How to Become a Programmer in 9 Weeks: Week 7

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Recap: Follow Me from HTML Illiterate to Professional Programmer

In case you haven’t read Week 0 (about my preparation), I am currently a student at a programming bootcamp in the San Francisco Bay Area. I finished college a few months ago, but decided my business degree wasn’t going to let me do what I really wanted: to build rather than manage. This realization and my love for startups (and California) led me to begin working toward a career in software development.

 

3 Highs:  

Confidence:  I am a junior developer, which means that I have learned about 1% thus far of what there is to know about computer programming.  Still, there are several things that I can now contribute to a project!  Going from never having so much as written a simple HTML form to building apps (albeit simple ones) in the MEAN Stack within 8 week has been a bumpy, but satisfying ride.  Development in general is a field that requires constant learning to stay up to date.  This is one of the things I love about it and exactly what keeps me motivated to keep learning!  After all, not being able to do something is a lot better than not having the confidence to learn how to do it.

Refactoring:  We have been working on project as a group for a large telecommunications company that is due on Thursday to the client.  As one may assume, this requires a LOT of double-checking, error-hunting, and bug-fixing.  Programmers call this process ‘refactoring’ and it has been blessing for me in that it gives me the opportunity to review what we have done and make sure I understand it.  I’ve probably learned more while refactoring than I have in an actual lecture!

Getting Back into the World:  My isolation during my learning time has been very much self-imposed.  I did it because I needed to focus, and it isn’t a decision that I regret at all.  However, now that the core learning process (at this particular bootcamp, at least) is ending, its pretty nice to start breaking free of Stockholm Syndrome and getting back in touch with my friends and the outside world!  I’ve been talking to new people during the job search and am getting ready to go see more of the Bay Area!

 

3 Lows:  

Cover Letters:  Anybody who knows me knows that I love writing.  Blog articles, fiction, nonfiction – I write everything, and I really enjoy it.  Unfortunately this does not carry over to writing cover letters.  Traditional cover letters seem plastic and void of personality, but writing one with ‘too much personality’ looks unprofessional.  Getting the right tone down for the right company is basically a guessing game, and figuring out which companies want ‘buzzwords’ and which don’t is practically impossible.  So basically, the chances of winning at writing any given cover letter is very slim.  Being in the middle of a job search, however, I get to write several cover letters a day.  Yay…on the bright side, at least I get to write something every day!

Giving up the Marketing:  I moved into development after spending some time as a Digital Marketing Consultant, so pretty much all my work history and internships thus far (yes, I am fresh out of college so there isn’t a ton of it) is in business and marketing.  Getting rid of these things from my resume has been painful – almost like I’m erasing four years of hard work.  Luckily, I can retain a few things since several Digital Marketing skills are actually relevant to development – but the sheer amount work that must be deleted is awful!

Project Crunch Time: For those of your who have been reading this series for the past several weeks, you know that I have been working on several personal projects – including myCard.  You also know that I love working on my own on these projects and value this time as some of the best learning opportunities I’ve had.  However, being rushed to finish is never fun!  Fact is, I need to really begin building a portfolio and there isn’t much time left to get it done if I want a somewhat nice one before leaving the bootcamp, but rushing to get it done is still a frustrating process!  Check on me in two weeks to see if the final product was worth the hard work – hint: it probably will be!

 

The Immersion:  

Craigslist:  I come from the Midwest where Craigslist is not generally what one trusts to find an apartment or job.  Apparently, its perfectly trustworthy here in the Bay Area, though!  Several people have suggested I get on with my job search on Craigslist…which has been pretty awesome.  Learning something new every day!

Caffeine Overload:  I am overloaded on caffeine.  This is something I plan to completely get rid of after the end of my 9 Weeks here, so the process of detaching myself has begun.  Surprisingly enough, I’m not crankier or more tired than usual as a result – in fact, its amazing how much better I feel.  True, I get tired earlier, but I guess going to bed by midnight instead of 3 AM is more a good thing than a bad one.

 

Takeaway Advice

  • Be confident in whatever you do!  Not being able to do something is not nearly as bad as not having the confidence to learn how to do it.
  • Cover letters have always sucked and will continue to do so regardless of the industry in which you are applying for jobs.  Get used to it.
  • If you live in the Bay Area, Craiglist is awesome!  Make it your best friend!

