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Boosting your tech skills

Published onJan 24, 2020
Boosting your tech skills
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Tired of waiting for other people to fix your tech for you? Frustrated that technology always seems to break? Wish you had a better shot at the high-tech jobs everyone says are going to remain stable over the next few decades? Most of us living through the digital revolution have been there at one point or another. You’re not alone. It’s a nonstop learning curve that we all find ourselves on as technologies change.

The good news is, these same technologies that frustrate us so much when they change are also the technologies that can bring us tools to adapt to that change, and learn new skills. So let’s get brave and check out what’s available. Here are some resources that might help, from lower-tech to higher-tech options.

Finding someone to guide you

As I mentioned in Keep Calm and Log On, one of your best resources if you want to pick up basic computing skills is your local library. Check in with your librarians to see what free classes they may have available. Also, check your state’s department of labor to see what support they may have for learning new skills.

To get the basics of using and fixing your devices

Don’t forget to check the help sites for your device; here they are for Windows, Android, Mac and iPhone. (If you haven’t checked them in a while, you might be surprised at how much better they’ve gotten at giving advice!)

Bleeping Computer has some good tutorials on doing some basic things on your devices.

Tom’s Guide has a wider range of tech troubleshooting advice, everything from fixing your TV remote to blocking robocalls.

Ifixit is a fantastic resource for troubleshooting and repairing your own devices without paying for someone else to do it—yes, you can even replace your own phone’s cracked screen!

If you want to try a coding workshop

RailsBridge offers some introductory workshops in web development worldwide.

If you’d rather teach yourself

Codecademy offers an easy-to-use place to start coding, with a “freemium” model (some stuff available for free, then more for a monthly fee).

MIT and Harvard have partnered with some other schools to offer some of their courses free of charge online through the edX courses on computer science and data science. Some of these courses are available in French and Spanish. Some are even part of a path to a professional certificate, college credit, or online master’s degree, though there is a charge for these options.

Coursera offers additional courses from a range of other schools; in their model, you take a course and then pay for a certificate if you pass.

Tech programs giving extra support to women and girls

Girl Develop It, in their own words, “exists to provide affordable and judgment-free opportunities for women interested in learning web and software development.” They have chapters in 60 cities around the US.

Black Girls Code runs workshops and afterschool programs for girls from communities under-represented in technology. Their chapters run in 7 US states and Johannesburg, South Africa.

Hackbright is an evenings-only coding bootcamp in San Francisco that focuses on training women. It charges tuition, but has some scholarships and payment plans available.

If you’re ready for a big change

If you can afford a career change, coding boot camps may be for you. They’re a new form of education open to career-changers, even people who may never have gone to college. They don’t just teach you how to code—many offer courses on design, data analysis, security, and other related topics as well. Many of them offer the option to pay little up front, then repay your tuition once you land a job. But be aware these are intensive programs that often require you to be there full-time.

Here’s a couple with good reputations:

General Assembly has a number of campuses in big cities worldwide, as well as online courses. They have a scholarship for women.

Flatiron School has campuses in nine US cities and London.

Tech Elevator has campuses in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia, and focuses on workforce development in diverse communities. They are eligible for state and national financial assistance for workforce development, vocational rehab support for individuals with disabilities, the GI Bill, and interest-free loans.

Coding Dojo has campuses in nine US cities and is also available online. They’re eligible for GI Bill funding.

For a longer list, with ratings, Course Report maintains reviews of bootcamps.

For more encouragement while you build your skills for the digital revolution, pick up a copy of Keep Calm and Log On! And check the rest of this website for practical tips on security, privacy, and keeping calm online.

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