There are students who will fail no matter what you do, how you teach, or how hard you work. These two facts do not let you off the hook, but they will make you feel pretty stupid when you forget them. Being a good [subject] teacher, does not necessarily produce students that are good at [subject]. In my case, teaching Interactive Game Design for 11th and 12th graders, you’d think that being a good teacher would produce good game designers.  That makes sense, right?  That’s what I was being paid to do…right?  No.  That’s stupid and too simple. Honestly, we shouldn’t be aiming for that … Continue reading

Dispelling the Launch Myth

I’m just going to lay it down in small words: “If you build it, they will come,” is a crock of shit. To borrow a phrase, if I had a nickle for every time a website launch was delayed on account of the imperfections… As a web programmer, I see a lot of projects come and go. We depend on the project manager’s ability to say, “We could spend more time polishing and adding features, but let’s get this in front of some eyes,” which is a hard thing to say, I’ll admit, because there are 10,000 things that could be better.  If you happen to be the project manager, then that burden is on you. And what makes it even harder is this strange voice in your head that says, in no uncertain terms, that as soon as you upload those … Continue reading

What Learning Actually Looks Like

My stance that the one reliable way to determine if your audience is learning is by eavesdropping. Continue reading

Accidents & Inspiration

…will lead you to your destination. — Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Long Way Home I went to school on an academic scholarship, and I wish I could say that I got to do that on account of my incredible foresight,  determination, and hard work.  But that’s not at all what happened.  Here’s how it went down: When I was fairly young (7), I realized it felt really good to do well on my homework.  When you’re seven, you don’t really think of things in terms of hard and not-hard.  You think of things in terms of in-trouble versus not-in-trouble.  I didn’t think about being smarter than everyone else, I just saw an easy way to not agitate the adults at home or at school, and that seemed just fine to me. Compliments about being smart were nice, but really, I was … Continue reading

Seeing the Build

Entreprenuerial programmers can see the end product in their heads before they get started writing the spec.   That vision of the end prodcut is the reason for starting to develop in the first place.  But seeing the end product is a long way from what it takes to make a good programmer.  Really all that means is that they are good dreamers, and has nothing at all to do with writing code. Good programmers follow specs (you do have a spec, don’t you?) and cover all the edge cases as they write code, test  and fix (write code test, and fix,  write code, test and…) But it’s the entreprenuerial programmers that muscle through that, from the very beginning, and do something mediocre programmers will never do: See the Build When a programmer begins to visualize how each module of … Continue reading

Is College Worth It?

There’s a healthy debate going on in which youngish people are wondering if going to college is worth the money, the time, the effort, the … hustle.  In fact, coverage of this very thing can be found on this website, Nettuts, which is known for it’s tutorials and not so much for its articles (you’ll see why).  If you ask me, the go-to-college-vs-get-a-job debate is tired.  Historically, college graduates make more than non-graduates, but that gap is closing.  I, for one, think there are better reasons to go to college than your salary, but I digress. Really, there are two things that I hear often enough to write about on account of their absurdity: “My friend so-and-so got her degree in [ something ] and hasn’t been able to find a job in [ a number of  ] years.” “My … Continue reading

Advice Teachers Should Give

The things we don’t say to students (but should!) in a neat little Top Ten list. Continue reading

The Thing About Teaching

…is that you’re aiming at a moving target. And it’s hard to say who you’re serving in the first place.  Is it the students?  Their parents? The board? The principal? Oh sure.  Take the easy way out and say it’s the students.  No Child Left Behind.  All children have a right to learn.  Blah blah blah.   There’s a very good argument out there that says that teachers are very much like prison wardens. “And as for the schools, they were just holding pens within this fake world. Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done. And I have no problem with this: in a specialized industrial society, it would be a … Continue reading