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Free Coursera course: IBM Blockchain for Developers


Coursera just started a class on IBM Blockchain.  The course is being taught by two IBMers, Ant Cole and Dave Gorman.  If you are a developer interested in learning about Blockchain, check out this free 6 week course being offered by Coursera.  Here is the complete course description:

“About this course: If you’re a software developer and new to blockchain, this is the course for you. Several experienced IBM blockchain developer advocates will lead you through a series of videos that describe high-level concepts, components, and strategies on building blockchain business networks. You’ll also get hands-on experience modeling and building blockchain networks as well as create your first blockchain application.

The first part of this course covers basic concepts of blockchain, and no programming skills are required. However, to complete three of the four labs, you must understand basic software object-oriented programming and how to use the command line. It’s also helpful, but not required, that you can write code in JavaScript.

When you complete the course, you should understand what a blockchain business network is, how to build and model a simple blockchain solution, and the role of the developer in creating blockchain applications.

If you successfully complete the course, you’ll receive a certificate of completion and an Acclaim badge. You’ll need to pass several end-of-section quizzes and a final exam that include multiple choice, true and false, and fill in the blank questions.
This course does not cover Bitcoin or cryptocurrency in detail.

Who is this class for: Software developers who are new to blockchain.”

Enrollment is free or you can seek a certificate for a small fee.

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How Your Learning Mindset Can Cost Your Job (and how to avoid it)


It’s Labor Day (U.S. Holiday) A great day to write about work.  If you work in a computer-related profession you can never stop learning if you wish to remain employed.  And that trend is spreading across professions like wildfire as the benefits of technology influence almost every profession.  But not everyone is cut out for a lifetime of success through learning.  In a recent article published by Salman Khan, the creator of KhanAcademy.org, he wrote about Learning Mindsets:

“Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.”

In other words, as I often tell my daughter as I’m dropping her off at school “Have fun and make lots of mistakes!”  Why? Because we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. This philosophy is a companion to “Turn your weaknesses into strengths.”

But back to my original point: lifetime learning. If you aren’t investing time in your professional development, then you are likely to become obsolete soon. Adopt a growth mindset and feed your mind. There are some fantastic education websites out there to cater to everyone from Kindergarteners to Post-graduates and every kind of special interest in between.  Many of these are free, operating under the philosophy that knowledge should be free to everyone.  Here is a selection of what I have found.  If you know of others, please share them in the comments for all to benefit.

https://www.khanacademy.org   Broad range of classes from math & science to business & entrepreneurship FOR FREE. Many public schools are integrating this free site into their lesson plans. (spell it right. There is an imitation out there that you don’t want.)
https://www.coursera.org   A partnership of universities supplying a broad range of classes FOR FREE.  Check out the wikipedia article.
https://class.stanford.edu/   Stanford University offers access to a variety of classes FOR FREE online. Not for the feint-of-heart. Check out the class on cryptography if you want a challenge.
http://www.lynda.com/  Drop the cable TV subscription and spend $25 a month being entertained and educated with unlimited access to thousands of courses.  (Including classes on IBM Connections software taught by my friend Bruce Elgort)
http://www.w3schools.com/  Learn computer programming languages FOR FREE.  Sponsored by a cool Norwegian web development company.

I know there are many others out there.  Do you have any to share?

Adapt or fail: Some Great Donated (free) Online Education for Professional Development


Education has never been more accessible to the world as it is now, thanks to the Internet.  In just the past 6 months I have encountered numerous FREE resources, even instructor-led classes from sources like Stanford University.  Part of this is definitely a response of society to help people adapt and retool their job skills in an effort to get them back to productive work.  I think part of it is also a result of changing attitudes.  Parents are becoming more actively involved in their children’s education to help them thrive in the world.  Whatever the case, I am one with an insatiable appetite for learning new things and I am lovin’ it.  I also enjoy sharing knowledge.  With that in mind, I want to share some of the resources I have found.

1.  Coursera:  Major universities collaborating to offer instructor-led credit classes online for free
At https://www.coursera.org  you can find courses on topics ranging from Cryptography to Quantum Mechanics.  This is a collaborative effort with 16 different Universities including such pedagogic giants as Stanford, Duke, Princeton, University of Toronto, Georgia Tech, and The University of Edinburgh.  These classes are not for the faint of heart.  This is not community college material.  You will definitely be challenged.  Great stuff to compliment your knowledge within your core area of expertise.

2.  Venture Lab:  More college-level content for free
Visit http://venture-lab.org/ for more college classes from Stanford University.  You can also find previous lessons for these classes on youtube, just search for venture lab.

3.  Khan Academy: Unique and excellent education programs for all levels whether you want to learn 1+1=2 or details on venture capitalism
At http://www.khanacademy.org/ you can find one of the best online learning resources for your children, paid or free.  It uses novel interactive learning techniques to really learn the material well.  This was created as a non-profit by one man disappointed in the education his child was getting.  For millions of registered members, it is a great learning aid. Many public school teachers are adopting it as complimentary materials to their curriculum.  Beware to use the correct spelling to get to this website.  There is a copycat website with a spelling close to this one.

4.  IBM developerWorks
Check out http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/training/knowledgepath/index.html?cmp=dw&cpb=dw&ct=dwnew&cr=dwnen&ccy=zz&csr=081712
to see IBM’s free education covering various topics for IT professionals including XML, Java, Linux, open source, cloud computing, and business analytics,  It’s not just about IBM software.

5.  w3schools.com for web development language tutorials
See http://www.w3schools.com/ for great tutorials to learn web development tools including HTML5, HTML, XML, CSS, PHP, Javascript, SQL and much more.  Surprising (and thankful) this source is free.  It has been around for a long time.  As a footnote, they have been tracking and publishing browser usage that hits their website.  Check it out.  http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp  The results might surprise you!

6. State of Washington WorkSource
If you are on unemployment and live in the state of Washington, visit  http://www.wa.gov/esd/e-learning/default.htm
The state of Washington has a contract with Microsoft to provide free online tutorials for all of Microsoft’s software to anyone in the state of Washington that is collecting unemployment.  A narrow audience, perhaps, but a great value if you qualify and are looking for work using Microsoft software.  This program gives access to productivity tools in Office as well as a few hundred hours of training materials for IT professionals and it includes their entire e-learning library covering several versions of software.  Of course the one caveat noted on the website is “Microsoft e-learning does not work well on Macintosh computers.  If you wish to enroll in Microsoft e-learning, see if you can get access to a PC.”  That excludes iPads and most other tablets as well.

This is just a sample of what is available.  There are many other free learning resources out there of varying degrees of value.  If you know of others that you like, please post them in the comments for all to benefit.

Remember: knowledge and information at rest have no value.  Their value only comes when put in motion through sharing or use.  If you hoard knowledge or information, it will not make you more powerful or protect your job.  In fact, just the opposite.  People will seek out a way to get by without you.  But if you share knowledge, they will value your input and recognize your contributions.  So spread the word!

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