I find it it sometimes daunting to learn a new skill. In many cases, it is hard to know where to start. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the desire for our efforts to be perfect, that we are paralyzed and fail to even start.
Think for a second about what it takes to learn a new skill.
1). Decide to learn skill X.
2). Figure out what you need in order to learn skill X.
3). Clear schedule for an indeterminate amount of time to learn skill X.
4). Put butt in chair to get down to practicing skill X.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 until either you have become an expert, or you get tired of learning new skill. In many cases, the siren song of TwitterFacebookInstagramPeriscopeHuffPoSlateAtlanticGawkerJezebel gets in the way. It is so much easier to wind down my kid’s bath time and bed time with an hour on the TwitterFacebookInstagramPeriscopeHuffPoSlateAtlanticGawkerJezebel than to think about learning a new skill. But what if it were easier? What if you could, with very little buy-in or allocation of time/resources start learning a skill? What would you learn?
Author Josh Kaufman gave a TED talk in 2013 basically arguing that most people could learn to do most of the things they wanted to in 20 hours.
The premise is simple- figure out how to self-correct and spend most of the 20 hours practicing. The problem with the way most of us in Academia learn to do something is by going to a workshop- where we are given an in-depth and uselessly detailed tour of Y Software Package/Statistical Technique/Dataset that is essentially a fire hose of information. We do this for 2-5 days and return to our lives, some of us never going back to that information again, until we are forced by some circumstance (usually a student needing help).
What if you could do brief introductions to new skills? Something during a long train or plane ride? Or during lunch one week?
I would like to introduce you to SKILLSHARE. a subscription based service were people who know teach people who don’t. You might remember last year when there was quite the hullabaloo over a SKILLSHARE class that Actor James Franco conducted called, “Introduction to Screenwriting for Short Films“. The classes are typically, a series of self-paced videos and projects where you apply concepts discussed in the videos to your own work, which is actually quite useful if you’re trying to learn a new skill in 20 hours. Luckily, not all the classes are with James Franco- or other weird semi-famous actors in their 30s who can’t quite decide if they are going to be an actor or a student or an actor or a student. But that is neither here nor there.
On SKILLSHARE, you can learn a lot of different skills, ranging from Hand lettering to CSS and App Design. There are also classes on Jewelry Making and the Perfect Southern Fried Chicken and Biscuits. The classes tend to be a couple of hours long- although some are longer and some are shorter. I spent some time exploring this week and found a couple that would be useful for people who work with data and have been frustrated with the options for visualizing it. The best part- is that you can view the videos/course content on mobile devices. So it is possible to learn said new skill whle sitting on the floor of your bathroom while a little one splashes away in the tub, oblivious to your presence. You can buy annual subscriptions or monthly ones (for $9.95). Or you can try it for free for a month.
Some classes that might be useful for researchers (and their descriptions):
Introduction to Data Visualization: Every corner of the Internet is filled with data visualizations, but where do they come from? And why do we find them so appealing? In this Skillshare class, we’ll walk through an expert’s process to reveal how these complex images come to life. Data visualization is the perfect way to use graphic design to tell complex stories. We’ll cover everything from researching and collecting data to creating a layout architecture and adding style to your work. No matter your background, you’ll learn how to better understand, appreciate, and interpret these images. Those with design backgrounds and experience with Illustrator will also be able to create their own large-scale visual representation of an inspiring taxonomy, timeline, or concept.
Beginning Infographics: Information Driven Storytelling: Infographics are an amazing way to share new & interesting information with friends & audiences all over. It’s the reason why we see them so often—they are a great tool for distilling really complex ideas down into easily digestible stories. Whether you’re an experienced designer with a desire to experiment with data, an ambitious student interested in seeing how we work on client projects, or maybe even a non-creative who wants to get some tips on how to better communicate information to their audience—we’re here to help you through your own personal journey.
Data Visualization: Designing Maps with Processing and Illustrator: Join Nicholas Felton – author of the Felton Annual Reports, one of the lead designers of Facebook’s timeline, and co-founder of Daytum – to explore the with data and design. This 90-minute class walks through the process of investigating a large amount of data, using Processing to project onto a map, and polishing the visual appearance in Illustrator. It’s a great introduction to Processing and provides a data set for you to get started with right away, making this class perfect for anyone interested in design, data, geometry, or minimalism. Follow your curiosity and become fluent in presenting the data surrounding us every day.