Bootstrap Education

Bootstrap Education

I received an email today from an electrical engineering student who is looking for resources that could help expedite a hacker’s education, especially with regard to computer science and operating systems. I know I’ve been on the other side of that email on several occasions. Strangely enough, it’s usually been in search of E.E. resources.

To answer the immediate question, it seems that the greatest network and operating systems education must begin with a copy of Slackware, a three day weekend, and a bunch of Mountain Dew. Who can say where it ends, but I’m pretty sure it begins there.

This got me to thinking about bootstrap education in general, though. Of course, there’s MIT’s Open Courseware project, which has produced a wealth of publicly accessible course material on almost every imaginable topic. I’m definately excited for a world that can foster armchair astrophysicists and bioengineers, but I don’t know that we’re there yet.

What do you think? Are there particular fields of study that tend to be compatible with a bootstrap, self-guided education? What are the ideal study paths for tomorrow’s hackers? Please share your thoughts and resources in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Bootstrap Education

  1. RoBo says:

    In Los Angeles, a new group has formed that combines MIT OpenCourseware (OCW) with weekly gatherings similar to a Journal Club and a Chautauqua. OCW allows for individualized learning, while the affectionately named Ghetto Institute of Technology (GIT) brings students together to informally discuss the week’s lessons. Different participants take turns faciltating lessons, games, and more. A week is being set aside to discuss the optional homework from the first five lessons of the “Information and Entropy” curriculum. For more information, please visit I am interested in continuing this conversation, as well as the context of educational technology.

    I would have to think more deeply regarding the question raised with regard to hacker education. My initial response is that hackers are the ultimate self-educators. Resources such as zines, other publications, conferences, and the Internet have allowed us to share research, how-tos, pinouts, tear-downs, forums, and more. Take things apart. Asking questions and learning how to teach oneself are not unique to hackers; they are essential for all free thinkers.

  2. aplumb says:

    For operating systems specifically, the Linux From Scratch project is a great way to explore how all the pieces fit (or don’t) and how to do some serious tweaking, customization and personalization.

  3. tmtm says:

    My primary resource for self-learning aids is If there’s a subject you want to study, there’s someone out there who’s found the text you want.

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