Yes I Khan

Recently, I mentioned to a colleague that I wanted to learn to develop JavaScript programs. It’s not that I want to be a JavaScript developer; rather, there are a couple of simple projects that I would like to bring onto the front burner, and I wanted to try doing-it-myself rather than outsourcing the effort. The icing on the cake was it would afford me an opportunity to take a walk in the shoes of the developers and subject matter experts (SMEs) on my project teams that I find myself collaborating with regularly.

My vision was not to become a JavaScript guru; and I wasn’t looking for certification. On hearing this, my colleague suggested the on-line training centre, Khan Academy. It would provide the basics I was looking for; and, best of all, the price was right—it’s free (although donations are encouraged). Perfect!

Those with children may be familiar with The Khan Academy—these are the same folks that provide on-line tutorials to help kids learn math. I hadn’t realized they had training in other subject matter areas. How much could I really learn from a kids’ study tool, though?

A lot as it turns out. Over the course of the lessons I’ve gone from understanding the fundamentals of programming to creating some relatively-complex object-oriented programs. The lessons are comprised of tutorials that are demo-based, and include audio that’s up-beat and light making what are sometimes complex or abstract concepts fun to learn. Each tutorial is followed up with a coached challenge to reinforce the just-learned content; and, at the end of all the tutorials and challenges in each lesson, a project is assigned in which you must create a program using the concepts from the lesson.

To be sure, the content is targeted at kids, with Pokemon-type characters popping up to provide words of encouragement and direction. But, so what? I’m still accomplishing my goal; and it’s a refreshing change from the often dreary and mundane adult training programs that are out there.

Because Khan is web-based, I can complete the lessons whenever/wherever I want. I usually login from home for an hour in the morning before the workday begins; however, I have just as easily logged in from Starbucks. Also, the tutorials are always available, in a chronological order, I can go back and replay them when I get stuck.

Has it been worth the time invested? I think it has. I now have the basic programming skills I was after (the outcomes from my labors will ultimately become part of the Professional Services Plus website–stay tuned to PSBlog for more on this as we approach the release date). In addition, when development teams are walking me through technical designs and prototypes or discussing issues, risks and changes, I now have a better context within which to receive and frame this information.

You can find out more about The Khan Academy at khanacademy.org.

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