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Online Learning Beyond MOOCs

iPad with app YouTube on the screen in female hands in the offic

 

Massive Open Online Courses are fantastic ways to get a structured education without the typical associated costs, but they often take a long time to get through.  A MOOC could take anywhere from a few days to a few months.  There are other ways to learn something new online within 60 minutes, though.

 

TED Talks

TED Talks might not give you a thorough understanding of Design or Accounting, but many can help you develop a opinion by taking a new spin on things.  They are generally pretty short (some even as short as 5 minutes) and send a message, whether it may be to inform you about an issue, explain a new way of thinking about an existing topic, or inspire you to take a stand or some sort of action.  There are tons of them on Netflix and all over the internet.  Here are a couple great ones to check out.

 

 

 

YouTube Tutorials

Can’t remember how to use a specific feature on Excel?  Or maybe you need to learn how to apply heavy makeup for an awesome costume party.  YouTube has all sorts of awesome vloggers who put up interesting tutorials covering all sorts of topics.  The advantage here is that you can even make requests for something you need to quickly learn to complete a project.  Here are a couple of extremely popular YouTubers!

 

 

 

Helpouts by Google

YouTube tutorials are awesome, but what if its going too fast or you don’t understand a part of it?  Some people just learn better from a live teacher.  For them, Google Helpouts saves the day.  Helpouts lets teachers post their expertise, the duration they are willing to devote to a video, and price (although many are free).  Some Helpouts are pre-recorded and work largely like any other video tutorial, but others allow you to set up a time to meet with a live tutor who can walk you through a task or even teach you about a particular topic like a school teacher or college professor would.  Curious to learn more?  Check out this intro video.

 

 

A lot of fantastic learning happens in a classroom setting (in person or through open online courses), but even more happens just by picking up on what is going on around you and by immersing yourself into a project that you need to look up information in order to complete.

 

ryanlerch_Green_-_Query_IconCareer Tip:  You can add achievements to your Accredible profile that aren’t courses your registered for through our course finder feature!  Just click on the ‘add course’ button on your profile and select the wrench to customize your entry and add your projects and courses completed outside of MOOCs.  Then remember to link your Accredible profile to your LinkedIn page so your connections can check out all your accomplishments!

How to Become a Guardian of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

After a fantastic opening earlier this month with great critical reviews as the cherry on top, Guardians of the Galaxy proved to be a win for Marvel.  Of course, being the superhero nerd I am, I went and saw it opening night.  Superhero-Nerd-Me loved the action, tech, and comedy while E-Learning-Nerd-Me spent the entire movie whispering loudly to my poor friend (and everyone within a 4 seat radius) that Star-Lord is a total autodidact!

Just as a quick reminder, autodidacts are fabulously awesome people who love learning and teaching themselves new things.  Star-Lord probably turned to autodidactism more out of necessity than a pure love of learning, but he still dances to sweet ’80s music and refers to ‘The Legend of Kevin Bacon’ from Footloose – so he retains the awesome factor, in my opinion.  Check out these instances that proved Star-Lord AKA Peter Quill caught the autodidact bug.

 

 

Musical Tech Prowess

Depositphotos_9262656_xs26 years after being abducted from Earth as a child by ‘space pirates’, Peter still listens to music on the same
walkman from the same audio cassette with the same headphones.  It is probably safe to assume that in all his struggles and travels from planet to planet, Peter’s beloved music system broke down from time to time.  Considering that he likely didn’t have contact with too many Earthlings, he had to figure out how to fix everything himself.  The key words here being: ‘figure out how’.  Plus, I don’t know of any battery from the ’80s that would still have enough juice to power a tape player after 26 years – so Peter probably had to engineer a replacement power source on his own.  Conclusion: Autodidact.

Bonus:  Peter’s ship, The Milano, had a cassette player and speakers installed.  Considering we don’t make extraterrestrial spaceships here on Earth (at least not to the knowledge of us ordinary folks), he probably installed that himself too.

 

The Ultimate Linguist

Here on Planet Earth, we have hundreds of different languages – sometimes dozens within the same country.  Unless every being on every planet except Earth exclusively speaks English, there were probably several different languages that Peter had to learn in order to jump from world to world and continue to communicate with ease.  Considering the fact that he grew up around pirates, there probably weren’t too many maternal figures or teachers around to teach Peter – which means that he largely picked that up on his own too.

