With over 18 years of being around Information Technology professionally, the amount of change and growth is remarkable. What was once the cutting edge or even science fiction now plays a part in our daily lives.
Having personal experience with computing before the PC-era, that's no mouse, hard drive or colour screen. The fundamental skill learned was troubleshooting. With limited resources, the only option was to break the problem down into smaller parts until the problem was solved. Working with electrical systems and electronics enhanced this skill.
In 1998, I started using various Open Source technologies. Beginning with Redhat, I explored various systems before I switched to Ubuntu in 2006. Open Source software covers a wide range of topics, from technical to creative. I enjoy checking out the creative works from Blender, Krita, and Inkscape.
There is an endless list of technology to explore, whether it's hardware, software, cloud, data or networks. With technology, what is it trying to solve? Do I have the time to explore it now or review it later? How does it help my organisation? Learning to be pragmatic about technology is hard, there is always something new to be explored.
One of the most informative podcast episodes I've listened too has been Building Your Technology Radar with Neal Ford. What are the key technologies for your organisation? Do they still fit where your organisation is going? Check out the Technology Radar at ThoughtWorks.
The process of learning anything can be a challenge. Trying to take it "all in" and understand what are the key points, how do you do that last step again? There's so much to remember! Who? When? Where? What? Why? How? The communication of knowledge and skills to a student is also a challenge. It’s rewarding to see a student show satisfaction with their new skills and knowledge.
With over 12 years of teaching and supporting students, the continuous change in the IT industry means there is always more to learn and pass on to others.
Key to communicating knowledge is the pace that the student can take it "all in". It’s easy for someone familiar with a topic to overlook a step. For an educator, it’s also easy to forget how and what it’s like to be a student. Students can struggle with the most simple task. Taking the time to learn something new reminds the educator what their students deal with daily.
The standard way of learning is changing. Technology now gives the learner more options to learn in a format that best suits them. For students of any age, this is best seen by what Khan Academy provides. A talk at TED2011 provides the backstory to Khan Academy.
Taking the time to explore new ideas is a key part of improving in any profession. One of the best books I've read has been, Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware. It needs to be read at least twice to get the most out of it with all the great ideas it contains.
The most engaging presentation, Mission Critical Innovation I've seen has been from Dr. Jeff Norris. It's well worth taking the time to watch and think about how we all need to innovate, whatever the profession we are in.
Separating an idea into its core components is challenging, but creating an application around those same components can be very satisfying or baffling when it doesn't work. I've seen both sides many times over the years.
With a focus on web technologies, I use various resources to broaden my understanding of development practices. It's so easy to misuse a design pattern to solve a problem. Current resources are Ruby Tapas, The Pragmatic Studio and a long list of books from The Pragmatic Bookshelf.
Looking for an idea for your next project, check out some of the great developer talks at various conferences around the world from Confreaks. There is always something new to discover.