This week I started reading a new book. It is a book from a course I took in college. I left the book at the office today (mistakenly) so I can’t tell you the title of the book, but basically the book is about programming language design. I noticed that while reading it, it is like I am reading it for the very first time. To be honest, it probably is the first time I’ve read the book. I couldn’t even tell you what course it is for, or when I took that course in college, though I can probably guess the outcome of me taking it, I likely dropped the course.
I don’t know when I became a bad student, but I can tell you, I am a bad student. I don’t think I ever really learned how to study. In grade school, middle school, and high school, I didn’t have to study. I took AP classes, was enrolled in an IB program my freshman year (before moving to Indiana where it wasn’t offered), I was considered bright.
I got good grades, played football my final two years of HS (or watched mostly from the sidelines), played tennis one year, golf one year, was in band all throughout. Up through 12th grade school was easy, if anything I think the only class I really struggled with as Calculus. After high school everything changed.
I started college in 1995, planning on getting a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri – Rolla (UMR) (now known as Missouri University of Science and Technology, MST). I struggled at Rolla. I joined a fraternity, I met a girl, I went to class, I discovered this new thing called the Internet (this was in 1995, before going to college all I was exposed to was Prodigy).
While at Rolla, I did okay in some classes, and poorly most others. Towards the end of my time there I was dropping half of the credit hours I was taking each semester, and not doing great in the classes I remained in. Needless to say I didn’t do well at UMR, after 4 years of school, with one semester off to work, I left Rolla and decided I was going to work full time and go to school part time.
I moved to St. Louis, lived with my parents for 6 or 7 months, until they up and moved to South Carolina. I stayed in St. Louis, took a few CS classes here or there at UMSL, but struggled in those as well, working full time wasn’t conducive to me getting good grades. Eventually I took a year or two away from classes at UMSL, but I talked myself into going back and meeting with a counselor to figure out what I could do to finish. We looked at my transcripts, and figured out what I needed to do to finish. With 110 or some odd credits under my belt, in order for me to get a BS in Computer Science at that point in time I needed another 70 credits, a lofty number at the rate I was taking classes.
We looked at switching to an MIS degree, that wasn’t that much better, maybe 63 credits remaining. Ultimately we figured out that I could get an economics degree in just 36 more credit hours, I had to take 6 hours of humanities (not something that Rolla had in the requirements) and then 30 hours of economics. I had taken two economics courses during my time at Rolla, they came easy, so I thought, what the heck, 30 hours of econ and I’ll have that degree I need (as in I wanted to complete A degree, which one wasn’t that important to me).
I think around 2006 I started taking UMSL seriously again, taking 2 classes in the evenings during the week so that I could get the credits I needed out of the way. I did fairly well in my studies at UMSL in Econ, better than I had done in CS at either UMSL or UMR. In May 2011 I was officially done, I completed my Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. I was rather proud of finishing. Did it change anything? The only thing it changed is I can now officially say I am a college graduate, not one other thing.
But here we are today, March 1st, 2012, I’m a college graduate, I have a good job, a wonderful wife, a beautiful daughter. But I still am a bad student.
A couple of weeks (months?) ago the CEO of DotNetNuke Corporation gave a presentation to some employees about learning. Pushing yourself to spend 30 minutes a day learning. After school, you really don’t do that, or at least most people I know don’t. I know I haven’t pushed myself to learn anything outside the scope of DotNetNuke in many years.
It is time to finally change that. I want to learn, I need to learn, about what? Everything. For now, I’m going back to my computer science dreams, I’m going to read the books I have on my bookshelf. I’m going to learn things outside of my current comfort zone. To start off I am learning how to build and program hardware. I’ve been working on the web since 1995, it is time to break into the real world.
I’ve dabbled in that a bit already, I’ve been working on a project that we call DNNFoos (www.dnnfoos.com) a black box that is used to keep track of the score of foosball games. I’ve been building and testing and debugging the project for a few weeks now, and I am now at the point where I need to learn more to make it work reliably. I need to learn threading, I need to learn how to write code that fits on a Netduino and doesn’t throw out of memory exception errors. Now is the time.
After that? Who knows, maybe I’ll learn a new language. That could be rather useful living in California where 43% of the population speaks another language at home (census stats)
What are you going to learn today?