Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Digging for Treasure: Getting Real

Photo by woodley wonderworks on flickr
Here we are again, with the ninth post in the Digging for Treasure series. (I just reorganized and re-labeled them a bit. Because that’s who I am.)

I have been busy helping people actually go through this process—and it WORKS! I am so thrilled!

So! You’ve got your structure: buckets to put all your treasure in. And you’ve gone back and done some jewel gathering, filling up missing spaces in all the buckets with the things your learners will need. You found the detailed instructions for installing Wordpress. The funny story about do lists. The examples from designing an abstract painting.

What’s next?

It’s time to fine-tune your structure, and put it in order. Because you’re getting really close to being ready to plan your workshop, write your book, film your video. You’re almost ready to share your knowledge.

What do you want your learners to take with them?

I’m going to share the little tool that has helped me immensely in all of my teaching experiences. It’s called the AIB system, and it helps you to think about your goals for your learners.

  • A is for Attitudes. What attitudes do you want them to learn and adopt? Every part of your presentation should model and encourage these attitudes.
    • In my workshop A Taste of Colored Pencil, I wanted participants to experience colored pencil as a fun and accessible medium.
    • In the Digging for Treasure program, I want you to value what you know and feel empowered to share it.
  • I is for Information. What do you want them to know? Basic information in your field? Rules to be mastered before being broken? A step-by-step process?
    • In A Taste of Colored Pencil, I taught specific strokes to use when applying colored pencil to paper. And I gave information about basic tools and resources.
    • In Digging for Treasure, I teach a step-by-step process for unearthing and organizing your subconscious knowledge.
  • B is for Behavior. When your learners leave you, what do you want them to do? Do you want them to actually try the activity or skill you’re teaching? Do you want them to change their lives? How?
    • In A Taste of Colored Pencil, I wanted my students to go get some colored pencils and make some art!
    • In Digging for Treasure, what do you think? I want you to move forward in teaching or writing about your knowledge and expertise!
As you fine-tune your structure, put it in order, and start to see your presentation as real, keep these goals in mind.

Now you'll take another look at your structure.

Floating Details

Let’s take another look at your structure. Do you have some details, examples, stories, yummy stuff that you dug up that still doesn’t have a bucket? There are several possible reasons for a floating detail.

• It’s a representative of a category that needs more details. In other words, you need another round of jewel gathering.

• It really belongs in an established category. Try thinking about the detail from different angles to see if it fits somewhere.

• It’s a sign that your categories need to be re-sorted. For instance, when I added a discussion on cross references to my indexing workshop, I spent some time trying to figure out where they should go in my existing structure. I realized that, along with subheadings and double-posting, they were a way that categories were connected in the index. Those three topics deserved to be together.

• It can be discarded. I always save these in case I can use them in a future project! They’re still treasure, after all…

Looking at order

Order. You’re going to put your buckets in order now. When you stand up in front of the room, what are you going to say first? What will your first blog post be about? I told you this was getting real! (If you feel the ground shaking under you a bit, go back and read my posts on What’s Scary About Teaching.)

Order is important because it helps people learn. If they can move from one point to each other in some kind of logical way, they’re able to hook onto the information, remember it, and make connections between different parts of it. (That connection-making part, according to current brain science, is just about the most important part of learning.)

Well, duh.

Okay, maybe right now you’re saying, “Well duh. I have my order already. It’s the steps of my process. Why is this such a big deal?” Well good! Write it down! Some subjects lend themselves to an obvious order more easily than others. And do look at the ideas below in case it needs any tweaking.


Otherwise known as, things you have to know before you can learn something else. Do you have any of these? Think about each point you want to make. Is there something people need to understand before they’ll be able to get it?

Is there a step, a task, a priority, a reason that trumps all later decisions? Put it first. When I was planning this very lesson, I realized that this very point needed to come almost first (right after duh, the order is obvious). (Yes, I know, we’re getting very meta here. I’m putting in order my points about putting points in order. Sorry, this is my life these days. It’ll get less confusing when I go on to teach about mindmapping or something.)

A toolbox

Here are some examples of logical orders from my toolbox. I have a nice long list of them. I find that I don’t actually use the list directly—I get the types into my mind and then they’re there to be accessed.

  • Process or step-by-step order. There’s our “duh” example. But it’s not all that simple. You could start with the finished product and work backward, showing people how each step built on the last. Here’s a wonderful party. What did the organizer have to do to make it happen?
  • Feelings or attitudes to concrete details. If I was teaching about living with rheumatoid arthritis, I might talk first about what it feels like to have this disease before going on to offer practical advice.
  • Practical issues to feelings. On the other hand, you can do it the other way around. I could tell about the steps you need to follow to sell your house, and then address the feelings that it might bring up.
  • Classification. Types of things! Reasons children get into conflicts with each other, and how to address each kind of conflict.