When he left Earth, Peter was definitely more than 8 or 9 years old – well past the threshold where humans can pick up languages extremely rapidly.  The fact that he picked them up so well at his age points to his fantastic self learning skills as well.

 

So You Think You Can Dance?

Well you don’t have much on Star-Lord, the Amazing Dancing Alien!  Kids don’t have fully developed motor skills – that’s a well known fact that explains why kids are usually not the best dancers.  That’s also why it is so extraordinary that Peter left Earth as a child, didn’t have access to Terran movies or culture, but picked up how allguardiansmovieto dance (albeit ’80s style) completely on his own based solely on 26-year-old memories.  He beat his ultimate nemesis in the movie by distracting him through a dance off !

Imagine what he would have been able to do on Earth with access to a dance teacher and pop culture.  Granted, becoming known as a Guardian of the Galaxy is a pretty cool title, but the Next Michael Jackson would have been pretty spectacular too.

 

If you think Star-Lord is an ultimate autodidact, check out Groot!  He learned to dance as a baby:

Images from: Marvel Comics and Marvel Cinematic Universe
http://marvel.com/guardians

 

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi: Learning by Doing

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After researching autodidacts for weeks, a trend has become quite apparent – often, these self learners start out performing poorly in school and formal education.  They then begin teaching themselves what they love and go on to be geniuses.  Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Leonardo da Vinci – and Mahatma Gandhi.

 

Humble Beginnings

It is difficult to imagine that the pacifist who strategically and very intelligently inspired an entire nation was a poor student.  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was exactly that as a child.  More enamored by sports and games, his performance in school was mediocre at best with his only real strength in English class.

This may have been what inspired him to study law (on his family’s insistence) in England.  Gandhi never became a great lawyer due to his inability to interact cooly with witnesses, particularly during cross examination.  His profession eventually took him to South Africa, however, where perhaps his true education began.

 

Education to Inspiration

While Gandhi always had a passive interest in politics and ethics, he never became truly passionate about them until his time in South Africa.  In the late 1800s, South Africa entered a period of drastic change with its Civil Rights movement.  Gandhi had arrived to serve as a legal representative for some Indian traders in the country, but law was soon forgotten as he began to witness the turmoil unfolding around him.

By this point, Gandhi had spent his time in London focusing less on Law and more on reading texts that interested him and began to form what would become his later stance on life – the Bhagvad Gita and the Bible. These texts eventually influenced his perception on the truth and the purpose of life, but more immediately they sensitized him to think deeply about the conflict in South Africa.

The discrimination started with the native Africans in the area, but Indian immigrants weren’t spared either.  Gandhi was even thrown out of a train once for refusing to leave the First Class car and beaten later for refusing to move for a European traveler.

Exposed to discrimination and racism up close as he had never seen it before during his sheltered life in India, Gandhi began to question the rule of the British Empire and its impact on his people back home.  The sizable Indian population in South Africa faced extreme oppression and as he learned and developed as a social reform leader for the Indians in South Africa, Gandhi’s attention already began to shift toward the conditions back home.

 

The Great Spirit

After gaining great acclaim in South Africa for his work for Indians and later the native Africans, Gandhi returned to India with his nationalist reputation and a new vigor to reform the Indian government.  He entered politics and eventually rose as leader of the Indian National Congress, which served as an intense learning period for him as he met some of the greatest minds in India and picked up on the crippling issues throughout the country.

While he believed in Independence from the British Empire, Gandhi also believed strongly that the problems India was facing was largely because of its own people.  Wedges between political parties, the internal oppression caused by the caste system, unethical cultural traditions like child marriage and feminism were issues that he sought to educate Indians about.

What made Gandhi’s efforts so different from others, though, was his utter devotion to ahimsa, or nonviolence – a concept he picked up during his childhood due to exposure to Jainism.  This point combined with his newly pioneered philosophy of Satyagraha (devotion to the truth) touched his ‘students’ in an authentic way that had yet to be achieved.

He performed long term fasts, led peaceful protests, and spread his word to the entire country.  He taught people that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  He preached the biblical teaching that if someone slaps your right cheek, turn your head to offer them the left – nonviolent aggression.  Advancing his goal of equality by largely decreasing the negativity of the caste system, Gandhi achieved some level of success in the majority of his goals.  He became a national hero and earned the title Mahatma, a Sanskrit term from the roots maha (great) and aatma (spirit).  He literally became The Great Spirit.

