Thursday, December 27, 2012

Introduction to Project Based Genealogy

For the next few months, I will be working on a new way to deepen my understanding of certain aspects of my genealogy research. For this, I will have to draw upon my experience as an adult educator and talk to my readers about project based learning and problem based learning. These ideas, although commonplace in the world of education, can help genealogists and family historians too.

Project based learning is important because as people work on their ancestors, they often don't stop to analyze the information they acquire. With new information coming daily, it is hard to make a research plan and stick to it! Some days, I can't remember where I left off the day before. Does this describe you?

Project based learning requires more advanced planning and breaks research and the resulting product into manageable steps. What is a product, you ask? It is the result of your work. Sometimes it is a blog post, a printed pedigree chart or a digital story. It depends on what you set as a goal. Projects evolve over time so you can add new information to a project that you worked on previously. Timelines and goals are fluid, and can change with how much you have time to research.

Problem based learning is the little sibling to project based learning. It implies there is a problem to be solved that it takes collaboration with others. We have all experienced this as it can be frustrating waiting for someone else to give us information, a citation, or most importantly a photograph so we can move forward with a project. Genealogy has no end so it is important to deal with the frustrations up front. No one stands alone.

Many of us now work collaboratively. We pass our "brick walls" to another researcher to examine. Fresh eyes and ideas can help us solve problems. This is why I think problem based learning requires asking questions to which there may be no answers. People are not comfortable with no answers.

In my current list of projects, you will see other people's names. That's because I have done genealogy so long that I know I need other people. 

This is hard for me because I have the concrete sequential learning style. I work steadily and methodically. This annoys my friends who are of the abstract random learning style. They are bouncing around randomly gathering information and assembling it in creative ways. I tend to tap my foot impatiently for them to "get it together". However, their projects are stunning. If we work together with other researchers we can do exceptionally well and blend both worlds.

In the beginning, when I was nine and starting working on my own family, I gathered information and asked a lot of questions. I would not have been able to make projects without those early years. Because I kept a lot of notes and I have remembered conversations with those who are no longer alive, I have been able to help others learn those skills as they learn about family history. 

Technology has helped me tremendously in ways I couldn't have imagined. But, I do keep a handwritten journal and use books to help me. (Both worlds. Get it?)

So, regardless of your learning style and whether you are working on a project or a problem, you are learning new concepts and brainstorming new ideas. Join me on this new adventure. Yes, there will be plenty of gravestones because I love them and you will find out that I have more in my blood than granite.

Take my hand and walk with me. Your ideas and comments are essential. Let me know what you are thinking?

Related blog posts for learning about projects:
Pre-Project Helpers 
Defining a Problem in a Project 
Project Based Genealogy Steps


Celia Lewis said...

Goodness, Midge - you have so many excellent skills to bring to the table! I'm a bit of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of researcher. Follow one idea and see where it leads me; dig through as many resources as I can find in one area, then move to another three areas nearby and start hopping. Sigh. Sometimes it can be very exciting and productive, other times it's simply frustrating. And my several projects aren't moving forward simply because I'm not finding the money to order possible certificates (Eng/Ire/Canada) or military files (Canada), or to travel to an archive to dig through their vertical files. I'll be watching and hoping to learn some nuggets on the process as you go along. Thank you for posting about this new start.

imagespast said...

- I agree, a fresh pair of eyes sometimes works wonders, and a consistent and methodical way of researching is my way of doing things :-) Jo

Family Curator said...

Ha! Retirement, indeed! I love this new series and am enjoying the chance to go "back to the classroom." Thanks, Midge.

Jasia said...

I'm fascinated with the ideas you've presented here and I look forward to seeing what you come up with next!