Improve Your Technology Literacy with These Awesome Tools

Don't let the tech terrify you.

Get Smart(er)

Technology literacy is a serious problem, and we’re not just talking about your parents’ inability to figure out the DVD player.

It’s time to overcome your fear, loathing, or inability to stop talking about The Bachelor and start going deeper on the apparent magic that happens behind your computer screen.

It’s not only aspiring techies who should seek to improve their technology literacy – everyone, from marketers to social media managers will be better served if they understand the basics of how a website gets built. And it’s not simply a matter of improving your job prospects.

If you want to meaningfully engage in conversations as far afield as “fake news” or the battle over encryption, you need to understand at least something of how the underlying tech works.

So let’s go.

Getting Started with Tech Literacy

Our video with Dev Bootcamp’s Steven Cassidy on How to Be Tech Literate should prove an excellent intro. He’ll demystify the terms, acronyms, and approaches you need to start understanding front-end and back-end development, as well as database engineering. Check it out.

What Is Code? Find Out Now.

Last year Bloomberg Businessweek dedicated a full issue to Paul Ford’s magnificent What Is Code? – a sprawling, lyrical, and remarkably lucid back-to-basics approach to explaining how all those /, *, and {, combine to form the wonderful machines we hold in our hands. The microsite created for the tome is well worth your time, though be forewarned, it’s going to take you a while to get through the entire piece.

Online Courses in Tech Literacy

Microsoft’s courses offer three levels of curriculum to ease your entry into technology literacy, and their Virtual Academy provides hundreds of free courses, largely centered on developing for their platform.

The online learning pioneers at edX have partnered with more than 80 universities and corporations to offer full, inexpensive (and occasionally free) classes on everything from architecture to history. Check out their computer science courses to see the full breadth of their offerings.

The UK’s FutureLearn is another great collection of entirely free classes – check out their Online and Digital Courses to learn everything from coding to “transmedia storytelling”.

Podcasts Can Help

There are podcasts. Lots of podcasts. NPR’s All Tech Considered will keep you up to date on the latest developments; TLDR takes more a cultural anthropology approach to this brave new world; Note to Self examines the impact of tech on our lives; and Geek Speak is a kind of “Car Talk” for the electronic age.

Outside NPR, there’s This Week in Tech, Leo LaPorte’s long-running look at trends and news. HowStuffWorks’ podcast TechStuff promises to demystify technology. And the Accidental Tech Podcast with Marco Arment, Casey Liss, and John Siracusa, will also keep you incredibly well informed.

Make Something.

Want to build a robot, but worried you don’t have the tech chops to pull it off? Well, that’s exactly what Mark Zuckerberg did in his spare time last year. What do you have to lose?

So much tech (both software and hardware) is intertwined – building that robot will involve learning at least the basics in electrical engineering, Arduino, C, C++, and a lot more. Dedicating your efforts to a single goal will never mean you’ve lost sight of the bigger picture.