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Friday, April 15, 2016

The Importance of Continuing Your Education

“What are you doing mom?”
“What?!  You aren’t in school.  It’s just a book, you are just reading.”
“No honey, I am always learning…”

This conversation happened many years ago when I first started learning the craft of genealogy research.  My son was in elementary school and he couldn’t understand that if I wasn’t in a “real” school how could I be “learning.”  I am not sure he ever really came around to the concept that you can learn your whole life, in or out of school.

I know I talk about this frequently, but I still get asked for advice on this topic all the time.  Which means, people are still looking for answers.  Genealogists young and old, novice or experienced, must embrace continuing education if they want to be truly successful.  Even experienced researchers can learn new tricks, tips, or techniques to make their family search more successful.  Figuring out how to find the education you need can be the challenge for many people. 

Those who have researched for many years cannot find educational opportunities advanced enough.  On the other hand, many beginners get overwhelmed by the choices they have or the concepts presented.  To be honest, I get overwhelmed with the choices between webinars, conferences, and courses.  The key is to have a strategy to how you want to learn with an understanding of why you are going to a class or take a course online.  Below are a list of items you should think about when you are considering taking your genealogical education to the next level.

Know How You Learn Best
Are you a visual learning or an auditory learning?  Do you need to talk thing through or can you read it and pick it up quickly?  Knowing how you learn will help you decide what educational platform will work best for you. 

Learn Something Everyday

Make education a habit in your life and reap the rewards.  If you take the time to read, study, learn something new every day your research will always progress.  It really is that simple.  Take a few minutes to read a magazine article, a chapter in a book, a blog post, or even talk with a friend about an item of interest.  Once you embrace education in your life you will never be able to let it go.

Push Yourself
To learn and grow as a researcher you need to push the boundaries of your comfort zone.  A student only grows if they try something new or learn a concept that is a new facet to a subject you already know.  By choosing courses that make you push the boundaries of your knowledge, and your comfort zone, you are sure to become more confident in your abilities.

Every Opportunity Should Be Taken
Read books, watch TV shows, listen to podcasts, attend society meetings, and look for any opportunity to learn something new.  A lifelong student understands that there are educational possibilities around us every minute, we just need to take long enough to recognize them for what they are.  In the genealogy field we are lucky to have many opportunities for free or low cost education.  If you are not taking advantage of those opportunities you are hindering your education.

Teach to Learn
Study groups, whether formal or informal, are excellent ways to share and disseminate information.  You can choose topics to discuss on a regular basis or meet for coffee with friends every so often.  Many people find they learn better when they can discuss thoughts, ideas, or conclusions with a group of people.  Also, teaching someone else what you know helps you learn where your holes are and cements the information in your mind better.  If you are one of these people starting a study group, online or in person, is a great way to get the interaction you need for your learning style. 

Create a Must Have Bibliography
Being well read is crucial to keeping up to date with any advances in your field.  Having a list of books which are considered key reference materials on hand is an excellent idea.  You may not be able to have them on your shelf for a variety of reasons but that is not a reason to keep an up to date list which also includes where you can find the resources either online at Google Books for example or in a physical repository such as your local library.  In addition to books you should also take note of blogs, magazine articles, and websites which provide information on the subject(s) you are interested in.

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