Learn New Skills Online

One of the top New Year’s resolutions involves learning something new. And thanks to many new open learning initiatives it is becoming easier to find educational resources online. Here are a handful of free resources for learning new skills.

Skill Share

Anyone with knowledge to share can teach a class which means that there are tons of passionate people who are eager to share their knowledge. The Project Gallery is especially interesting. Classes are either free or relatively inexpensive.


Actual courses from accredited universities. If you’ve ever taken an online class for credit at a community college or university, this will be very familiar to you. You don’t receive college credit but all of the class are completely free.

Ted Talk Playlists

Inspiration for the new year! Ted Talks recently created a user friendly playlist version of their site. Check out the Suprise me feature to find a random inspirational talk.


Easy step-by-step lessons that introduce you to the mark-up/programming language of your choice. You aren’t graded but you receive points and badges based on how many courses you have completed. They also recently introduced Groups so you can learn along with friends or like-minded coders.

Serendipitous & Sweet

heart cookies
I made a trip to IKEA on a quest to organize my closet and discovered these magical heart cookies. Serendipity at its finest.

Learn HTML & CSS with Firebug

Firebug has been an invaluable resource to me as a web designer & developer. It makes troubleshooting issues easier and it has also served as an invaluable learning tool. The best thing about Firebug is that it can not only be used as a diagnostic tool, but as a learning tool. In the past, I would learn how a website was built by clicking view source. Now, all you have to do is install the Firebug plugin, right click and object on a website and select “Inspect Element with Firebug”.

In this example, We’ll explore how we can use Firebug to learn how Frank Chimero’s Alantis World Fair page was built. With Firebug we can explore HTML structure, CSS values, fonts and hex color codes.

HTML Structure and CSS Values

The main feature of Alantis World Fair is the capsule that moves throughout the layers of the sea. But how do they do that? If you inspect the capsule using Firebug, you’ll see the HTML on the left and the corresponding CSS on the right.

CSS properties in Firebug

After right clicking and inspecting the capsule, you’ll see it is a div container named “tube_dude”. How does it seem to travel through the page? On the right you’ll see a CSS value named “position:fixed;”. This tells “Tube_dude” to always stay in the same position of the page while you scroll through the page. Try disabling “position:fixed;” in Firebug and see what happens.


Have you ever seen a font being used on a website and wondered what it was? If the type is a webfont, you can easily check by inspecting it!


In this example we can see they’re using Hellenic Wide. Try changing the size of the font or change the font to something like “Arial”.

Hex Color Codes

Firebug is also an easy way to find out what color is being used on a site. In this example, they’ve set all of the type as #FFFFFF on the body tag. Try changing it on a set of type by double clicking a CSS value on the right and adding “color: #ff0000”.



This is just a small fraction of the things you can do with a plugin like Firebug. I use Firebug because I’m used to its functionality but there are tons of other ways you can inspect and play with the elements on a page. Many browsers come with their own “Inspect” tools which makes it even easier to right click and learn how a site was built.

Crafty Art with a Message

Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef was an exhibit I visited at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The D.C. exhibition has ended but versions of it continue to be showcased in museums around the world. The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef exhibitions call attention to the disappearing coral reef and how pollution and plastic waste have harmed our oceans. This particular coral reef exhibition was created by 800 innovative crafters who incorporated everything from yarn, sporks & plastic bags into their crochet work.

Recently, I have been scouring the web for unique art like this to share on Pinterest. I’m curating Alt Summit’s Artful Art board. Feel free to follow it or any of my other boards on Pinterest.