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Self-Study Strategy

Discussion in 'Training & Development' started by tripwire45, Mar 6, 2008.

  1. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

    I've decided to explore information architecture as a direction in which to expand my skill sets. There are actually a number of disciplines that are involved in this career path, largely in the realm of web design, development, and usability. I have a copy of Morville and Rosenfeld's Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (which I have previously reviewed and found quite good) and which will serve as my main "guide". I'm also using a number of other web-based resources to help define this role.

    Since there is a significant web-skills aspect to this profession, I decided I needed to go back and start studying in that direction. The prospect is daunting.

    Think about how many technologies are involved in designing and managing a web-based information infrastructure. First off, there's HTML and CSS which isn't too much of a challenge but is deceptively easy. I discovered that a fair amount of the CSS that I've been using is "borrowed" from other sources on the net and that I've used more than a few "kloogie" methods in order to build websites.

    To get a better handle on these very, very basic techologies, I decided to go through HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS. Already, I've discovered a few bad habits and realize that I need to "clean up my act" in order to approach these technologies professionally.

    Beyond that, it's easy to become overwhelmed. When you're out of work and have a family to support (and you're no "spring chicken" anymore), a sense of desperation can creep in that makes it difficult to organize and concentrate. Also, there are just a dizzying number of solutions to try to absorb including JavaScript, XML, AJAX, and languages such as Python and PHP and that's just for starters.

    Even as I was studying the HTML Dog book last night, I kept eyeing all the other books I pulled out that I felt were relevant and wondering which ones I should be tearing into as well. This had to stop. I was going to drive myself crazy. What to do?

    I do tend to learn best in a classroom situation and one of the reasons for this is that my learning time is organized for me...that is to say, I have a class schedule, homework, and deadlines. Self-study imposes nothing on you from the outside so you have to impose it on yourself.

    Since I'm looking for a job and have other responsibilities, I can't be too rigid in my scheduling, but I can impose a "class schedule" of sorts on myself. To that end, I opened up a simple calendar in one of my web-based mail clients and started to record my studies. It's less of a way to lock my into a particular structure and more of a way to keep track and adapt my studies as I go along.

    It's step one, but I thought I'd share it with you. I've decided to pursue a minimum of one chapter a day in the HTML Dog book (it has ten chapters total) and to toggle back and forth between this text and my beginner's guide to Python which has about 17 chapters. I figure if I start with those two and use them to master the basics, I can then move on to beginning XML and JavaScript while moving to intermediate HTML/CSS and Python.

    Keeping a calendar keeps me honest and let's me know when I'm working hard and when I'm slacking. I am also keeping a schedule of my other activities in the same calendar so I can gain a better grasp of how I'm managing my time in general.

    I finished my major book project and do have time, so even if a contract job comes up, I'll still have evenings available. While unemployed, that leaves portions of my day free for study as well (depending on the job hunt and what I've got to do around the house and such).

    I thought it would help me and maybe some of you out there to express my ideas in this forum. This is also an encourgement for those of you who've been told over and over at CF "self-study is the way to go" but are having a hard time operationalizing this principle.

    Comments? Ideas? Let the games begin.
    Certifications: A+ and Network+

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