Friday, January 28, 2011

Sorting Your Treasure

This is the seventh post in the Digging for Treasure series. Wow. Go find the rest of them at the end of this post and let me know what you think in the comments!

Well, hello, treasure-digger! You’ve been observing your process, remembering your experiences, and gathering your subconscious knowledge. Your shovel has lovely mud on it, and you have a whole pile of treasure.

You have the right words for explaining to a parent that their child is struggling with math.

You have your list of useful macros to use in your indexing software.

You have the way you feel a little panicked when you’ve finished a piece of art and don’t know yet what the next one will be.

You have the time you got up to perform your very first folk songs and only two people were listening.

You have your stories. Your feelings. Your resources. Your riches to share.

But what on earth are you to do with it now? These are bits of treasure. They’re random. They don’t seem to add up to anything. They may be overwhelming you a little. And you’re right—in order to use these observations, they’ll have to be organized.

It’s important to organize your information because:

  • Breaking it into small nuggets makes it easier to absorb and remember.
  • Eventually, you’ll need to make an order for your presentation. Having categories gives you sections to put in order.

But how are you going to organize it?

Fear not! It’s time for treasure sorting. In this stage of Digging for Treasure, you’ll put your bits into buckets. (Hmm, we captured them in baskets, now we’re sorting them into buckets. I’m still fine-tuning the metaphor!)

What do I mean by buckets?
  • Categories.
  • Goals for your learners.
  • Important points you want to make.
  • Principles illustrated by your specific examples.
  • Parts of an analogy.
Depending on the way you’re planning to share your knowledge, these categories could turn into sections of a workshop or teleclass, chapters of a book, or blog posts.

How are you going to find categories?

The neatest thing is that you already know some of them.

If you know a lot about something, there will be some kind of structure in your head. And the process of observing yourself and recording your observations almost certainly has called up more of it. So think about what categories have already popped up for you.

If your knowledge is a process, I’ll bet it has steps. Write them down—they might make good buckets!

When Trisha and I were observing the doll stories she uses to teach kids about diversity, we discovered that she was following distinct steps—and she didn’t even know it! Those steps became the sections of our workshops about the Kids Like Us technique—and the chapters of her book.

Okay, time to make a structure.

There are two ways to do this. You can use either one (or both), depending on how your brain works.

Method one: physical sorting. Cut up your bits or write each one on a card. Move them around until they fit into groups. Nice colored sticky notes are useful!

Method two: labeling. Jot down a list of possible categories, and label each bit with a category.

See what you find!

And guess what?
  • Your categories don’t have to be final at all. You can always change them later.
  • You don’t have to put them in order now. In fact, I recommend jotting them on a mindmap so that they’re not linear.
  • You might find one bit that doesn’t have a category. Don’t worry! Just label it “where” and move on.
  • You might realize that you need more examples and stories to fill in your categories. Right! That’s the next step in the process!

Here are the previous posts in the Digging for Treasure series:

Digging for Treasure: My First Dig
Digging for Treasure: At School 
Knowing Without Knowing 
The Survey: Discovering Your Deep Knowledge
The First Digging: Observation 
Into the Baskets! 

Join me in the comments!


  1. I'd love to attend your workshop! Keep me posted on when/where.

    Maybe we can get together for lunch sometime next week, or next weekend on Sunday afternoon? I'll email you my work number and we can set up a time.

    I am so impressed with what you're doing!




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