Sunday, August 3, 2014

HERE'S WHAT'S NEW: August 2014!

On a recent edition of one of my favorite techie-oriented podcasts, one of the participants in a round-table discussion offered the off-the-cuff guesstimate that the U.S. has evolved into a society in which 50% of the population is unable to perform any useful function, since they lack the requisite skills and knowledge-base to do so. While one could easily (and justifiably) quibble with the "50%" figure, the overall gist of the comment rings true to me: that our public (and even potentially most private) schools -- with their assembly-line classroom structures and their pathologically obsessive focus on preparing students to excel in completing one-size-fits-all fill-in-the-bubble tests -- turn out graduates who are, by and large, unprepared to fulfill a meaningful role in modern society.

Accepting this as an essentially true assessment of the state of things, I come to a juncture in my life when the paths that I and my wife have followed (which rather substantially deviate from what most Americans would consider "normal") require of me a career change. Given that I have always been (and remain) one of those starry-eyed types, idealistically bent on maximizing my usefulness in the world, yet pragmatically allowing that I also need to continue to "make a decent living", I am embarking on my first serious job hunt within the IT realm since the mid-90s (almost twenty years ago!).

Starting in early 2008, I began a deviation from my previous twenty-year career in software engineering, and delved into elementary school teaching in international schools in the Far East. These last few years devoted largely to educational endeavors have left me not-a-fan of classroom-based teaching of any kind. Forcing people to learn, en masse, in a "learning factory" (i.e., a traditional classroom) is a good way to all but guarantee that anything ostensibly learned will be quickly forgotten.

I am convinced that by far the most effective learning is self-directed learning, whether it be that of a six month old baby beginning to teach herself to talk, or of a 78 year old man beginning to teach himself how to use an iPhone so that he can have video chats with his grandchildren.

With all that said, I come back to the topic of my "job hunt". In the ideal world (and, being an idealist, I'm always on the hunt for the ideal world), I could bring all of my past experiences together --
  1. my software engineering experience (1989-2008), 
  2. my teaching experience (2008-2013), and even 
  3. my brief foray into the world of audiobook narration and production (2013-2014)
-- to fill a role in what might broadly be call "the educational arm" of the IT industry.

As part of my search, I'll be looking for small companies (either well established or new start-ups) that are taking on the challenge of providing tools or environments that assist people in self-directed learning endeavors.

However, I'd also like to broaden the search, to include companies of different sizes in a potentially broad array of industries, who see a need to provide learning opportunities for any of their stakeholders (employees, customers, managers, etc.), and who might benefit from my help in doing it.

What am I doing right now, at this very moment?

I'm currently engaged in very focused self-education, reacquiring my skills in Java software design and development that have lain dormant for the better part of a decade. In the next few months I plan to turn out one or two web-based services and to make some contributions to the code-bases of at least one open-sourced Java-based project. Then, confident that my head is once again screwed on right with respect to the essentials of software engineering, I will seriously begin to look for professional engagements with organizations operating at the nexus of technology and learning.

No comments:

Post a Comment