It never fails. The school year ends, and adults and kids both make plans for how they’re not going to squander their summer. Some of those plans center around vacations. Others take advantage of the sunny evening hours and free weekends to plan out projects they can’t do during the school months.
As we have discussed in the PLE posts, a project begins when you say, “I want to do this.” If it’s something you could have done during other times of the year, you just sit down and start working on it, gathering supplies, laying out how you’re going to do it, and beginning. If you decided to challenge yourself with a project that’s beyond what you can currently do, then you have to seek out learning materials as well. There are two types of resources that you’ll want: resources directly related to the skill or concept you want to learn or the project you’re working on and resources from other people who have done what you’re trying to learn or do.
The first type of resource seems kind of obvious. When you decide on a skill or concept to learn, you know from countless school projects that you need to find resources to learn the skill or concept from, be it books, websites, videos, whatever. These are resources you’ve picked out because they make sense to you and they contain information you know you don’t know yet, but need to know to finish your project. If you’ve structured your project as a learning quest, think of these resources as the inventory items you get form NPCs to use when the time is right in your quest.
Sometimes, you’ll come across a resource that you can see relates to your project, but it’s clearly ahead of where you are. Make a note of the resource. Save it if you’re able to. Keep the information where you can find it when it becomes relevant to your improving skill set and your project.
The second type of resources is less obvious if you’re not used to having social media in your pocket. As you’re pulling together your learning materials for your project, you should also pick out a handful of blogs, social media, and broadcasts (podcasts or vlog) to follow. This stream of information is helpful for a number of reasons. The material is often presented by someone who has actually worked with the skill and knows what mistakes to avoid, complete with advice on how to avoid them. They may actually be able to suggest tools or approaches not covered in books or similar material, which can often be more than a few years old. Keeping up with this stream can also be helpful when you’re starting out because you don’t yet know what you don’t know, and reading or listening to a more experienced voice may unearth questions or concerns you hadn’t even thought of yet.
If you find that you’re really getting into the skill or concept, and are thinking about working on related projects, having taken the time to build this stream of information can help you stay aware of what other people who practice the same skill are doing, what tools and advances are coming into common use, and what trends are being noted, all of which can help you as you continue to pursue projects.
One thing you absolutely have to keep in mind when gathering and managing your learning resources is that it’s okay to delete resources that are no longer contributing to your growth (unless you just really enjoy the resource. Keep things around that make you smile or laugh.). There is no prize for hoarding. There is a finite space for digital artifacts (and your attention). Learn to become comfortable passing things out of your life, and keep an eye out for new learning resources.