Education

Las Vegas Tech Education Schools & Resources


Is the bubble bursting? Or engulfing everything around it?

Did you know that most of the biggest tech conferences make Las Vegas one of their prime stops? The new tech and startup bubble in sin city began forming in 2012 and it hasn't stopped growing.

In 2016 Vegas had the pleasure of hosting HCM Excellence Conference, Learning Solutions: Sharing What Works, 2016 Spring CLO Symposium, DevLearn, CES, and many more in recent years including SXSW V2V and Collision Conference. The new tech conferences and resources appearing all over the place are due to an increasing appreciation in the government and business community for the many economic benefits of this fast paced growth sector.

Right now, Las Vegas is seeing a huge influx of tech related jobs; especially in green energy and the drone industry. Last year, Nevada was one of only six states to receive a two-year certificate of authorization from the FAA to test drone technologies in the state. That has brought companies from around the globe into Nevada, hoping to jump into this virgin market.

In addition to the ongoing innovations of this kind, the overall resources for growing and supporting the next generation of engineers in Vegas is covered from all angles! From high schools offering technological career paths such as the Advanced Technologies Academy and Career and Technical Academies in Clark County, to public Higher education degrees in tech from the College of Southern Nevada, CSN, Arts Institute, as well as independent training programs like Iron Yard and more.

The Money 20/20 Hackathon coming to Vegas on October 22nd to the 25th has been established as a premier event for the world’s best developers, and has set an entirely new standard for Hackathons globally. Last year’s event brought together teams that battled for $125K in cash prizes and international notoriety as they were challenged to showcase their skills and vision using the APIs, SDKs and other tools from today’s leading Payments and Financial Services Innovators.

Needless to say, the tech scene, with its opportunities for connection and education in Las Vegas are raising the bar to new levels of excitement and possibility and are destined to transfer this tourist destination city.


Las Vegas Tech Team Graduates at Iron Yard Ventures

First Hospitality Focus Tech Team Graduates at Iron Yard Ventures

Iron Yard Ventures was ranked as one of the top startup accelerator programs in the United States in both 2015 and 2016. Since 2012, IYV has invested in more than 62 early stage technology companies who have gone on to raise more than $100 million in follow-on funding. No small potatoes especially for the funded programs.

In Spring of this year, Iron Yards Ventures announced a hospitality-focused accelerator for downtown Las Vegas. During November, the team is celebrating the graduation of accelerator Batch 6 (the term for this year’s class), and credits the tech community in Las Vegas for their strong support of this program.

"So many people have been amazing in helping out our companies, but the best I think is yet to come," said Ryan Negri, Managing Director of the accelerator.

Negri points to accelerator mentor Robert Rippee, Director of the Hospitality Lab at the International Gaming Institute, as a valuable mentor to the teams in the program this fall. Rippee met with Nobal Tech, one of the batch startups. The startup creates innovative and intuitive digital interfaces to enhance customer experience and is changing the way people interact with their world.

"Robert Rippee is connecting them with the builder of the new Resorts World casino/hotel and also to the CEO at Wynn," noted Negri. "This could lead to the installation of their mirrors into over 30K rooms."

This year’s cohort has teams from all over the world. Four of the batch talented teams are local to Las Vegas, while others traveled from Atlanta, Calgary, and Johannesburg.

"Curating a diverse cohort comes natural to me, as I’ve grown up in diverse cities and have traveled the country," said Negri. "I don’t see color when I’m being pitched. I don’t hear accents when I evaluate a startup. I look at the team, and how they work together, how they treat each other, and their staff. The person is so much more important than the product. That was my hunch before the program, but the program confirmed that for me. I look at a team and ask, ‘Can this team pivot and still be successful?"

For other investors and startup accelerators looking to increase their portfolio diversity, Negri suggests searching for underserved companies by targeting underserved cities, programs, and universities.


Responsive Design & Why it is Important

Responsive design is a very important aspect of web design and web development. In this day and age, with as many smartphones there are out there, mobile website traffic is roughly equal to desktop browser based web traffic. With so many people using their phones to view websites it's critically important to have a website that looks good on any screen size, to make sure that your content is easily view able without any issues and that your visitors can navigate your website and get the information they need or become your customer or loyal fan easily.

 

The goal of responsive web design is to ensure that your users have a good experience on your website. The best system in place at the moment, and the one that you will find on nearly every website that takes advantage of responsiveness, is the grid system. Grid-based systems usually work by making use of media queries like the one below:

 

/** This is an example of a media query that will activate if your screen has a width of up to 680px; It will then (and only then!) apply the contained CSS. */
@media screen only and (max-width: 680px) {
    .someGridElement { max-width:50%; }
}
/** The below media query only applies to view sizes above or equal to 680px width.* Setting it to 681 is so that we don’t have overlapping rules.*/
@media screen only and (min-width: 681px) {
    .someGridElement { max-width:25%; }
}

 

If you have been using CSS for a while, this shouldn’t be too big of a step up from what you are used to, but a nice part about responsive design being so prominent is that there are frameworks built already that will make development times a lot shorter!

