Essential Resources to Become a Life Long Learner (in tech)

Is one of your New Year Resolutions to re-skill? Thinking about re-training for a new career (or even just a new hobby) in tech? Then you're in luck! 

Today, more than ever, the barrier to entry for starting to learn a new technology or programming language is all but nonexistent, all you really need is a computer (or even a mobile device) and a web connection and you are pretty much good to go - just choose your preferred technology, an IDE and get started.  Almost everything is open source or at least free to use for a single developer just out to learn and there is a wealth of blogs, articles and Q'n'A sites ready to help you with tutorials, walk-through's and helpful advice - many of these backed with ready and running code bases on GitHub free for you to play with and generally work out what is going on.

However, with all these resources it can sometimes be a bit daunting with so much content. Once you have chosen a language how do you know where to start? Here are some of our favourite sites and resources that we have discovered and found useful in learning new skills:

  • iTunes U - a lesser known category on iTunes is their academic section, iTunes U(niversity) featuring loads of podcasts and lectures from a range of academic organisations, and some of this stuff is serious! Several large universities have uploaded full lecture series there, and by and large they are free to download (yes, you have to install iTunes, which sucks, we know).  Want to take the full term of Stanford university's iOS course? Its up there. Want to learn AI for chess playing from Cambridge uni? Yep, got that too. And for free.
  • MIT OpenWare - MIT have been one of the strongest advocates of open sourced education. A lot of there lecture series are online (can also be found on iTunes, but can be avoided).  Is it just us who thinks its amazing that anyone around the world with a web connection can get educated by the most prestigious academic organisations around?
  • Khan Academy - there is a lot of hype around this one, well funded with some pretty big names supporting it (jQuery creator John Resig is a Dean there), a not-for-profit aiming at providing free education for everyone. The academy provides lots of video based courses as well as interactive challenges and detailed stats on how you are doing.
  • Udacity - this is another recent, well-funded startup trying to tackle free higher education for all. Founded my three robotocists it is slowly building a very respectable catalogue of uni level courses ranging from CS101 to AI for robotics. As with the Khan academy, the lectures are purely for the web so the videos are clear and designed for remote learning (different from the filmed university lectures which are targeting classroom based learning).  We have recently created and Open Sourced the Spring-Social implementation of the Khan Academy API - so if you are working with the JVM and want to have a play with the Khan Academy API then check it out on GitHub
  • CodeAcademy - we have mentioned before we are fans of code academy, code academy is an in-browser development environment that walks you through programming exercises to help you learn with your hands - currently supporting JavaScript, HTML, Ruby and Python
  • Free eBooks - there are loads of great free eBooks available online, so many there is no point listing them, instead I will just point you here. Which leads nicely on to the next point..
  • StackOverflow - what really needs to be said about SO? It is the definitive q'n'a site for tech. If you are just starting learning head over and sign up, the help from the incredibly active community over there will be invaluable (although be sure to read the posting guides, they can be a little unforgiving at times!).
  • Coursera - Another massively popular online learning resource, this one recently generated a lot of interest with its recent Scala course taught by the original creator of the language!  We are currently working on some secret integration with Coursera at NerdAbility, and you will soon be able to integrate your Coursera account and show off which courses you have completed!

Hopefully the above resources help on your path to re-skilling.  In reality, getting your hands dirty with code and trying to solve problems and fix errors is the best way to learn, so don't forget to get stuck in - and maybe when you are more confident try answering questions on StackOverflow!

Of course, with these new found skills you will want to show them off, so we'd recommend heading to NerdAbility and registering (if you haven't as already) and update your skills, add your StackOverflow profile and even add a custom section talking about what you are learning (employers always love to know that candidates are proactive and motivated when it comes to learning new things and keeping up with technology). 

Leave your comments with any other tools and resources you have found useful in your journey of becoming a life long learner.