Never stop learning – three tools I cannot do without

In this day and age the digital landscape is in constant flux with new ideas, opportunities, technology and more. Staying on top of things is an endless challenge. Also, to add insult to injury, it’ll never move as slow as it does today.

As a child, I always had my nose stuck in a book. However, in the last few years I’ve read one, maybe two, books per year. This has yielded a more narrow mindset – tunnel view, if you will, of everyday thoughts and ideas. If creative thought was a bubble, it would shrink if left unattended without the addition of new thoughts and ideas.

I’d like to share three tools I use to consume content in order to support my own creative bubble.

Kindle

Say hello to my little friend. Perhaps the most important tool I have in my arsenal of consuming content:  Kindle.

I was skeptical at first. The Kindle’s e-ink interface resembles a monochrome laptop – I honestly thought there was something wrong with it. This was a top of the line device in this age of Retina-devices? Hah!

I already owned an iPad Mini which, to me, already had all the pixels I could ever dream of. I had tried to books before on the iPad, but it never seemed to stick. I would drift off to Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, News sites, etc. There was always an App a tap away to steal your attention.

After seven broken New Year’s promises to read more there was nothing left to lose. I got myself a Kindle. And I began to consume books like never before. Here’s why.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: the Kindle is not a multi-something device. It does not have a rich ecosystem of Apps. This might seem like a paradox at this point in the history of personal computing, but the lack of multi-something is perhaps what I like most about it. When you sit down with the Kindle to read there’s not much else you can do – much like an ordinary book. No notifications. No e-mails. No social media. Just you and the content – like it used to be, with dead trees.

Then there’s the Amazon ecosystem which is brilliant. The ease of purchasing a new book (sometimes too easy) – the process of purchasing and keeping a physical book had always put me off before. Using it outdoors on a sunny day (which is great!). The feel of the texture of the surface. The amazing battery life (three months!). The ability to highlight passages and use the companion App for MacOS, iOS, Windows, etc to always have the important bits a click or tap away.

I could go on and on. Bottom line, it’s radically changed what and how much I read.

Pluralsight

While the Kindle supports all types of different content, the Pluralsight service is focused on technology. It’s the service for all training courses you’ll ever need if you’re working in the digital industry. It has over 5,000 courses available ranging from High-resolution Game Character Creation Pipeline in ZBrush and Maya to Beautiful C++: STL Algorithms.

In addition to the great range of courses in different fields, because it’s a digital platform for learning, they have access to the absolute best teachers and experts.

While I haven’t tried it, they also offer skill measurement, mentoring, code school and more. So, if you haven’t checked it out yet, do so.

Whenever I have a weekend to myself, I prepare a couple of curated playlists on Pluralsight just to get up to date with what’s new out there (JavaScript frameworks…). The service is available as a web application and native Android / iOS App. The latter allows for storing offline content which is great if you’re en route somewhere with flaky (or expensive!) wifi.

Social Media & Creating Content

At first I was uncertain if this would qualify since it’s not a single tool. After some consideration I believe that it does.

I follow and engage with peers that inspire me. The important part, for me, is to follow interesting people in disparate disciplines: technology, the arts, design, science, photography, etc. This allows for key insight in other areas that otherwise wouldn’t be possible should I focus on my core points of interest or disciplines.

Also, in this context, I must mention that creating and sharing content is absolutely essential in my own learning process. It’s first when something difficult can be explained in a simple way I feel I have a grasp of it. To pause, reflect over what I’m trying to communicate, is often source of new insights and ideas that before was unavailable.

In this category you’ll find the usual suspects: Twitter (TweetDeck), Instagram, Feedly, Blogs, WordPress (this blog), LinkedIn, etc.

Do you have any tools that you use and swear by? Drop me a line.

Thanks for reading.

daniel
daniel
Developer
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