You might need a combination of orders. For instance, a video on building a cabinet might basically follow the step-by-step process, but have an introductory section on the tools and materials you need for the project.

My process

I’ve done this ordering thing many, many times. If there was some time in between (as there was before I got going on Digging for Treasure) I might forget what I always do. Then I have to reinvent it. It always comes out the same. Here’s how I do it.
1) List my categories (buckets). Usually at this point they’re sections in a Word document with all of their treasure collected in them. So I have to pull out just the category names and make a list. 
2) Write each category on a card. Lay out the cards on a table or, usually, the carpet, and move them around. Make a tentative sequence. 
3) Talk or write through the sequence. I talk to the Magic Imaginary Person in my head. This person is marvelous because she’s dying to know anything I can tell her. I start telling her my points in order. 
4) And I find out whether the order works or not. I find this out by listening to what I actually say to the Magic Imaginary Person. Sometimes I find myself saying, “So, the first thing to think about here is…” and what comes out of my mouth is not the point I thought was first. Huh.

When I was planning this lesson (here we go with the meta-meta again), even though I had put something else first, I found myself saying “here is a toolkit of logical orders.” (That was the first time I called it a toolkit. The Magic Imaginary Person often helps me to name things.) And a toolkit really ought to go first, because you want to have your tools from the beginning. So I moved it up closer to the beginning.
Sometimes I learn about my order by hearing the transitions between points. Because you can list a bunch of points, but if you’re actually going to talk about them, you end up with transitions from one to the next. So after I finished telling the M. I. P. about the toolkit, I found myself talking about how you might need more than one order. That just naturally followed. And the order fell into place.
5) Then I go back to my Word document and move the whole sections around to their new order. It’s helpful at this point to note any transitions you discovered!
Oh my goodness. You’re done.

If you’ve done all of the parts of the process as I’ve outlined them in these posts, you should have the makings of a presentation. You’re ready to take your beautiful treasure, your knowledge, skills, experience, and give it to people.

What next???

It’s time to think about the first form your presentation will take, and look at the next steps for that particular form. Call the community college to find out how to apply to teach a workshop. Sign up for my Workshop Workshop course. Teach yourself Powerpoint. Register a domain name for your blog. Read the books on self-publishing. Join a writer’s group.

One more thing though:


At this stage of the process, it’s useful to start writing about it. Actual sentences. Paragraphs with topic sentences. So if you haven’t started already, start now. Explain things. Write down the succinct, expressive phrases that come to you in the night. (Most of the really good sentences in my indexing book came to me when I was falling asleep.)

If you’re planning to write about your subject, this is your next step anyway.

If you’re planning to teach, writing is still useful. you’ll need to compose what you’re going to say. I usually write it all out and then condense it for the cheat sheet I’ll actually be looking at. And you’ll will probably want written support materials.

Your Magical Imaginary Person can be very useful here, especially if writing feels intimidating. Start explaining things to her, and tape yourself. Transcribe it (or use voice recognition software). Ta-dah! Beautiful writing, straight out of your mouth.

Digging for Treasure in your life

The Digging for Treasure process gets internalized. You go along through your life, and you notice what you know. You value it. You’re aware of your knowledge and skills on a deeper level. And that enriches your life.

And especially if you find you enjoy the actual experience of writing or teaching, you find yourself doing the process again with a different subject, and taking it out into the world.

That’s what I’ve done—with a whole bunch of different subjects, and more in the future. I’m launching the website for my teaching business, and I’m giving it a really broad description (contrary to the niche marketing advice). Because who knows what else I’ll want to share?

Who knows what you'll want to share?

Here are the posts in the Digging for Treasure series, in order:

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!  
Sorting Your Treasure
Jewel Gathering


  1. This is excellent.

    I have a comment on order. Sometimes there will be bits that just make more sense when you know other bits. And whatever order you do them in, when you get to the second one, someone is going to say "Oh, that first thing makes so much more sense now".

    This makes you think you did it in the wrong order, but it would happen anyway. Knowledge acquisition is not linear. It is worth thinking about the best order but it will never be perfect and you should encourage you students to go back and forth and reassure them that it's okay if they have a superficial understanding of one thing at one point in the class and it becomes clearer later when they've learned something else.

  2. JoVE, that's a great point. And it means it's important to circle/spiral back to review points you made earlier and make further connections. Thanks for reminding me!!



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