 

A few examples of these frameworks are below. Please keep in mind that there are a very wide variety of web design frameworks out there that can be built on and used to construct a myriad of different websites. What's most important is that you know the benefits and disadvantages of each yourself before investing in any one framework very deeply. Many frameworks are also compatible with existing tools and Content Management Systems, for instance Bootstrap can be installed on an instance of a WordPress website and can be expanded upon, but doing so has its own separate set of advantages and disadvantages. We recommend you look further into any software set before launching your next project.

 

The standard for grid-based, responsive design. It is built on both LESS and SASS, but also has a pre-compiled version in case you don’t feel like being pre-processy. It also comes bundled with a redesigned version of basically all of the default html elements such as check boxes, input fields, buttons, and also has a few that aren’t default, like hover tooltips and an icon font. You can also view everything on GitHub if you feel like making your own fork of it or contributing to the base project. Bootstrap 4 is in the making, and it even has an alpha version available for those who want to give it a test run and give feedback to the developers.

 

This is another grid-based responsive system that is pretty common around the internet. It is maintained, also on Github, by Yahoo, and is frequently updated. There is also a feature-selector and custom package builder available so that you can choose the breakpoints for the responsiveness. It is also built upon Normalize.css, which is a css file that was created to keep the browser styles between browsers unified instead of having differences in crucial attributes like padding and margins.

 

For something that focuses on looks right off the bat, there is foundation. Foundation is another responsive framework that is built on SASS. Its modular design can be expanded upon easily with pre-built, aptly-named, "Building Blocks" that add new functionality to the framework without cluttering the default installation. Things like carousels, overlays, sticky sidebars, and even an effects library, can be added in minutes.

 

Overall, these are a very few of the total number of responsive frameworks. There are dozens to choose from, but these are three that you might run into contact when looking around. Generally the larger the number of people using a specific framework the more likely it is that you will be able to find resources and updated versions of the software as time goes on. Almost all software solutions today will require ongoing maintenance and upgrades to handle new security threats that emerge over time.

Dynamic Website Application Development with Node.js

Javascript and Node.js:
Javascript is a very useful and important tool in the arsenal of a front-end web developer, and you would be hard-pressed to find a site on the internet that uses any dynamic content but doesn’t use javascript somewhere. It is really the life-blood of interactivity on internet websites, and while some of its big uses, namely animation, are now being offloaded to things like CSS keyframes, it still certainly has a place.
All modern web-browsers include a javascript engine allowing them to run javascript content on sites. There are always some limitations when building something, and you will always be required to think outside of the box to solve some problems, but nodeJS takes that to a completely different state of being. Node.js is a lightweight, efficient javascript runtime program that is able to do a lot of things that you would spend ages creating in standard javascript.

 

Example of Node JS:
The primary uses of Node.js are to create asynchronous I/O, high I/O operation, dynamic and interactive applications. This can include things like real-time chat, browser games, and Single Page Applications (or SPAs). Here is an example of a short, sweet, and simple Node.js script:
var http = require('http');
http.createServer(function(request, response) {
    response.writeHead(200, {'Content-Type': 'text/plain'});
    response.end("Testing!");
}).listen();
What this does is create an http server and run a function that requests a response from the server. The server itself is responding with a 200-response and the word, "Testing!" in plain text to any requests that it gets.

This example is about as simple as it gets, but it can get a lot more complex. Some larger websites that are built on node are walmart.com, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and even Uber.

Get Started with NodeJS:

If you are interested in giving this a try, there are a few ways to get started.
1: Set up Node.js on your development server or desktop machine. There are plenty of tutorials, but there is also the npm documentation if you would prefer that.https://docs.npmjs.com/getting-started/installing-node
Or 2: Use an online service like http://jsapp.us/ or https://c9.io/
There is a small learning curve for this, but take the plunge and spend a few hours learning the syntax. Also get more familiar with HTTP responses to make the transition into this new style of development a bit easier. Start small and work your way up to bigger things and before you know it, you will be happily plucking away at keys effortlessly!

