The Tech Learning Collective is an educational initiative run by radical queer and femme technologists offering unparalleled, low-cost computer classes primarily to marginalized groups and individuals who are politically engaged. Unlike coding bootcamps that focus on moving the highest number of students through rote task-completion for the goal of job placement, Tech Learning Collective teachers facilitate foundational skill building through Socratic discussion and kinetic, experience-based training.
We are different from many other educational institutions in a variety of ways. Many of these differences grew organically from our unique history. Our team has two primary goals for the Tech Learning Collective. These are:
- Provide meaningful technology education
- Fund existing technology-centered community projects
Provide meaningful technology education
The Tech Learning Collective offers educational opportunities exclusively to groups and individuals engaged in projects outside the realm of techno-capitalism. In other words, we offer education to students who are not primarily interested in entrepreneurial endeavors or working as laborers in the tech industry, i.e., finding jobs at software development companies, large corporations, data brokers, or similar entities. Rather, our courses are open only to those people working within community-based, grassroots, and activist spheres.
The skills we teach do make individuals more likely to get hired in technology-sector jobs, and some of our students have successfully switched careers to become programmers or Site Reliability Engineers (SREs), but our focus during class is on Free Software and commodity, low-cost hardware that individuals and advocacy organizations can use immediately, perpetually, and without any fees.
Fund existing technology-centered community projects
Tuition for Tech Learning Collective courses is primarily used to provide supplementary funding to existing technology-centered community projects. These projects range from additional educational workshops to physical infrastructure installations and upkeep for community-operated information and communication networks. Teachers are also paid for their time on a student-per-course basis for the courses they teach.
Funding secured through TLC course tuition always funds projects that are, themselves, free of charge. View a list of our benefitting organizations.
We are unlike many other educational institutions in ways that we believe make the quality of our teachers, students, and alumni community noticably better than existing coding bootcamps, technical trade schools, and development academies you might otherwise attend. By “better” we mean:
- Tech Learning Collective students master more skills more quickly that will serve them for a longer period of time and in more contexts than they would otherwise acquire. This is because code bootcamps and certification courses are primarily focused on job placement and reward task-completion, whereas TLC courses are primarily focused on foundational skill building and reward curiosity. Moreover, many companies automatically disqualify coding bootcamp graduates during the hiring process because the quality of their educational experience is abysmal. Bootcamps, which will cost on average $11,000 USD, prey on precisely the sort of financially disadvantaged people who founded the Tech Learning Collective and who our mission is to empower.
- Tech Learning Collective objectives are focused exclusively on gaining competency with the same freely available, open source, and standards-based protocols and applications used by large corporations and enterprises. Our course materials use and cover the same industry-standard tools that engineers in large, global teams use in their day-to-day jobs. Unlike most cloud computing curricula offered at colleges or bootcamps, no TLC course objective is specific to a particular vendor’s service or platform and will never restrict you to a certain manufacturer’s or provider’s business plans.
- Tech Learning Collective teachers go through immense scrutiny to be considered as teachers, ensuring that they are not merely experts in their field but are also actually good at transferring their skills to others (i.e., they have an additional skill: the skill of teaching). All TLC teachers are actively engaged in one or more of the projects TLC funds, and have demonstrated a deep and lasting commitment to anti-State, anti-racist, feminist ideals. The majority of our teaching team is genderqueer and femme, which we feel meaningfully impacts the experience of our students for the better.
- Tech Learning Collective courses are dramatically more interactive than most other educational offerings. Our methodology focuses almost exclusively on providing guided, kinetic, hands-on, experience-based training. Although students are provided with many supplementary course materials, there are no required textbooks or assignments in any Tech Learning Collective course. Instead, every course is modeled on a Socratic, collaborative discussion. The main activity at each class is “keyboard time” and direct interaction with fellow students (e.g., pair programming).
The Tech Learning Collective offers low-cost courses on computer technologies specifically for Left-leaning, politically engaged individuals and groups. Courses cater to people with skill levels ranging from self-identified “beginners” to very experienced technologists.
The first version of the TLC was formed in 2016 by a group of radicals who sought out methods of mutual self-education around technology, and met regularly in Brooklyn. None of us were formally trained technologists; none of us have ever held computer science degrees. Many of the traditional techniques of and environments offering technology education felt alienating to us.
From 2016 to 2019, TLC members dispersed into a number of community projects, but the need to offer high quality technology education to groups and individuals engaged in radical, grassroots, and non-profit community projects remained. Today, the TLC serves both to offer exceptional Information Technology (IT) educational opportunities at a much lower cost than traditional computer courses, and as a means to provide supplementary funding for the existent activist projects that grew out of the first version of the TLC in the mid 2010’s.
In keeping with our original mission, the TLC is especially in service to people who might identify themselves as being “outsiders” to the mainstream “tech world.” That is, those folks who have either never been tech workers or who have otherwise felt at odds with the general culture of technocapitalism, its tech bros, and its monocultural intentions.
The goal of the TLC is to provide its students with the knowledge and abilities to in turn provide for their communities, especially as it relates to liberating their communities from corporate overseers in order to own and operate their own information and communications infrastructure. Our students already assist in the organization of projects like Food Not Bombs, community gardens, Copwatch, and other projects that help build collective power. At TLC, students learn how to extend and enhance the existing capabilities of their projects and communities using free, open, and increasingly ubiquitous digital technologies.