All posts by Andrew Crimer

The United Skills of America [Infographic]

Odds are you’ve heard someone say, “The job market is tough these days.” Between the skills gap and the still-hobbling American economy, finding meaningful employment can be a challenge.

But have you ever considered that certain skills might just be easier to find in certain places? Maybe Californians are better at graphic design than Connecticut residents. Maybe a Wisconsonite’s knowledge of financial accounting surpasses that of a Utah native. If this were true, it might indicate a relatively higher or lower value for that skill in the job market locally. We thought we’d take a look.

Click the picture below to enlarge the image.

We looked at about twenty of our most popular professional tests, from AP Style to Python and from investment banking to Illustrator. We split the US into five geographical regions: the Northeast, the Midwest, the South, the Rockies and Plains, and the West Coast.

Then we found the average score in each skill both nationally and within each region. Comparing these numbers allowed us to see which skills each region was better at than everyone else.

Based on the two worst skills in each region, we started to get a picture of the jobs that aren’t easy to fill in that part of the country. We took this knowledge to US Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment data by position, and combed through for job categories that matched the skills each region lacked.  Then we compared the regional unemployment rate for that position to the regional unemployment rate overall, and finally to the national rate.

Here are some interesting stats to notice:

  • In the Midwest, users scored a full 19.8% lower in Javascript than users in the Rockies.  So if you’re a Javascript programmer without a job, consider making Colorado or New Mexico your new home!
  • The South scored 16% better than the rest of the country in Investment Banking, but the Northeast came out first in Excel and Basic Math.
  • Developer skills — such as PHP, Javascript and C++ — were much better in the West than the East.
  • In contrast, financial skills on the West Coast were weak, supported by the fact that the unemployment rate for Financial Analysts is a dramatic 3.1 percentage points lower than the regional rate.

We’re not expecting a mass exodus of web developers to Minneapolis, but it certainly is interesting to see how each region has its own specialties.

How do these skills compare to your expectations?

A Google Search Mystery: Practice Your Google Skills!

Remember back when the Internet had fun nicknames? My personal favorite was “the Information Super-Highway”, partially because it makes the Internet both a space and a path – the Internet isn’t where the information is, it’s the route by which the information comes to you.

Learning how to navigate these streams can be really valuable. Despite the best efforts of every SEO fiend in your office, as well as mid-90s AOL advertising campaigns, not everything is just a keyword away.

If you want to be able to answer questions deeper than “Who’s dating Ryan Gosling?” (try search term “ryan gosling girlfriend”) then you’ll have to start honing your Internet detective work. Your best asset as an online sleuth, unsurprisingly, is going to be Google mastery.

As we’ve covered before, there are many lesser-known tips and tricks you can learn to help you find out some not-so-obvious information, with just a minimum of a lead.

To test your Google gumshoe work, let’s try a little challenge.

This young lady is, somewhat obviously, a noblewoman from awhile back. We don’t know much about her right now, except that there’s a statue of her somewhere, and that the artist responsible for that statue has another work that shares a name with a current, popular American TV show.

How can you get from this picture to the name of that television program? Along the way, can you figure out the woman’s name, what material the statue is made of, where it is, and who made it?  Click on the picture below to start searching!   Answers are after the picture — no peeking!

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Learn Smarterer with our Free Learning Planner

Everyone wants to learn something new. It’s hard! We’ve previously touched on the resources, online and offline, that might help you pick up and improve your skills. We’ve also covered ways to direct your own learning efforts, ways to figure out what you’re good at, and ways to certify what you’ve learned. We’ve even given you some awesome tips we picked up from our own dear users.

But there’s one aspect of the learning process we haven’t covered: how to follow through. So we concocted a helpful little learning planner for you. (See bottom)

While the concept of micro-learning is just gaining traction, and might be difficult to mimic on your own, you can apply the same principles to your own learning efforts. Just like you would in a traditional learning environment, scheduling “chunks” of time to dedicate regularly and systematically to each new step will keep you on track. In the same way a teacher might articulate a learning progression, rotating your methods of learning will allow you to focus your efforts more accurately at your goals. We broke down the learning process into four basic steps:

  • First, decide what you want to be able to do. Having a concrete ability in mind will direct your learning in a firm direction. Then set an end date. This will keep some pressure on you to keep going, so your goal doesn’t just fall by the wayside.Start off by acquiring new knowledge, with a unit of instruction. The first step to learning something, of course, is finding a teacher. Set an amount of time to dedicate to it. This could be anything from a YouTube tutorial or a Codecademy set to an ebook or a talk by a local expert (or, as Boston folks would call it, an class).
  • Next, pay attention to the things that interested you in your lecture or reading. Ask a question that you genuinely can’t answer with that resource, and search out another place where you can research the solution. You’ll find out more about your subject, of course, as well as gaining a broader view of the area. This will come in handy later.
  • The next step is to apply what you’ve learned. Take on a concrete and defined but doable project. Build a circuit to test your electrical engineering or tweak a WordPress theme to flex your CSS muscle. Get some low-risk, hands-on experience that will allow you to make what John Caddell calls “smart mistakes”.
  • Next, test yourself! This could be a Smarterer test, a flash-card quiz from a friend, or anything else. Testing is important not only because it’ll reinforce what you’ve learned, but also because you need to benchmark yourself in order to understand where you need to improve.

Finally, repeat! If you’ve followed each step, you’ll logically arrive back at square one, hungry for more knowledge. This time around, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to know, more places to find that information, a more ambitious project to tackle, and a test to prove that it’s working.

By the time you achieve the goal at the top, hopefully you’ll be so into the rhythm that you won’t even want to stop. Or, of course, you could learn something else. If Smarterer users can write 600+ skills tests, then I’m sure there’s something left for everyone to learn.

Click the thumbnail for a full-scale printable .pdf!

The Future of Education Technology [Infographic]

As education reinvents itself to keep up with emerging technologies, both inside and outside the classroom, we’re seeing an explosion of EdTech innovations of both tools and practices that change how students can learn. This infographic forecasts a handful of changes that will come into ubiquity over the next 30 years.

Some of these changes in education technology are already starting to appear – mobile technologies for learning, for example, are already in use by the University of Phoenix, which makes sense because they cater to busy adults. Gamification and disintegration are both starting to crop up, especially in online learning platforms like Codecademy, but also in the emerging field of digital textbooks and assessment-driven learning, where the curriculum is dependent on a knowledge of current skill. Others are a little less predictable (“Reactive furniture”). Still, it’s a fascinating picture of what might be.

Click the image for an easier-to-read size.

Infographic by TFE Research and Michelle Zappa, via Envisioning Technology