Part of being an autodidactic learner is setting your own skill development course, and part of succeeding at actually developing the skill set you want is making some sort of plan. Creating your PLE is a great start, and it’s all well and good for managing the stages of your learning, but without some sort of overarching direction it’s really kind of pointless.
A friend recently asked how someone with diverse creative interests could help themself focus enough to really learn all those skills, and I shared with her the method I developed last year to help myself address that exact problem. When I started trying to organize some sort of learning plan, I happened to be playing the now-dead MMORPG Glitch. I’d been reading articles on how skill development was handled in WoW and how players had created guides to help new players find the best training paths for their chosen crafts, and I started thinking about how that worked in Glitch…and how I could make it work for me.
In both games, skills are grouped under some relevant grouping, and then they’re leveled from there, meaning if one skill requires another skill, that other skill must be mastered before the first one can be worked on. Sadly, this struck me as brilliant, despite the fact it’s good curriculum design on a very basic level. But I looked at Glitch’s skill development through this lens, and I thought about craft specialization and my own decisions about which skills to learn. (I eventually caved and learned them all.)
Then, I wrote down all of the skills I knew I wanted to develop to a usable level, and grouped them under heading that made sense to me. (I did end up with several skills that didn’t make it into a group, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that I don’t know enough about those skills to know where they truly fall.) Some of the skills overlapped or required skills from another list, but I silenced my inner archivist (who desperately wanted to cross-reference skills, especially when she figured out how to do it in GQueues) and settled for simply keeping an eye out for opportunities to apply newly acquired skills along the way. I then looked at the groups and sequenced the skills within each group based on when I would need them for later skills. (Does my inner curriculum designer show yet?)
It just so happened that right around the time I was building my skill tree (which is really more like a grove), I started a new notebook, so I was able to copy the entire tree onto the first page of the notebook for reference. Then, I selected a couple of the available skills and broke them out into more specific subskills with associated projects. As I’ve completed a subskill and its project, I’ve marked it off. When all of the subskills have been checked off and I’ve completed the mastery project for that skill, I’ll know it’s time to move on to the next skill.
How has this worked out for me so far? Not too badly, actually. I haven’t completed any of the skills yet, but I’ve made progress. I’ve worked on subskills and finished smaller projects for the skill I’m reconnecting with. I’ve learned the right questions to ask and the right subskills and projects to focus on for the skill I’ve been learning from scratch. I expect this year to actually complete a skill or two.
Do you have to do everything I did to organize your own learning plan? No. I have a lot of skills on my plate, so I took an approach that can address that in a manageable way. You might need nothing more than a basic outline. But do take the time to put a learning plan together for yourself, and remember to stay flexible.
Your assignment (because all good curriculum design has to encourage you to go out and apply your new knowledge) is to make a list of skills you’ve been meaning to learn, and organize them into some sort of task list. Then pick out one, decide what it is about that skill you want to learn and how you’re going to prove to yourself that you have learned the skill. Then…start learning!