Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Entertainment or Education -- the genealogy conference experience

As soon as I got back from Utah and my visit to FamilySearch, I taught two classes at the Fall Genealogy Workshop of the Family History Society of Arizona. The conference seemed very well attended but being at a genealogy conference raises some issues, including whether or not attending a genealogy class is more entertainment than education. The classes I taught were on specific software products and it was interesting that more than a few of the attendees had purchased the software at a previous convention and had either never loaded it on their computer or after loading it on, had never used it.

In the regard, I reflect on all of the many hundreds of genealogy classes I have taught over the past few years. Some of the classes have been attended by the same people, on the same subjects, time after time. Yet, each time I teach the same class over, I get similar comments and over time, when I ask if anyone has used the program or whatever, the percentage of actual use never seems to increase. For example, I regularly teach a class on using Google for Genealogy. Even though I repeat the topic almost two or three times a month and some of the same people attend the class repeatedly, they still never seem to spend the time to learn a little about Google themselves. So, is the class entertainment or education? I guess I would have to conclude that it is largely entertainment.

So what would I suggest? I suggest going to conferences with a specific agenda in mind and further with a commitment to implement the positive things learned at the conference. If I go to a genealogy conference and sit through classes on a software products, then when I get through I should be in the position to make a choice about which product to purchase. If I like what I see in a certain product, I should be committed to making the purchase and learning about the program. The experience I mention above about software applies generally to many of the topics covered at a genealogy conference. Granted, genealogy software is not that expensive, but it is still a waste of money and time to purchase a product if you do not intend to use, or at least evaluate it for use.

The same suggestion applies to classes on organizing genealogical data or using sources. Unless we are prepared to internalize the class topics and actually change our behavior patterns, then attending the class (and the conference) is little more than recreation and entertainment.

Most conferences have a syllabus which in some cases have detailed summaries of the classes being offered, carefully study the syllabus or outline and determine which classes relate directly to things you are willing to do. I like to take classes I know nothing about, just to know. But, I always to into the class with the attitude that, if there is something of value, I will soon implement the suggestions or make the changes suggested by the class. This is not to say that every class I attend is pivotal in genealogy career, but when I do attend a class I am always committed to implementing the things I learn, if that is possible. Likewise, if I learn about something in the class, I try to use the new information in a productive way.

I see no problem in attending a genealogy seminar for social or recreational purposes, but don't kid yourself into thinking you are actually learning anything, unless you are prepared to do so.

1 comment:

  1. Good advice, certainly - but please make allowances for those of us who don't always have time to immediately implement all we learn in genealogy. Working full time and currently going to school to get my MBA leaves me very little genealogy time. However I still love to learn new (or not so new) genealogy things....because someday I'll have more time. And in the mean time I still love to attend genealogy conferences when time and money allow. But I'll be glad to admit that it's as much for entertainment as anything - I'll even wear a badge saying so :-)