Rethinking School System Curriculum

Library

Education is how the world develops and progresses. If no one chose to share their knowledge and experiences with others, everyone would just make the same mistakes and discover the same things. The lack of learning from the past slows down humanity’s progress greatly. Just like everything else evolves as obstacles come along, education needs to evolve to match the speed of technology.

The Problem

Going through school in my generation we were using books that were 5 - 10 years old, and that was based on the publication date. Those books could have easily taken 1 - 2 years to write and put together. Current school systems have newer books that are 1 - 2 years old + the amount of time to put them together. Even if you get a book that was just written it will be out of date in a couple months to a year. So, how do we teach current and future knowledge?

The Solution

After joining The Iron Yard, I started to brainstorm around what they are currently doing and how I could expand upon it. The curriculum setup now is very fluid and open to manipulation as the class goes along. Currently we have notes about what is taught in a Github repo. Im hoping to open it up with more information about how we will cover sections and when. Basically a textbook as a repo.

The Experiment

I will be building TIY’s iOS curriculum on a public facing Github repo. This will allow for some very interesting interactions :

  • Instant updates as technology improves or is created
    • ex: a new library, framework, or API is created… so I change tomorrow’s lesson to cover it
    • students graduating with up-to-date technologies is so desirable
  • Feature requests
    • ex : a student requests to learn a particular technology within the iOS community
    • ex : a company asks for students to learn a technology for job placement
  • Pull requests to allow for instructor collaboration on the curriculum
  • Bug requests to allow for holes or issues that might arise in the curriculum

And this is just the tip of the iceberg for what will be able to come out of a repo based curriculum. Once I have the repo setup, I will update this entry with a link to it.

Photo Credit: Chris Devers via Compfight cc

Anatomy of an Epic Team

Being human, we have many opportunities to be much more incredible than we choose to be. Our potential is limitless, yet many of us choose to settle for what is necessary. This leaves the human race to just putter along waiting for aliens to come and conquer us (sorry, my nerdy side comes out a lot).

An Exception to the Rule

Even though most humans are happy with just cruising through life. There are a select few who choose to make a difference. This group is made up of people who lead, inspire, innovate, & most of all create. Some people are born with these skills, while others grow a passion to be more.

First Hand Experience

I have worked in both good and bad business environments. And I believe that each working environment is created and molded by those who work around you. One of the first jobs that I worked at when I was younger had one boss who never was around, a second boss who did nothing on the job, me and two other guys who worked hard, and one last guy who hung out with the boss that didn’t work. I stayed at that company for six months before I lost all desire to work there. Hybrid, another company that I worked for was smaller, with just a couple guys working alongside me and even my boss, Chip Lay, was in the trenches constantly working his butt off to get the job done.

The Iron Yard

When I first heard about The Iron Yard, I was intrigued with their setup. Being a flat company, there is no managers or bosses. This means that every employee needs to be a self-starter and must be able to handle the responsibility of getting the job done. Basically, if TIY was made up of people who only chose to do the bare minimum possible, the company would have failed already. Thankfully, that is not the case.

It is very rare to have multiple employees who are MVPs, but being a part of a team made completely of MVPs is an epic experience.

Meeting the Team

This past week, I got to hang out in Greenville to meet everyone and see how the flagship is ran. It is so impressive to see what can be built by just a few people. Peter, Eric, Mason, Aubrey & the rest of the team have created an amazing foundation for this company to expand upon. Even more impressive is that each member employed by TIY is really passionate about TIY’s mission. If you take a step back, our whole team looks like a fantasy football (or your favorite sport here) team. Each player with incredible stats for their area of expertise.

New Campuses

Now that The Iron Yard has created a template for a strong campus, we are tasked with creating campuses in places of need. I am very honored to be apart of this invaluable experience.

Atlanta

As the first iOS instructor of The Iron Yard, I will be pioneering the curriculum for our academy. I am also excited about getting to work along side two other instructors teaching Rails & Front End Engineering. We have a Rails instructor, but are still looking for a Front End instructor. You can easily apply here to join our fast growing team.

