My graduate unschool project consists of five courses, each built on a unique learning method.  The purpose of each course is: to learn as much as possible in a short amount of time, and, contrasting from a traditional education, to test and evaluate a new education technique.  I am focusing on the five subjects that currently interest me the most, and I believe that pursuing them further will only strengthen my love for them.  Motivation should not be much of an issue because there is little I would rather be doing than spending all of my time learning, or even just participating, in most of the activities the courses consist of.  However the stakes will be high, and I have included the end goals here so that they can speak for themselves.

Course 1: Software Engineering.  Programming is truly one of my favorite things to do, and something I would like to pursue as a career.  I did not get a degree in computer science in college, and during a recent trip to Silicon Valley a former hiring manager from Facebook informed me that my skills are not up to par after walking me through a mock interview.  The idea behind this course is to pack the meat of a four year undergraduate computer science education into six months.  I will be completing the following MIT computer science courses:

6.01: Introduction to EE and CS I

6.02: Introduction to EE and CS II

6.042J: Mathematics for Computer Science

6.006: Introduction to Algorithms

6.046J: Design and Analysis of Algorithms

6.034: Artificial Intelligence

6.004: Computation Structures

6.033: Computer Systems Engineering

6.005: Elements of Software Construction

which are all available online.  I will complete every homework assignment and programming project, and post them online as I progress on and finish them.  I will also be completing a capstone project, an artificial intelligence software that finds the best strategy for two boardgames, and can learn to make optimal decisions and play the game in real time.  I will also be completing the 150 programming puzzles from the book Cracking the Coding Interview, so that I can answer almost anything, from scratch, on a piece of paper, at my next software engineering interview.

Course 2: Vert Skateboarding.  Learning skateboarding is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  Whenever I believe I have found a generalized rule for learning, I apply it to skateboarding and it becomes almost immediately evident that skateboarding is the exception to this rule.  No matter how hard I try I have not figured out how to get better at skateboarding.  It’s not simply a battle of “getting things done” or practicing.  Instead I am constantly fighting my own fears, insecurities, and the battle between taking risks (necessary for progress) and preventing serious injuries (I have broken my teeth, both feet, my hand, and dislocated my spine) that will prevent me from progressing, something I can’t afford to do in a six month challenge.  I have just learned how to ride around in vert bowls, and am probably the worst vert skater of the Tucson locals.  By the end of the course I hope to put myself somewhere near the top 5% (this is the claim of the associated learning method) by performing a Caballerial (360) 1-2 feet over the vert on a ramp taller than 12 feet with at least one foot of vert.

Course 3: Solopreneurship.  The purpose of this course is to get my work out there.  As I mentioned in the previous e-mail, how accurate does your college transcript represent all the work did and everything you learned?  How could it be used to help other people hoping to pursue similar things?  This course will focus on presenting my ideas and work so they have the largest impact, and are available for others to see and benefit from.  The stakes of this course will be mentioned when I explain the underlying learning method, but I will be building a youtube series, blog, website, and e-mail list chronicling my learning journey, as well making this project (and other work I have done or may do in the future) as transparent and accessible as possible.  What I am building is a platform for myself, and teaching others how to do so in the process.

Course 4:  App Development.  I will make an iPhone application and put it up on the AppStore.  This may seem incredibly straightforward and simple, but I anticipate it being challenging and a task worth completing.

Course 5: ???.  This is a secret course, which currently nobody knows about.  While I am not going to explain exactly what I am going to be doing, I can tell you why I will be doing it.  We invest so much of our lives developing technical skills even though they are rarely make us feel “better” or “happier”.  The emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of life are neglected in the formal school experience, even though they dominate our daily lives.  Here I am formalizing my approach towards some of these things and making a consistent effort to improve the parts of life that are the hardest to measure.  How much am I attempting to improve?  ~515%.

I am incredibly excited to embark on this journey, but the end goals right now all seem impossible for me to complete in six short months (especially while I hold a full time job throughout the duration of the project).  The project was intentionally made intense with the intention of it having no ceiling (or at least a very high one).  There will be no getting bored because the pace is too slow.  Instead I will be frantically trying to improve the rate at which I can learn, so I can reach a pace that allows me to complete each project in time.  Accelerated learning is no longer a goal, it is a necessity.  In order to complete any one of these courses, I will be forced to dramatically improve the way that I learn.

Next week:  The learning methods revealed.