LearnTO Sees City of Toronto as School for Digital Creators

While running basic coding workshops through the Yorkville Media Centre, Raymond Kao, partner at People & Code, was continually asked by participants where they could continue their professional development without pursuing the traditional post-secondary route.

“Students were seeking a resource to guide them on their path for tech learning,” said Kao. It was theses interactions which inspired Kao to create LearnToronto.org, a site which compiles information on quality technology and design focused professional development events, meet-ups and training courses happening in Toronto.

Kao is in contact with user groups in the city and their attendees, and he has their support in curating events to list on the site. Currently, most user groups are segregated across various sites like Meetup, Eventbrite and dedicated websites.

With a bit of manual input and the help of APIs, Learn Toronto boasts an increasing number of new event listings each month. To stay on top of events happening, Learn Toronto allows you to import the site’s event listings into your Google calendar which means at a glance, you can see what is happening in Toronto on any given day.

In the future, Kao hopes to accommodate public submissions to the site which will be approved based on community feedback. Throughout our interview, Kao stressed how important it was to him to only post events with quality content and/or networking opportunities. This is in large part due to the fact that Kao sees Learn Toronto as a support in making the City of Toronto itself a school.

“One of the goals of Learn Toronto is highlighting Toronto as a tech city,” said Kao. “If you want to learn about tech and start-ups, you’d want to go to Toronto because every day there is some event that’s going on that will teach you something in tech; you can create your own curriculum as you go along.”

Moving forward, Learn Toronto hopes to incorporate filters which narrow down technologies, programming languages and skill levels, along with a number of other features which support the idea of a learning path.

It’s pretty intriguing how much a developer in Toronto can learn through professional development events which are, more often than not, a far cheaper option than formal post-secondary education. Most of the meet-ups and user group events in Toronto are free, couple this with the cost of full price tickets to five or more industry events and major conferences throughout the year, and the total cost is less than a semester of college. 

Granted, you don’t get post-secondary credentials taking this path, funding is scarce and this isn’t ideal for someone who isn’t a strong self-directed learner (supplemented readings, research and tinkering are a must), but it’s certainly an interesting concept. Even if you have a diploma or degree under your belt, these events will keep you up-to-date and in touch with what others in your industry are doing – a must to stay relevant in the ever-changing, high-demand development and design industry.

It’s no surprise that Toronto is a continually rising star in technical innovation. It’s people like Kao and the countless passionate digital creators who are fostering a culture of sharing, education and innovation through organizing events and meet-ups for the technology and design space. To that, all I can say is kudos!