Sara McManamy-Johnson: Embrace your inner nerd

We don’t all walk around with pocket protectors wearing horn-rimmed, Coke-bottle glasses, like Lewis from “Revenge of the Nerds.” We don’t all have the social skills of Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory.”
Aug 22, 2013

Recently, I was talking with my husband as we were leaving a used bookstore. We were discussing the books we found, and when I realized I had spent the entire time in the reference section, I asked out of curiosity, “Am I a nerd?”

“Yes,” he immediately replied.

“Wow, no hesitation there,” I said.

He softened the blow by pointing out that he is, too.

I’ve figured for a while that I might be a bit of one, so I have to admit it wasn’t too much of a shock.

Thursday, though, I realized there’s no “little bit” about it, I’m a full-blown, all-out nerd.

I was online on my cellphone looking for low-cost courses for computer programming when I stumbled upon the greatest offering known to mankind -- Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Open Courseware site.

It’s a veritable smorgasbord of information.

Anyone in the world can go online and access course materials including syllabi, lecture notes, video lectures, assignments with answer keys, exams with answer keys and more for dozens, if not hundreds, of MIT undergraduate and graduate courses from multiple departments.

Classes cover topics such as calculus, computer programming, geophysics, Spanish, Chinese, philosophy and pretty much anything in between.

Some courses offer online study groups where people taking the courses can ask each other questions.

And every course is completely free.

Anyone who wants to can just download the materials and start studying; no registration is required.

Some courses list suggested textbooks and link to Amazon for anyone interested in buying them, but those textbooks are not required. Frequently the course information lists free text resources to supplement the materials already provided.

While you will not earn a degree or certificate by taking these classes, they can help you expand or improve your skill set whether for career goals or personal goals.

Or they can simply feed your inner nerd.

As I combed through the course offerings from a half-dozen different departments until 4:30 a.m. Thursday, I fully embraced my nerd status.

And I started to think that maybe nerddom has gotten a bad rap.

We don’t all walk around with pocket protectors wearing horn-rimmed, Coke-bottle glasses, like Lewis from “Revenge of the Nerds.” We don’t all have the social skills of Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory.”

Some people think being called a nerd is an insult.

But a nerd is just someone who really likes to learn.

I take it as a compliment.

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