Silicon Dojo is an in person technology training program designed around the teaching methodology of martial arts. We take the name “Dojo” seriously and this is not simply a marketing buzzword for our program. Our system is very similar to the experience of a martial arts studio, but focused on a technology curriculum.
Core Tenets of Our System:
- Respect for the Art
- Empowerment Instead of Certification
- In Person Learning
- Self Paced Learning
- Experiential Learning
- Collaborative Learning
- Mat Mindset
- Low Cost Learning
- Free to the End User
- Create a Replicable System
Respect for the Art
The heart of our program is the fundamental respect for the power of technology, and the empowerment gained by learning to build and maintain technological systems. Our instructors, mentors and coaches are at the service of teaching students how to harness their own abilities to be able to build devices and systems to solve their own problems. Technology is what is emphasized and highlighted not our own personal egos. This is a program about empowering students through technology, not about the glorification of the staff.
Empowerment Instead of Certification
This is not a job training program nor are there any official certifications. In the modern world rote learning and being able to pass tests without actually being able to do valuable work has become the priority. For our program we focus on teaching the skills required to solve problems and build solutions. We emphasis the basic core ability to assess needs and implement solutions.
Technology constantly changes, but the mindset required does not. With over 20 years experience in the tech field I have deployed and maintained everything from electronic communication systems, to NT4.0 Servers, to Avaya PBX and AUDIX telephone systems, to surveillance, VoIP, and numerous types of servers. The specific knowledge base changes depending upon the technology, but the ways to logically look at systems do not.
Skills in Martial Arts meant that as a technology consultant I was comfortable doing technology work in places that might have been physically hostile. I was able to grow quickly because I went to places in Baltimore City that other technicians refused to go. Martial Arts was not actually used in the work, but it provided confidence to work in the environments. When we teach our students how to deal with technology we hope to pass this same type of confidence so that when they run into issues with technology they feel comfortable with figuring out a plan of action. A manager may never end up building a server for their company, but knowing what a server is and the difference between a NAS and a SAN will allow them to be confident when dealing with technology in their business. By building projects that have devices use the network to communicate with each other students are able to see in a real environment the impact of network speeds, latency, congestion and such. This means when they go to buy services from an ISP they are in a better position to understand what they should buy.
In Person Learning
In the current world enviornment online and virtual learning have become the go to way for education. As someone who has been creating online education since 2009 I have realized that online education has very real limits. If someone knows what they want to learn, why they should learn it, and what they expect to accomplish once they have online learning is many times the best way to go. So if you want to decrease Internet bandwidth utilization at your organization you may research Proxy servers, learn to build a SQUID Proxy server, and then configure a large cache so that when the local computers update they will pull from the local cache instead of downloading multi gig files from the internet.
On the other hand if you don’t really know what a server is, what a routing protocol is, and have no idea how to install an operating system in person education is useful because you can learn from others around you through simple conversation, ask questions of others when you see them working on a project, and generally be able to pick up why things are important and what you might be able to do with them.
Beyond this in the modern world it’s also just nice to get out of the house, and for adults being able to be around others in a location other than a bar or church can be very refreshing. We will use the website and other web services for communication, documentation, and support of in person learning. There will not be a virtual program for the Dojo because this is built to be an in person experience.
Self Paced Learning
Our program is designed so that students can learn at their own pace in the time frame that they decide. Just as in martial arts where a student can earn a Black Belt in two years, or in ten depending on their commitment and abilities so will our students be able to progress based on their abilities and involvement.
Learning by doing is valuable so that students get an in-depth understanding of why what they are learning matters. By building both guided and independent projects students learn how to build systems, and troubleshoot issues that they run into. This teaches and reinforces a mindset to be able to break down new and complicated projects into smaller mental blocks so that students become comfortable with their ability to think through solutions to problems.
