Tech Ed: In technology, classes never end

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Staying abreast of information and communication technology is a lifelong quest. For the application user or system operator, it pays to get focused and choose the areas that are necessary for your job, business or enjoyment of your lifestyle. In other words, will you stay informed about a computer operating system over computer networking? Will you take refreshers or immersions in security or Web 2.0? What about office technology, animation, podcasting, social media, dynamic publishing, CRM, databases, code, search engine optimization, e-commerce or Internet marketing? The choice is yours.

The options for continuing education are just as vast. Where you go to get educated reveals how you like to learn. Do you need a structured educational program where you have homework and group projects? If so, you?re likely to enroll at a school. Katharine Gibbs School and Chubb Institute have campuses throughout the tri-state area. New Jersey?s finest schools include Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Seton Hall University, Essex County College, Lincoln Institute and Montclair State University. These schools offer certificates, associate and baccalaureate degrees.

New York City is a major node in Silicon Alley. New York University?s School of Continuing and Professional Studies maintains its status as the premier source for networking, certificates, degrees and includes special masters programs. CUNY Graduate Center and New School University are other excellent choices. Many colleges and universities also offer online courses. These courses have specific dates when teacher and students are online simultaneously, e-mail for offline discussion, and online folders to do group work.

There are people who learn by reading newsstand publications. For them Information Week, Crain?s New York, Fast Company, Inc., Business 2.0, Entrepreneur or Harvard Business Review meet their needs. The other benefit is receiving notices about conferences and trade shows, which satisfy people who learn by doing. These venues have people rub shoulders with industry thought leaders, handle devices, use workstations and experience simulations. A good trade show is one where the exhibition hall is as informative as the panel discussions. Ziff-Davis Media, CMP, DigitalMediaWire and Wired are firms with the reputation for creating interactive, stimulating events.

For the more self-disciplined, there are how-to books, purchased online or at stores, and tutorials on CD-ROM. SAMS publishes many titles relating to office technology, databases, animation, graphics and other information and communication technology. If purchasing is not within your means, then visit your town?s central library to borrow the media.

There are nonprofits and city agencies with missions to support business and industry. They offer classes, on-site review, loans, and B2B mentoring and contract opportunities. Industrial and Technology Assistance Corp. (ITAC) offers ?Lean Office? and ?FastTrac.? ?Lean Office? is a course that?s designed to institute using software to perform business operations. The other benefit is achieving a ?green office.? ?FastTrac.? is a 12-week program to improve business operations. New York City?s Department of Small Business Services and the U.S. Small Business Administration offer workshops with topics ranging from certification for minority- and women-owned businesses, establishing business credit history, import-export, to writing a winning service proposal.
For the more visually inclined, consumer-review Web sites such as ZD Net and C|Net show many online interviews featuring technology executives critiquing hardware and software. These sites have images of various consumer electronics, price-comparison tables and written product reviews by actual consumers. All merchandise listed on these Web sites have written product specifications.

The professional who needs the collegiate environment has the option of reading blogs, joining Yahoo! Groups or enrolling in professional associations. Many bloggers share innovations in business processes, notices about staff changes within a firm and do book reviews. Most professional associations have an education committee that may prepare the membership for certification or upgrading skills. Organizations of note include the New York Software Industry Association, Black Data Processors Association and Latinos in Information Science and Technology.