Creating a Good User Experience

User Experience, abbreviated as "UX", in web design and web development is not a new thing by any means. Ensuring that your user has an easy, attractive, and intuitive way to interact with your website and all of its functions is everything. UX encapsulates form interaction, information display, menus, and any other element that you can add to a website. The goal of having good UX is to give the user a pleasant and useful flow of interaction that is helpful and absent of any inconveniences or wasted moments or actions during their visit on your website.
Improving usability, accessibility (screen readers, and the like), and creating a pleasurable experience for users interacting with your product is what good UX is all about. Things like stunning visuals, tasteful animations, and even elegant error messages can contribute to creating an overall positive user experience.
However, it is often difficult for web and graphic designers to put themselves in the users' shoes, but luckily there is an easy way to get around that, using feedback and testing. When you are working on a project, don’t rely purely on what you think looks or "flows" nicely. Have a friend or relative try it out and see what they think. Having a fresh set of eyes on your work can help immensely with finding the points in your work that would otherwise be very difficult or impossible for you to find on your own.
There is no rule-of-thumb for getting good UX, but there are a few good practices:
  • Get feedback from friends, family, A/B testing, page analysis tools, and anything else you can get your hands on. These are crucial for any high-end or high traffic web design project.
  • Keep your design consistent. Reuse design elements to give a sense of unity. This means, stick to your colors and light/darkness percentages.
  • Make tasteful use of animation. Tasteful is hard to define, and it is ultimately left up to you, but find an animation that works for you and the functions that your application performs. Smooth movement is great eye-candy, and will reinforce the feeling of completed an action or creating a sense of progress as users navigate through your site.
  • Make use of load times, but keep them short. Having an animation or smooth transitions will reduce the perceived load time, and making things load quickly will help retain users and make sure that they do not get bored or impatient.
Overall, making good decisions for your website's UX from the very start will make the rest of the process much smoother and easier for you as the designer and/or developer. Knowing how you want to notify users of actions, how you will apply changes to information dynamically, and how things like navigation are going to be laid out are really large steps that can help ensure your users have the best possible experience while interacting with the product and brand.

Online Education

Online Education Tool Khan Academy Breakthrough for Las Vegas Teacher

The following is an interview I conducted with Chris Reger, a second year math teacher at Brinley Middle School in Las Vegas who came to the Clark County School District (CCSD) after completing a Teach For America program. Chris unlike most middle school math teachers arrived in Las Vegas with a BBA in Finance and an MBA in Securities Analysis from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

chris-reger-ccsd-las-vegasChris had been working on integrating Khan Academy, one of the latest innovations in online learning into his classroom last fall. While setting up Kahn Academy for his students, Chris ran into several technical hurdles online and needed help. After approaching All in Web Pro about his problem, we decided to volunteer our time for free to help Chris access this amazing new online educational tool.

Founded in 2004, Khan Academy was not widely known until 2009 when it began receiving press. But despite its humble beginnings it has recently received wide support and acclaim. CBS Las Vegas named the Khan Academy iPhone app as one of the "5 Best Educational Apps to Download" of 2012. Indeed since early 2011, according to Google Trends, search traffic for the term has sky-rocketed; which corresponds roughly to the moment when the founder of Khan Academy, Sal Khan, presented a TED talk in which his work was referred to by Bill Gates as "the future of education".

The Ted Effect Khan Academy

Several months after getting Khan Academy setup and running in his classroom, I asked Chris if I could do an interview with him to share his story with other teachers in Nevada and to help spread the word about the power of this free and readily available online tool.

Owen Carver: Thanks for taking the time to participate in this interview Chris. As a Clark County School District teacher here in Las Vegas, tell me a little about how you came to work in the district and your first impressions.

1/3 of my students were starting the year on a 1st to 3rd grade math level and another 1/3 of students were starting the year on a 4th to 6th grade math level. Again, these were all 8th graders.

Chris Reger: I have a fairly unique background - one that is far from typical for a teacher here in Clark County. I studied finance in college and completed a master's in business administration. I worked for 3 years at a mutual fund company where my responsibilities included selecting stocks for placement in company portfolios. When I decided to leave that company, I knew I wanted my next endeavor to be something that allowed me to give back. Education has always been a field that I felt strongly about, and Teach for America provided me an opportunity for getting into the classroom immediately. Coming into the district, I knew there were going to be big problems that needed to be fixed. If that weren't the case, Teach for America wouldn't be placing teachers here. In my first year of teaching, 4 of the 5 sections that I taught were pre-algebra 8 classes that nearly all 8th graders in Clark County are now required to take. According to a norm-referenced exam that all students take numerous times throughout the year, I found that 1/3 of my students were starting the year on a 1st to 3rd grade math level and another 1/3 of students were starting the year on a 4th to 6th grade math level. Again, these were all 8th graders.

Owen: How did you first hear about Khan Academy and what attracted you about the program as a possible tool for your own classroom?