 

Although Gandhi didn’t achieve every one of his goals exactly the way he hoped to, he inspired an entire country (one of the largest in the world) to accept change and embrace unity – he did it by learning from his life experiences and spreading his knowledge quickly and efficiently to those around him.  His main strength wasn’t his IQ or ability to devour and apply theory quickly.  It was his ability to learn from the situations around him and find the appropriate solutions for a given problem.  That’s real world experience!

Ultimate Autodidacts: Einstein to Moffat

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The Guru

Going from a high school dropout to one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, Albert Einstein was the embodiment of autodidactism.  His idea of a perfect date was to read physics texts for fun with his girlfriend – enough said.

Einstein’s introduction to science and mathematics by a childhood friend established an interest in a topic far beyond what he was learning in school.  He taught himself calculus by the age of 13.  Thirteen!  Thus began his foray into the world of self learning; It was simply far more interesting than the grammar and basic mathematics he was forced to sit through in school.

Perhaps Einstein’s greatest secret for success was his approach to learning.  He said:

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

He always believed in imagination, individuality, and inquisitiveness.  This is likely the reason (along with his accomplishments in the field of physics, advocacy for civil rights, and general good human-ness) why he became so widely admired.  This is also likely how John Moffat came to regard him so highly.

 

The Disciple

In the 1950s, Albert Einstein’s career had taken a nose dive.  He had written and spoken about theories that he had been unable to provide proof for over the last several years, which caused his reputation to take a tough hit.

At this point, a Danish painter by the name of John Moffat had just depleted the funds he was living off of in Paris as he honed his art.  He returned home to Copenhagen, Denmark where he returned to his love for reading at a nearby library.  Moffat devoured book after book about mathematics and physics, in mere months learning what took years for the average student to learn at University.

As he absorbed the knowledge, he became a fervent follower of Albert Einstein and his writings.  Familiar with the genius’ slump, Moffat (a high school dropout and painter with no credentials in physics) wrote Einstein a critical letter that analyzed all the things Moffat believed Einstein was doing wrong.  He didn’t expect a reply, of course, from such a famous and admired physicist.

Lo and behold when several weeks later, a hand-written letter in German came addressed to Moffat.  His lack of fluency in German forced Moffat to ask his local German barber for help translating the letter, which proved to encourage his efforts in physics.  Einstein took Moffat and his thoughts very seriously, pointing him to his newer writings and encouraging further replies.  This conversation continued for several letters during which Moffat successfully pointed out a poorly based mathematical assumption in Einstein’s calculations.  This interaction expanded into meetings with other great scientists of the time including Niels Bohr and Erwin Schrodinger.

It was Schrodinger’s recommendation, along with the extensive knowledge Moffat had amassed on his own, that allowed him to become the first accepted PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge without completing an undergraduate (or even secondary school) degree.

 

The Ultimate Autodidact

Albert Einstein is an undisputed genius who took on autodidactism as a fortunate hobby in addition to his more traditional education and work at Princeton University.  John Moffat took his Guru’s efforts a step further and forwent 8 years of (usually) compulsory formal study on the path to his own prestigious PhD.

Einstein and Moffat didn’t even have the beauty of the Internet at their disposal back in their times.  Imagine a modern day Moffat immersed in a MOOC with a Physics e-text on his Kindle in one hand and his online mind map on his tablet in the other.  Now that would be a force to be reckoned with.

How to Get Your Dream Job Without the Required Experience

Ambition of a young architect

Right major?  Check.  Enough software knowledge?  Check.  Cultural Fit?  Check.  Sufficient years of experience?  Uh-oh.

You’re looking at the job listing for your ideal gig just a little while after graduation and feel the excitement mounting inside of you with every requirement you know you can fulfill.  Then you see that you need 2 years of work experience – which you don’t have as a new grad.  Ugh.  Do you pull back and look for a position that you don’t want as much?  Do you resign yourself to a job you know will bore you for the next couple of years?

No.  Stop and think like a hiring manager. They are looking for candidates who know their stuff.  It just so happens that the general consensus says knowing your stuff requires some experience in the industry.  This study by McKinsey & Co. and Chegg even says that college graduates are under prepared but overqualified for employment…a finding that will naturally push hiring managers away from hiring recent grads.

So clearly, your next step should be to prove that you are sufficiently prepared for employment.  How?  Build a portfolio of work similar to what you would be doing on the job and submit it with your job application.  Refocus the potential employer’s attention on your skills and potential and away from metrics that don’t necessarily describe what you can do properly.  Here’s how.

