The family historian is lucky to have so many resources readily available in the form of workshops andwebinars. There is an endless list on any given month or even week where there are numerous webinars and workshops going on both online and off. With so many opportunities to learn at our fingertips, it’s hard sometimes to fit it all in. I am a big advocate for continuous learning and growing, but balance is the key to not burning out.
And let’s face it, your days are busy, you barely have time to research. However, finding time to further your knowledge of records and research skills are critical to moving your family history forward. Understanding how to fit learning in and balancing it with the rest of your life is the key. Here are 9 ideas to keep in mind when enrolling in your next workshop or webinar.
Schedule Learning into Your Life
Workshops are a great opportunity to fit some regular learning into your life. Commit to one new workshop in a given time period. Choose your time period, that could be monthly or even weekly. Pencil it in on the calendar now! Find the minimum and maximum you’re willing to invest in workshop and webinars so you’re not in webinar overload.
Balance a Mix of Free and Affordable
Some workshops and webinars are free, some affordable. Consider a balance of the two, less of a strain on the pocketbook. Don’t be afraid to shell out a few bucks to get some in-depth experience and advice. I would include conferences in here. Some incredible presentations can take place at conferences but they come with a price tag. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for paid webinars and conferences, genealogists need to eat too, but balance it with your needs and funds.
Consider Your Learning Outcomes
I’m certain I could attend any webinar, workshop or conference and walk away with a new idea, thought or skill but that doesn’t mean I have to attend them all. Be selective. Have you ever read a description to a webinar or workshop, there is usually a set of learning outcomes that accompany the description. Consider creating a list of learning outcomes you would like to obtain over the next year. Post it somewhere visible. Then when webinars or workshops present themselves compare them to your list. Do they meet your needs? If so, sign up. If not give it a pass. Don’t overwhelm yourself with every opportunity that comes along. Be thoughtful about what you need to move your research forward.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others.
We all are at different stages of our research and skill development. Just because everyone is hyped and talking about a new webinar on Facebook doesn’t mean you need to jump on the bandwagon unless the learning outcome fits your learning needs. Support your fellow genealogists by sharing it through your social media channels. It just may fit one of your friend's needs. You can still support the community while not spreading yourself too thin and attending every webinar that crosses your path.
Take the Opportunity to Ask an Expert.
Don’t just sit there and listen, participate, make the most of this time that you’ve committed. Do have something to offer, a question to ask? No question is too small and insignificant. If you’re thinking it, chances are several others in the crowd are thinking it too. Step out of your comfort zone and be a voice in the webinars and workshops you do attend. That one question you ask may be the small opening through your current brick wall.
Seek Resources Outside of the Speaker
Don’t just learn from the speaker but other attendees as well. If you happen to be at a workshop in person, than there is a vast amount of knowledge in that room. Take some time to introduce yourself to others in the room. Read my post on not being a wallflower and learn some valuable skills to overcome your fears.
Build a Network for the Future
Build a network of family historians and genealogists that you can call on. By getting to know the genealogists in your neighbourhood and online you’ll be not only exposing yourself to a vast array of knowledge but you’ll be in the loop when all the greatest workshops are announced. When you’re really stuck and need some guidance, a quick email to fellow family historian may just be the assistance you need.
Keep Track of What You Learned.
I have a folder in Evernote for webinars and workshops that I’ve attended. I tag them by their topic. I keep notes, scan and file workbooks or handouts all pertaining to the presentation together in this notebook. When I need to reference them, I know just where to find them. Don’t waste the valuable time or money you invested in a webinar, only to lose track of your notes and handouts.
Put it into practice.
Don’t wait too long before you try out that new skill or resource you’ve learned. For far too long I was a collector of all information. I would attend a webinar that did not match up with my current abilities and skills. I would file the information for another day, for when I needed it. Ha! You can imagine how that worked out. Focus on the present, what you need right now. I take a new approach. I only attend webinars and workshops that fit my immediate learning needs. Once I’ve completed a webinar, I go out and but those skills into practice.
Choose the Workshop or Webinar that is Flexible to Your Lifestyle and Manner of Learning
One thing about genealogy classes they come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you seek out a workshop from your local genealogical society because you love the interaction with other participants or you prefer to learn in your pjs from your armchair and laptop. There are plenty of options available
While webinars are convenient, workshops are wonderful for the audience interactions. Once in a workshop setting with no distractions learning is focused. Think about creating a distraction free environment at home for webinars. Personally, I have found far too often I’m pulled away from my computer or distractions prevent me from attending a webinar all together. Choose the environment that allows you to be present and makes the most of your time.
In the end if you commit to a regular time and place for learning, make sure it fits your current learning needs, keep a nice filing system for your notes and put those skills into practice immediately you’ll have found a way to make the most of your workshop and webinars.