I have been following, John Saddington, for awhile now because of his many accomplishments. And when he came to me with an offer to work for TIY, I didn’t have to think very hard for an answer. Yes working with the rest of the TIY crew is going to be amazing, but I am very excited to be working beside this man as we start the Atlanta campus. He desires to pursue his full potential 24/7, and you can see it in what he does. This isn’t limited to his job, he is an awesome family man as well.

Charleston

While up in Greenville, I got to meet the two instructors who will be starting up the Charleston campus. I have really solid teammates around me to lean on as I need them. Nick Bucciarelli is a very smart engineer for his age, only 25 and he is passionate about leading others into careers of development. Calvin Webster will be one of the more foundational teachers, based on the fact that he was born with a skill to guide & teach others. Calvin & Nick are going to be an incredibly strong team who I have no doubt will build an amazing campus together.

More to Come

The heart and soul of TIY is to create exceptional value to our communities, with hopes that it will allow others to grow and succeed. So as we create awesome environments in these new cities, many more will be continuously dreamed up. I can’t wait to see what kind of impact we will have made by the end of 2014.

Competition, A Necessary Evil

When I see an online contest, my first reaction is to run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. This is due partly to bad experiences, but mostly because my reasons for entering contests were misguided. I have learned a lot from both winning and losing competitions.

Things to remember when entering a contest :

  • Be humble, arrogance in competition is ugly
  • Don’t focus on the prize, there is only one
  • Have a passion for the contest
  • Don’t rush, get it right, half-done never wins

Calculator App Contest

Team Treehouse just put on a contest, Calculator App for iOS, which sounded like a great way for me to start giving back to others. I have been impressed with what the Treehouse’s team has been doing with their online training service.

[![Team Treehouse](/public/content/images/treehouse_logo.jpg)](https://teamtreehouse.com/forum/forum-contest-calculator-app-for-ios)

The details for the app contest :

  • Build an app that is based on Apple’s calculator
  • Make the addition button work
  • Due by January 19th (tomorrow as I am writing this)
  • Post it on Github or Dropbox

Let the competition ensue. :)

Research

Find apps like what you are wanting to build.

![Calculator App Icon](/public/content/images/calc.png)

I spent a while testing what happens when using the Apple calculator in different ways. Below are a few tests :

[button] display

  • [3] 3 [+] 3 [5] 5 [=] 8 [=] 13 [=] 18
  • [4] 4 [%] 0.04
  • [3] 3 [-] 3 [1] 1 [+] 2 [4] 4 [x] 4 [3] 3 [=] 14
  • [4] 4 [.] 4. [5] 4.5 [+] 4.5 [3] 3 [=] 7.5

Functionality

I spent a good chunk of time trying to get it as close to working like the original app. Here is what I was able to get working :

  • math operations [+], [-], [x], [/]
  • percent … [4] 4 [%] 0.04
  • signing … [4] 4 [+/-] -4
  • clear / all clear … [4] 4 [c] 0 and [ac] clears last operation
  • decimal … [4] 4 [.] 4. [6] 4.6
  • equals after operation … [4] 4 [+] 4 [4] 4 [=] 8 [=] 12
  • operation after operation … [4] 4 [+] 4 [3] 3 [-] 7 [2] 2 [=] 5

I always get annoyed when I accidentally hit the wrong number while in the middle of a multi-step formula. So I chose to add a “delete” button that removes numbers if they have just been input. It does not delete if the display is a result.

  • delete … [4] 4 [5] 45 [del] 4 [del] 0

Design & Experience

Specifications I wanted to follow :

  • works for both 3.5 & 4 inch displays
  • simple iOS 7 look with better touch and selected animations
  • resizable font size for display (like the original app)
  • design that will be dynamic for future ability to customize
  • discover and use original font

My biggest design challenge was the font(s). Yes, that is plural. Apple uses the Helvetica Neue family for most of there thin fonts in iOS 7. But the funny thing is the decimal point in Helvetica Neue is a line, not a circle. So I went about finding a good decimal and I ended up using Avenir. The button was easy, the display was a little trickier. I setup a simple NSMutableAttributedString to solve the display issue.

I wanted to have a nerdy throwback. So I based the icon on calculator speak. When you put 1337 in a calculator and turn it upside down it spells LEEt (as in an elite nerd).

![1337 App Icon](/public/content/images/leet_icon.png)

Here are the screenshots of the calculator app that I built.

