Archive for December, 2013

What’s in Your Future?

As you know, the world is quickly becoming more and more involved with all things digital. Businesses are assumed to need a robust Web presence, police rely on digital databases, schools are experimenting with replacing textbooks with digital course support, and on and on.

A lot of this goes on behind the scenes. There’s a lot more to it than texting, online shopping, and streaming media. For example, Amazon now sells cloud services to support the Web operations of other businesses and the federal government. And they are developing self-guiding small helicopter drones to do deliveries of smaller packages in US cities (thus eliminating a bunch of driver jobs, I expect–now there’s some food for thought).

The point is that to function effectively in the future world, and to take advantage of new opportunities, you will need to know about how to work with information technology. Everywhere, I’m hearing about how educational institutions, businesses, and government are looking to hire people who can work effectively with information technology. This means full-time computer professionals who set up and maintain networks, or who analyze huge mountains of data, or who design web sites, or who know how to set up automation systems, etc., etc. But it also means accountants who can write short computer scripts to customize accounting software to a local situation, or small office managers who can maintain and reconfigure a local computer network without having to call in an expensive service company, or a teacher who can intelligently set up a lesson on the new tablets that the school district is trying out, or a park ranger who can create a self-guided tour map.

This is not just about programming. The majority of computer professionals are not programmers. They are doing all sorts of things besides programming. But knowing something about programming is really helpful just to get a basic understanding of how all this stuff works.  Learning Java is a possible place to start messing around with programming.  Or, if you think you are going to be in the business world, you should learn to write macros in the Excel spreadsheet software.  (Macros are little programs that enable the software to do some specific task you want it to do.)

You get the point, I hope. Opportunity is greater for those who know more, who have skills, who can think in computerese.

Some students I know have learned quite a bit of computerese on their own, from books, free online courses, YouTube videos, and their friends. But most people reading this post — which probably means YOU — will not do any of those things on your own, simply because it’s hard to get motivated and stick with it on your own unless you’re really an independent, committed sort.

So, for most of you out there, to get up to speed, you really need to part of a class offered by ISU or some other traditional institution. Find something that seems interesting and potentially useful. At ISU, there are three main areas that offer courses that might do the trick:

  1. For College of Business majors, check out the courses in the Business Information Systems or Accounting Information Systems sequence.
  2. For students with any major, check out beginning courses in the School of Information Technology.
    1. An introduction to the majors and minors offered in the School can be found here.
    2. The main beginning courses are programming courses in Java: IT 168 and IT 177.
  3. For students with any major, check out the beginning courses in the Computer Systems Technology sequence offered by the Department of Technology, such as TEC 151.

ISU students who want to talk about these things, or would like some advice, feel free to write me anytime: Kenton.Machina@IllinoisState.edu

This blog will be taking a rest soon. Thanks for reading!

Best wishes to ISU students, for a good semester’s end.

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December 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm Leave a comment

Learning to Create Android Apps

First and foremost, I want to thank you for reading our post over this last semester. I hope you all enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. This is my last post for the year so I thought Id tell you about an IT hobby of mine and how I learned to do it. For the last year or so I had begun programming Android Apps and its something I have done for several hours a week since I started.

Unfortunately it is unlikely you can just jump into programming for Android, but it isn’t something that is incredibly difficult either. First, you need to learn to write code in Java. This may seem like a daunting task, but I assure you that it will not take long to get the hang of. I started by taking my first Java class but that isn’t where I learned most of what I know. Tutorial videos easily found on the internet will help you to learn the basics. This is the video that should get you started on the right path even if you have never even thought of writing code.

The tutorials are very simple to understand and he will walk you through every step including teaching you how to get started with what you need to begin programming. Even if the programs you write in the beginning don’t seem like they are very useful, they provide the building blocks you can use later to make something incredible. I still look up a few of the basic videos when i get stuck on a problem. Like with most things, the best way to learn is to jump in and practice. It’s free and you have nothing to lose!

After you get the basics of Java down, you can start looking into programming for Android. The rules are basically the same with a few different methods. Don’t worry, your not alone on this. There are many different tutorials out there to help with this as well. The best part is, it doesn’t take much to share what you have done whether you offer it for free on the Android Marketplace  or you charge a dollar and try to make profit from it. There is no overhead but the time it takes for you to learn how to do it.

Programming is simply a game of solving problems whether they be mathematical or just a game you dreamed up. Just look at the success of Angry Birds. I hope you give it a shot and good luck finishing up the rest of this semester. Have a great rest of the year!

December 1, 2013 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment


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