 

Step 1 – MOOCs:  Learning the Skills

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are classes from well known Universities that professors modify for distance learning to allow access to any student for free.  Many of these courses teach exactly the same material as what the professors teach in their traditional classes, but you can take them in your spare time without spending money to build your knowledge and skills base.

Keep in mind that your major and college classes are not the full span of your capabilities.  An English degree is a great base for a copywriting career, but taking a few classes on your own time in marketing techniques can give your writing the boost you need to land that job at an ad agency.

Websites like Coursera and EdX provide great platforms for MOOCs.  It is important, however, to record your work for the class.  The assignments and projects you complete are great additions to your professional portfolio, as they legitimize the coursework you do through MOOCs.  You can keep track of all this by downloading your work as you complete it, or by using websites like Accredible to transfer all of your online coursework to one place that can be linked to the rest of your portfolio.

 

Step 2 – Speculative Projects/Case Studies:  Applying the Skills

There are case studies all over the internet – taking a few and using skills you learned from college and your MOOCs to write an analysis for each can help get your feet wet in the kind of thinking you need to solve problems in your industry.

Speculative or freelancing projects are also great ways to simulate what you will be doing later in a full time job.  Telling a small or mid-sized business or nonprofit organization that you are willing to help them out for free or little charge is an easy way to land some of these projects – this is time you are spending building work experience regardless of the amount you are getting paid.

Specifically working with nonprofit organizations in a volunteer position not only gives you the added experience for your newly developed skills, it also shows a more human side of your personality.  Maybe your volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity relates to your passion for fighting poverty, or perhaps your commitment to proper healthcare is showcased through your extensive work with the Red Cross.  Talking about your volunteer work in an interview is also great way to transition to you personal qualities and cultural fit.

 

Step 3 – Research:  Effectively Showcasing the Skills

Know what’s going on!  Read the news, find new articles on techniques and technology, and learn to use the newest software.  Once your profile gets you to an interview, you still need to prove that you can hit the ground running upon receiving an offer.

Having background knowledge about developments the company and its industry can help you come up with possible solutions to their problems before you are even working there – there is no better way than that to show that you would be an asset to the team.

Follow those three steps and you can show the hiring manager that you are perfect for your dream job because even though you don’t have years under your belt, you have the necessary skills and can demonstrate initiative to continue building more in the future.

Buzzwords Decoded: Motivation

Innovation - Ideas Light Bulb Hatching

Welcome to another week of Buzzwords Decoded with Accredible!  Last week we cleared up the ruckus around ‘innovation’ and are back again with ‘motivation’ to take your resume up another notch.

Definition: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1a :  the act or process of motivating

1b :  the condition of being motivated

2:  a motivating force, stimulus, or influence :  incentive, drive

 

How to Use it Incorrectly

Ever since we learned what a resume was and its importance in the job search, we have been taught to toot our own horns.  Obviously, displaying how awesome you are is essential to getting a hiring manager to look twice – but being obvious about it can actually be off-putting, believe it or not.  Your goal should be to make your horn so attractive that people are drawn to it without requiring obnoxious pleas for attention.

The art of ‘humble self promotion’ is difficult to grasp because it is done differently for each person, but taking out the ‘humble’ can make you sound like a bad salesman – and that will put off anyone who is looking at your resume.

 

How to Use it Properly

Going on and on about how motivated you are as a professional doesn’t actually say anything about you without some solid context demonstrating why you think you are a motivated person.  If you want to show that you are motivated, a quick description of a time when you overcame several challenges to get something done on time could be very helpful.

Another way to show you are motivated is to say why instead of how.  Giving examples of instances when you have shown motivation can take up valuable space on your resume.  Instead, you could demonstrate why you are motivated.  Maybe you have a career goal you are trying to reach or believe strongly in the social mission of the company you are working for.  These things can help to not only eliminate annoying buzzwords, but also humanize you out of a pile of robot resumes.

Asking someone to vouch for you is also a great way to show off your horn without tooting it.  Someone else has nothing to gain by praising you.  So when your former supervisor takes the time to write a great LinkedIn recommendation about how dedicated and motivated you were to accomplishing your goals, a future hiring manager is bound to take it seriously.

