Learning as a Quest

Some years back when I was trying to learn about creative nonfiction, I came across this description that compared it to a fictional quests, complete with obstacles to overcome and an external character arc that changes to internal as the character progresses. I think in a way we see this in certain styles of blogging, personal essays, and memoirs. It struck me as interesting, and I considered weaving that mindset into my own blog. I still sometimes think about trying it out.

I still have my notes from my reading in my general notes, and I came across them again while working on the personal learning environment blog posts. This was right around when I was experimenting with HabitRPG as a task management system and reading about education programs that were trying to rebuild a part of their curriculum to run more like gaming quests and playing Glitch, where I was fascinated by the skills development system. I had never played an MMORPG game before, and skill trees were a totally new concept to me. My inner curriculum designer latched on to the brilliance of that idea.

For those unfamiliar, it’s not unusual for MMORPGs to offer a skill development system that almost reads more like a branched story. You pick out your starting skills (for many games, this is the base skills of your class), and then you use it through a variety of gameplay and side quests until you’ve met the markers for mastery of that level. Then, you’re offered new skills to learn based on what you’ve already learned. If you haven’t learned a base skill, the advanced skill won’t be available to you. You pick your path through the available skills, creating a set of skills that’s all yours.

If you’re at all experienced with self-directed learning, informal learning, or sites like DIY.org, this sounds a little familiar. You find something you want to learn, and then you find various projects and study resources to work through and learn. And then you build from there until you get to the skill level you want in that skill. In a way, we create our own skill trees outside of school. We pick our projects, our practice activities, our side quests. And we confront obstacles that we either choose to work through or we allow to stop us and shift us off to a different skill tree.

I have been reworking and rearranging my goals and the related training and practice activities I’ve picked to get me where I want to go. I had things scattered all throughout my to-do list. It was getting hard to manage, or even just to keep up. So, I was playing with the list the other night, when it suddenly hit me to create skill trees for each skill set I’m trying to acquire. Each target skill set now has a collection of study resources and activities, training resources and activities, and projects intended to help me focus on a single skill, organized to build on the project before it. It may sound large (it was more than I was expecting when I sat down to sort it out), but I now have clearly defined plans to reach many of my goals. (Being an informal educator with a strong interest in scaffolded learning, I did feel a bit silly that it took gaming and nearly losing my mind to put this together.)

Look at your goals and your projects. What can you do to incorporate a more focused, scaffolded approach to your learning to help you better learn your desired skill sets? How can you make your learning a quest? Figure it out, and then set it up and work through it.


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