By Sarah F. Erickson, Director for Lifelong Learning.
November 13, 2014—Thanks to the web, there’s a vast array of resources out there. Assessing how and what to use is a challenge. How do you curate your lists of resources and information, your “go-to” lists for planning learning events, worship, conducting program assessments, hiring, or writing effective proposals?
It’s a daunting task. According to this Industry Tap article, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. By some forecasts, and thanks to the “internet of things,” information could soon double every 12 hours.
I don’t have a singular answer to these questions. But I have a 7-point approach (a perfect number!) and some of my current favorite resources to share.
1) Assess credibility. There are so many people writing so many ways, blogging, “traditional” print publishing, or self-publishing print or e-books. Do some homework! (Fortunately the internet helps with that, too.) Wikipedia, publisher sites, and good old Google will help you check out an author, a website, or a publisher. Reviews may be helpful, but keep in mind they may have been planted. When you notice a trend – good, bad, indifferent – take note.
2) Crowd-source. This may be part of your assessment process, or it may be where you begin to build a list of resources to assess. Email your colleagues. Post on social media. Check out online forums, groups, or professional organizations, or your classmates and colleagues in your fields of interest. Ask your institution’s students or lifelong learners. What are other program directors, deans, church educators, administrators, faculty, reading, using, and doing?
3) Store your stuff. Organize in ways that work for you. That may be as simple as a hard copy filing system. If you can, however, I encourage you to scan those hard copies so you can file, retrieve, reformat, and send them more easily. The use of Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, OneNote and similar tools, or even a thumb drive are just a few options. If you can break your dependence on physical storage systems and explore the “cloud,” it can prove very useful when your computer fails, or you lose your thumb drive. I speak from experience.
4) Share your stuff. When friends ask (see 2, above), share. Ask them for ideas in return. (If your stuff is organized sharing is a snap.) Share a Dropbox invite or Google drive file in less than minute. By the way, this suggestion is shamelessly borrowed from my colleague at the Center for Lifelong Learning, Assoc. Dean and prolific sharer Israel Galindo.
5) Check out emerging social media options, software, hardware, and web browsers. New platforms and device options are added all the time. It doesn’t hurt to check them out, try them for a while, and see what others are saying about them (See 1, above). Better yet – check out trial versions, loaners, and shareware or freeware as free or inexpensive options when possible.
6) When you find what works for you, embrace it fully. Explore its functionality. Take a tutorial. Become an advocate and an expert (see 4, above). Recognize, however, that what works well for you might not be a “one size fits all” solution for everyone.
7) If something doesn’t work for you – don’t use it. Unless it is something that your organization requires, like an operating system or device, software, hardware or service providers, move on. You may have to wait until a subscription runs out, or go through the hassle of cancelling a service, but better to do so than spend time using something that doesn’t work well for you.
And now, here is a list of several of the resources I’m currently utilizing, and referring to on a regular basis. I invite you to check them out – or not. But before you toss them, try them on for size, and test my 7-point approach.
Evernote. I’m a novice, but I’m finding it useful to organize resources for projects in development. I’m trying to follow my own advice so this is one of the “new resources” I’m experimenting with– I may move on if I find I like other options better.
WorkingPreacher.Org. A go-to place for Revised Common or Narrative Lectionary exegetical resources.
Feasting on the Word. I have a traditional print set of theCommentaries, and am building the library of the Worship Companions. I LOVE the DVDs that come with the Companion.
Songza.Com. I like a variety of music while I work. This does the trick, and is currently my go-to office music. I also listen to my local NPR affiliate; it also has a good app that I use when I travel.
Hymns by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. I’ve been a fan of her work for a long time. She practices #4 – she shares, generously. Just attribute her work. And a donation is always welcome.
Because the classics never go out of style, I love Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
This post was originally written for the October newsletter of The Association of Leaders of Lifelong Learning in Ministry (ALLLM), which also happens to have a great resource list here.
Sarah Erickson serves as Director at the CLL. She has special interests in the role of music and worship in faith formation. She currently serves as the the Vice-President for ALLLM, and you can find her on Facebook, on Twitter @saraherickson and occasionally on Pinterest.