By completing hundreds of unique projects using different sensors, boards and systems students become used to instinctively going through the process to solve problems. Just as a martial artist trains on blocks and counters to the point that they react instantaneously to a threat, our students learn to automatically assess problems, and start implementing solutions before they may fully be aware of what they are doing. The process becomes simply a natural reaction.
In a standard educational enviornment the learning experience is focused on the teacher and individual students. Some times there will be group projects and work, but generally the study process is a solitary effort that happens to be in a place with many other students.
In our system we try to make the educational process continually be one of group interaction. Students of the same level will be paired or grouped together to complete their projects so that they can support each other and see how the others succeed or fail. Junior students can, and are expected to ask senior students for help when they run into issues, or are trying to better understand an exercise. This trains students both to be willing to ask others for help, and to also learn the skills required to be able to support those in a junior position. Senior level students gain from this by getting a deeper understanding of concepts they have already learned as they are forced to take their own knowledge and transmit that to the students that they are helping.
By having students collaboratively learn from each other this also decreases the requirements of the instructor to deal with small issues so that they can focus their attention on students that may need more help for advanced work, or if they have difficulty with more basic concepts.
Our lab environment is treated in the same respect as a mat in the martial arts world. Students are expected to leave their daily problems, and quibbles at the entrance to the lab. While in the lab the focus for everyone is on technology and building or researching projects. The conversations and interactions are all based on students comprehending new materials. Politics, religion, spousal complaints, job issues and such are not to be discussed while in the lab. By having this basic rule it allows students to get past social activism with other students and focus on the task at hand. By focusing on building and helping each other students realize that they are more alike than they may have realized.
Low Cost Learning
We believe that education should be a low cost experience and the best way to do that is to make sure that the resources required to teach are not expensive. Many tech education facilities show off fancy espresso makers, or beer taps and such. These things cost significant amounts of money and therefor someone has to pay for them. By keeping our resource use very basic we massively reduce the cost of providing training. By leasing space in a low rent facility, by simply using folding tables and chairs for workspaces, by using old computers and used systems it means that we can offer training at a very low expense. At this point in history even very old PC’s can be used to build servers, and learn to code for projects. Raspberry Pi’s are full fledged computers that are the size of a pack of cards and they can be purchased for between $14-$50. Sensors and such can be had for a dollar or so a piece. So we can offer a large selection of hardware that more than adequately allows students to learn and have an enjoyable experience without needing a huge investment.
Free to the End User
Our hope, and to be clear at this point it is only a hope, is to provide technology education without burdening the students with a required fee. As a YouTuber for over a decade one of the things that made me most proud was that I could educate people about technology so that they could get jobs and start business without them having to pay for it with money. By simply watching an ad they supported the education they consumed and I was able to earn an income without having to bill the end user. I am hopeful that this model can be replicated in the physical world.
Sadly the people who need education most, and who would most benefit from it are generally in the worst position to pay for it. As people become successful in their careers they paradoxically have more money and resources to be able to obtain education, but yet need it the least because they already have the majority of the training required for their work. Since employers need more highly skilled employees. Technology companies need qualified technicians to install and maintain their high cost products. And other facets of society benefit when more people are empowered to use technology to make their lives better we hope to find a way through things such as sponsorships to be able to get funding for this system without having to turn motivated students away simply because of financial concerns.
Create a Replicable System
We do not believe that monopolistic ownership of all good ideas is wise for society. Just as with martial arts we do not seek to copyright or own the Intellectual Property that allows our training system to function. We do not simply allow people to copy our system, but rather highly encourage it and modify our way to allow others to teach their students. Just as a black belt can open their own martial arts dojo when they wish, our students can take what they have learned and build their own technology dojos. We would hope going into the future that people would come to our location to learn our ways and then take those lessons and the system to their own environment. Whether this is some type of Boy Scout or Church Group Program, an Inner City training center, or some place half way around the world. Practitioners will copy what they think works best, drop what they think doesn’t work for their demographic, and modify as they see fit. As stated originally our loyalty is to the art of technology. If someone can do better than we do that is the highest honor.