Strongly Emergent

What comes from combining humans, computers, and narrative

Proposed Course: Pylons

Of course, after spending most of 400 words complaining in my last post, an obvious question comes up: well, what are you going to do about it? What I’m doing about it is writing up a course - and more than one, if I get a positive reception - that will let me create the hybrid curriculum I want, and pitching it to the school’s administration. I’ve used Google Docs to write up a course proposal (which is going to keep being updated, it’s very much work-in-progress) for the first thing I have in mind.

What I have in mind is using Pylons. Pylons is an open-source web framework built on Python. I’ve been working on Python gradually on my own time, but I’m not happy with my progress. I haven’t been making progress because I haven’t been putting in enough time. Therefore, I want to create a school project in which I have to use Pylons because that will require me to put in more time on it, and give me a structure for using my time. That’s pretty much the most useful thing that I get from school: I could get most of the information from pure reference works freely available (appearances to the contrary, it’s not like Microsoft or Red Hat want to keep people from knowing how to run their servers well), but school gives it structure and enacts a framework for practice. Practice - that Gladwellian 10,000 hours - is essential. So when I have a structure for my time, it’s easier to put in the purposeful practice required to achieve proficiency (and after that, mastery).

Fortunately, this project of creating a Pylons class has an excellent fallback position. Even if I don’t persuade the school to let me take my course - and it’s definitely not a sure thing - I can use that framework to structure my own time and make more progress. So I’m happy about that. I wouldn’t design the course if I had already done all of the work - as it is, I’m designing the course around what I need to learn, and it’s an interesting challenge to develop a plan for learning things that I don’t yet know. I definitely think that my path will be easier if I can save the school’s administration as much work as possible. I want to plop down a sheaf of paper for them and say - “here is the whole course, how about letting me do it?” I will give them a syllabus, quizzes and answer keys, homework assignments, a textbook, and a letter of recommendation from someone saying “yeah these are marketable skills.” I hope that they’ll find that persuasive.

There’s another reason to craft this course, though, that I should have covered in the last post. I hope that it will replace some courses here that suck. Unless you’re getting into serious mojo and/or VBA, Word and Excel are not suitable subjects for technical college classes. Learning to use them up to a basic, everyday level is a long afternoon’s work. The curriculum here feels padded with classes like that, that have no place in seriously preparing for a job in the IT world. I’m familiar with and sympathetic to the argument that peripheral skills are near in importance to technical skills, and that preparation for the professional world should be holistic, but come on. I feel like my tuition is not well spent when it is spent on content-free classes. So as far as I possibly can, I’m going to roll my own education, I’m going to pitch classes at the Administration that are not content-free, and use them to replace content-free classes.

Setting a goal and working with a bureaucratic institution to get it, crafting a proposal, negotiating, accepting a higher work-load in order to have more gratifying work? Those are career skills I want.