 

Take Away

Saying that you are motivated tells an employer or potential mentor nothing of substance and makes you sound robotic.  Solution:  You must prove it with an example, reason, or recommendation.  These things will help your work speak for itself and you won’t need cliched buzzwords that people glaze over anyway.

 

Do you have a resume cliche you’d like to see addressed in this series?  Leave a comment below with your word and the Accredibles will decode your cliche as quickly as possible!

3 Traits that Made Sherlock Holmes a Genius

ALDERNEY - 2009: shows Sherlock Holmes

Whether you think of him as the quirky young gentleman from 19th Century Britain or the high functioning sociopath with a drug problem from present day London, Sherlock Holmes’ genius is undisputed.  The question is, how did Arthur Conan Doyle develop his legendary character’s powers of deduction?  An excellent formal education?  Natural skill?  Well, natural skill certainly had a lot to do with it, but the secret ingredient is a healthy dose of autodidacticism.

 

Lots of Reading & Background Junk

Sherlock Holmes was always reading something new – whether it was in Doyle’s books, one of the several subsequent movies, or the most recent Sherlock series, Dr. Watson mentioned the stacks of papers and books all over Sherlock’s work space and apartment several times.

Naturally, with all this reading came a wealth of background knowledge.  In his most modern adaptation, Sherlock is seen conducting research and tests that only trained professionals are able to do.  Yet, Sherlock Holmes is known to have attended college only briefly and never finished his undergraduate degree.  His natural talent and ability to learn quickly opened him to information that a formal education never provided.

This extensive background knowledge is integral to Sherlock Holmes’ powers of deduction.  After all, to deduce something, you must be able to rule out options which is only possible if you have enough information about it to make a decision.

 

Chaotic Creativity

Anyone who has seen the most recent, highly acclaimed Sherlock series can attest to the the fact that the apartment the detective shares with Dr. Watson is not only messy, but straight up gross.  There are disgusting eyeballs in the fridge and human skulls on the mantle of the fireplace.  In one scene, one such eyeball even falls into Sherlock’s tea – which he continues to drink contemplatively.

Such chaos (except maybe a bit more hygienic) is characteristic of a number of creative geniuses.  Mark Twain always had the messiest desk that spawned some of the best loved literature of all time.  Albert Einstein was cool with a crazy workspace too, saying, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

So basically, keeping himself surrounded by chaos kept Sherlock’s mind in a chaos as well, with everything zooming around in disarray.  Often, things lined up in the right order, and the result was Arthur Conan Doyle’s infinite success.

 

Focus

It is contradicting to say in one breath that Sherlock’s mind was full of chaotic creativity, and in the next that he had an amazing level of focus. His ability to focus on certain parts of the chaos is what allowed him to zone in on the things that had lined up in the right order. Clearly focus is important.

But Sherlock Holmes’ biggest strength was not his ability to concentrate on something in particular – rather it was the organization with which he quickly refocused on detail after detail.  The infamous scene where Sherlock deduces that Watson had been in a war, for example, required him to zoom in and out with his observations very quickly (considering he deduced this after a mere glance).

Even without an extensive formal education, Sherlock Holmes was able to teach himself what the average person would require several formal degrees to learn even a fraction of.  Why?  Because he learned for the sole purpose of knowing and utilizing information rather than with the specific goal of obtaining a degree or job.

The beauty of how things work today is the sheer number of free resources available to all aspiring autodidacts.  From MOOCs to free online books to YouTube tutorials, it’s all there – along with tools like Accredible that can help focus and organize your learning process.  So do you want to be as smart as Sherlock Holmes?  Go do some reading, drive your mind to crazy chaos, and then focus and organize it.  Easy as pie.

5 Awesome Online Learning Tools

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Whether you’re a high school student studying for a test, a college senior cramming for your last exam, or an entrepreneur taking an online class to improve your leadership skills, online learning tools can become your best friend.  Not only are they easy to use, but are also increasingly accessible and decidedly a leap into the future of education.  Here are 5 such tools to keep on your radar.

 

Anki – Powerful, Intelligent Flashcards

photo credit: ekai via photopin cc

Many of us are familiar with the beauty of online flashcards through Quizlet or StudyStack (fantastic classics that everyone should have bookmarked!), but Anki takes the undeniable efficiency of flashcards to the next level by making them ‘intelligent’.  Using spaced repetition software (SRS), Anki can predict what you already know and what you still need to learn, which lets it present only the information you still need to learn when you need to learn it.  So it pretty much organizes your brain for you – pretty cool and kind of scary (in a cool way).

