Geek / Technical

Learn Skills, Not Applications

I meant to write about this item months ago, but this report concludes that open source is good for the economy.

Also, it includes this little gem:

The report also recommends that technical education should be vendor neutral. Students should be taught skills, not applications, and should be encouraged to participate in open source communities.

It is what I argue whenever I complain about game development books focusing on DirectX and Win32 instead of, you know, game development. B-)

3 replies on “Learn Skills, Not Applications”

I sat in with a group of design students who were meeting with an industry professional. I don’t know how many times they had to tell them, “Look, it doesn’t matter what tool you use, you just have to know what you’re doing.”

Which invariably led to someone asking, in a vaguely different manner, “But, like… do you hire people who know Dreamweaver, or what?”

Of course, I agree that you should teach skills, not applications, but it’s easier said than done. If you want to teach someone game programming, then you have to start by teaching a graphics library and Win32/DirectX is an understandable choice, even though I fully understand why you don’t like it.

I’ve tried to teach my students programming instead of Java, but the truth is that you can’t really distinguish between the programming and the language, until you are proficient with the language. (I’d like to teach programming using several programming languages to see how that goes, but my colleagues aren’t too thrilled about that idea.)

You can’t teach skills without using an application. Using several applications to teach the same skill has advantages and disadvantages. In the end it might come down to the fact that learning skills just takes a lot of time, regardless of which way you go about it.

I’ve been saying for years that open source is good for your career. 🙂 If you’re in college now, classes will not prepare you for a “real job”. They won’t give you a useful practicum. Get involved in some open source project. Make it your part time job. Spend your “thousand hours” on it (coding, documentation, testing, whatever).

Then you get 1000 hours more experience and you get a line on your resume that says “I’ve been developing for the past 3 years, and I’m only 22. And you can see the code I wrote, and it’s used by dozens/hundreds/thousands of people. You want to hire that sort of skillz, right?”

OK, without the 1337-spk. 🙂

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