![Launch Image](/public/content/images/leet_launch.jpg) ![Screen Shot](/public/content/images/leet_ss.jpg) ![Screen Shot](/public/content/images/leet_ss2.jpg)

Wish me luck!

The Balance of Creation & Consumption

All of my life I have greatly enjoyed the act of consumption. It is as simple as opening our eyes to see colors, listening to the soft sounds floating past our ears, sticking out our tongues to taste a lemon, using our noses to guess what our Mom is cooking, or reaching out our hands to feel our surroundings. We are born with a desire to learn and understand what we don’t yet know.

But there is another side to consumption that a lot of people take for granted. Things that you consume must be created first. Without something or someone creating things around you, you would have nothing to consume (or at the least you would have to create it yourself).

Imagination to Designer

As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to create. I wasn’t the best at creating, so I chose to figure out how things were made. Much to my parents dismay, I took apart every electronic toy I was given. More times than not I forgot the order of taking it apart and ended up with a broken toy. What I learned from this process is that people spend a great amount of time to create something to work correctly, but it takes minutes to destroy it.

[![Creative Circus](/public/content/images/circus_logo.jpg)](http://www.creativecircus.edu/)

Back in 2006 I enrolled at The Creative Circus for the Design track. This was one of the best choices I have made in my life, even though it is not my central focus currently. The first person I think of when talking about that school is Sylvia Gaffney. She was my color theory teacher, and she was merciless. I learned why creation was more than just puting two items together to make a finished product. To be able to create, you must have a desire, passion, and understanding of the product you are creating. In Sylvia’s class, she doesn’t ask you to discover those things. She makes you do unbearable amounts of homework to find them while drowning. You begin to understand the product as you work through each part and discover its needs and potential. As a result, passion and desire begin to build as you discover the meaning behind the product. I now have a passion for design and always look for meaning behind what I create.

Designer to Developer

As I walked out of The Creative Circus, I had an opportunity to join a small design/development studio, Hybrid (known as Hybr-id Design at the time). I would not be in the position I am in without this company or more importantly the guy who ran it, Chip Lay. Starting out as a designer I got to create web layouts and experiences. Over time I gave in to my urge to learn how the websites were built. Given the flexibility and relaxed environment at Hybrid, I was able to pursue learning code.

[![Hybrid](/public/content/images/hybrid_logo.jpg)](http://www.meethybrid.com/)

I want to note that I learned code differently than most. Most choose to read books and go to computer classes to figure out what the code does as a product. Being a designer I went backwards. I looked at design as the product and the code would be enhancing it. In this manner the design was my passion and the code would help me understand the design better. Looking back, I would attribute this style of learning to the speed in which I was able to learn. I also believe that my childhood desire to figure out how things work bleed into my ease and persistence of learning.

[![Big Nerd Ranch](/public/content/images/bnr_logo.jpg)](http://www.bignerdranch.com/)</center>

Now, there is only so much that you can learn on your own. And even worse, what you are learning by yourself is not always right. So when I got the chance to take a class at Big Nerd Ranch, I jumped at it. Hybrid sent me to a 5 day iOS Bootcamp class that rocked my world. What I had taken a year+ to learn was made so clear after going through that class. There is something so necessary about learning from a human who can personally interact with you.

Developer to Teacher

I noted in the beginning that there is no consumption without creation. For the past 8+ years I have been consuming very valuable knowledge. And yet, I have mostly created things that benefit me. I rave about the open source community, yet my Github public repos are lame. I have hit a point where I have a huge desire to give back.

[![The Iron Yard](/public/content/images/tiy_logo.jpg)](http://theironyard.com)</center>

I’m excited to say that I will be able to do that as the Atlanta iOS instructor at The Iron Yard. After spending a great week with TIY team in Greenville, I have gained an even greater excitement for the role I am allowed to play. Mason Stewart has pioneered a style of teaching that makes knowledge even more consumable than many other that have come before him. It is a great honor to be able to help create this new culture of learning.

Creation == Consumption

As I look forward, my pursuit will be to balance out how much I consume with how much I create. Not only will I be adding 10+ new public repos to my Github in the next couple months, I plan on taking an active part in major community based repos as well.

What will you choose to do? Consume? Create?