If that isn’t enough, Anki is also highly customizable and controllable due to an open code and storage format.  Plus, you can download the app and study on the go (if you’re that hard core about it) or access the software online to prep from a different computer.  Conclusion:  Click on this link.  Stat.

 

Memrise – Learning, Powered by Imagination

Memrise is more of a tool to help you hone your mind and thought process than to help you study for a particular class.  Think Karate Kid: “Wax on, wax off.” Before you know it, you’ll be kicking butt on all your tests and projects (waxing rag in hand).

Memrise is the epitome of the gamification of learning.  You can learn the basics of languages, history, science, and trivia all while earning points and competing with other users.  It may not be the perfect tool to help you understand Organic Chemistry, but its definitely a solid summer tool to prepare for your upcoming class.  Conclusion: Check this out during your next study break!

 

Evernote – Remember Everything

Remembering a complex equation from your advanced calculus class, all the instructions your boss just gave you while you were drooling over your amazing chocolate cake from lunch, and the recipe for said chocolate cake can get complicated.  Evernote has your back with its family of apps that will help you stay organized.

Saving pictures, notes, screenshots, multimedia links, and documents in one place is the best way to make sure everything gets done, and Evernote makes it easy with a simple interface and myriad of features.  Conclusion:  Watch these videos. The background music sounds kind of like a Michael Buble song…and they’ll convince you to give the app a try!

 

Feedly – Read More, Know More.

mouse-306274_150Best thing about Feedly – it makes you sound smarter than you really are.  Just set up a few notifications for subject areas you want to know about and wait for Feedly to update you on the newest published material.  Next, just read, process, and voila!  You know about the new big thing before your non-Feedly-er interviewer or classmate and get to sound well connected and…well…smart.

Plus, its really easy to use.  You literally go to the website or download the app, pick a few websites and blogs, and start reading.  The only real effort you have to put in is to scan a few lines of words and process them.  Conclusion:  Unless you look into the Mirror of Erised and see nothing but yourself and your awesomeness, go here and pick a square.

 

ExamTime – Transform Your Potential

This one is the ultimate learning tool.  You can make mind maps and flashcards, take quizzes, and make notes.  The awesome part is that you can literally learn anything!  On my first visit to the homepage, the first thing I saw was a Breaking Bad quiz.  The second was a set of beastly chemistry notes.

If the founders of Quizlet, Evernote, a couple MOOC platforms, Google docs, and YouTube were locked in a room, they would probably come out pitching something like Examtime.  Conclusion: Give it a try!  Worst case scenario, you can brush up on some trivia.

 

Buzzwords Decoded: Innovation

Innovation - Ideas Light Bulb Hatching

Definition: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1:  the introduction of something new

2:  a new idea, method, or device :  novelty

 

How to Use it Incorrectly

If there were beauty pageants for buzzwords, ‘innovation’ would be the declining star whose career took a lethal hit because of overexposure.  Innovation is the introduction of a new idea or method, which requires creativity.  So saying that you are, “an innovative, results oriented, go-getter” (which is pretty much what everyone says on their resumes, cover letters, and online profiles) is a fantastic way to ensure that whomever is reading about you will have glazed-over eyes within five seconds.

As a rule of thumb, glazed-over eyes generally mean your document is about to get trashed.  An extremely shocked expression will also achieve the same ends.  An obscene action in the middle of the street to get attention for your school play is not innovative – it is obnoxious.  Try to play it off as innovation to someone conservative or older, and you’ll be bringing on the shock factor.

 

How to Use it Properly

Three words:  Back.  It.  Up.

The reason “innovative, results oriented, go-getter” sounds silly is because it is difficult to simply take a candidate’s word for it that these terms describe them.  If it is important that your potential employer know that you are innovative, be sure to refer to actions or activities you have been a part of that required you to be innovative and the results of said innovation.

If you are throwing in buzzwords for the sake of resume or cover letter computer scanners, you know they don’t belong.  Keep in mind that after the computer decides you have enough buzzwords, a real person will also read your documents.  So if it just looks like buzzword bogus, you still won’t get that interview!

 

Take Away

If you are going to claim that you are innovative, you should show it with your use of the word and design and format of your application.  Being boring and formulaic contradicts your claim and makes your other claims questionable as well.  Solution: Be creative and provide proof for every claim you make!