Chris: I had heard of the Khan Academy numerous times before moving into education. However, shortly before I started my first year in the classroom, I had the opportunity to listen to Sal Khan speak at a Zappos corporate event. After hearing Sal speak about the benefits of and new tools included on his website I knew this was going to be a tool I had to implement in my classroom. Given what I have stated previously about how far behind many of my students were starting the year, I knew I was going to need all the help I could get in remediating skills.

Owen: Tell me a little more about the challenges you faced as a teacher in Las Vegas when first trying to implement Khan Academy.

Chris: As you'd expect, many of the systems and structure in place in a large school district are bureaucratic and broken. I immediately started asking around about how I could make the Khan Academy work in my classroom within Clark County guidelines. After gaining an appreciation for how tedious and lengthy this process would be, I knew that I couldn't afford to work with the school district. I demanded better because my students deserve better.

Owen: How did All in Web Pro help you access Khan Academy?

Chris: In its earlier days, the Khan Academy required students to log in with Google or Facebook accounts. This logging-on process ensures that teachers can track and monitor student growth and areas that might need more attention. I partnered with All in Web Pro to help create a system that would allow all of my students to have accounts that could be used on the Khan Academy platform. At the time, this process involved the creation of a domain, the application for a Google Apps for Education account, and all the technological wherewithal to make it work. We needed to ensure that student security and privacy were maintained and that the solution we created was cost-effective for an educator. Within a few days, our solution was complete and I was able to introduce all of my students to the Khan platform in our school computer lab. The ability to move quickly and intelligently allowed my students to dramatically increase their learning time over the course of the school year.

my students grew on average by 2.1 years in math in a single academic year

Owen: How has Khan Academy changed how you teach now, and what kind of results have you seen?

Chris: In my first year of teaching, I saw remarkable growth in my students! According to the norm-referenced exam I mentioned earlier, my students grew on average by 2.1 years in math in a single academic year. Furthermore, in my pre-algebra classes, we saw the pass rate on our 2nd semester district final increase to 67% (vs. 14% in the previous year). In my first semester teaching our school's algebra class, our semester final pass rate increased to 88% (vs. 28% in the previous year). Using the Khan Academy allowed me to shift the responsibility for remediation onto my students. This empowered my students to achieve infinite more learning than what I could offer with 1-on-1 or small group study sessions. Thus, I am able to maintain a rigorous pacing schedule with classroom time and shift nearly all student remediation to after-school and individual Khan Academy time.

Owen: What recommendations do you have for other teachers in the Clark County school district?

If you want to do well by your students, you need to figure out systems that you can use to quickly and effectively remediate student skills. I wouldn't recommend waiting on the school district or your school to accomplish this.

Chris: The responsibilities of a well-intentioned teacher in Clark County are enormous. If you want to do well by your students, you need to figure out systems that you can use to quickly and effectively remediate student skills. I wouldn't recommend waiting on the school district or your school to accomplish this. It's quite laughable what the district spends its money on and how easily it falls for the savvy marketing pitch of a technology salesman. In the last five years, there have been so many websites and technologies designed that can truly help teachers more effectively reach students. I've found that most of the items that best allow me to engage students and increase learning are free. We as teachers need to spend some free time exploring these options and taking risks with implementing them in our classrooms.

Owen: Do you know anything about other teachers in the district that have tried Khan Academy?

Chris: Not sure I have much to offer on this one - I would say I know many of the youthful teachers in the district, and I haven't heard of a single one who is using the site as extensively as I am.

Owen: In light of everything you've said, what message would you like to impart to the many parents, voters, and law-makers in Clark County and Las Vegas?

Chris: A strong education system is the result of having a strong set of stakeholders - strong parents, community, teachers, students, and individuals. A breakdown in any one of these areas can lead to the weaknesses that we currently see in Clark County. In our case, there's plenty of blame to go around. From what I've seen, the most successful outcomes in education take place when individuals accept responsibility for outcomes. This happens when parents reinforce positive behaviors at home, when communities are active and involved, when teachers build strong relationships at school, and when students set goals for themselves and chart out a clear path to achieve success. It's easy to pass the blame onto someone else, but doing what's easy rarely achieves anything worthwhile.

Owen: Thank you for your time Chris! This is really amazing and I appreciate you sharing your story with me.

Chris: Anytime, and thank you!

For more information about Khan Academy and some exciting new developments in Las Vegas recently regarding eduction, check out the links and video below.

DOWNTOWN PROJECT DESIGNATES $50 MILLION IN FUNDING FOR EDUCATION INITIATIVES

published Nov 22nd 2012 by the Downtown Project (this article was removed from Downtown Project's website)

5 Best Educational Apps to Download
published August 1, 2012 6:00 AM

March 2011 TED Talk w/ Bill Gates