Self-Guided Skills Development

Due Date: Monday, February 25, 2019

Submission Instructions: Push final changes to Github Pages and Link with a Blog Entry

Assignment Description:

For this assignment, you will choose an area of interest and twenty hours of self-guided, deliberate practice in order to learn more about a subject related to (1) web design, (2) data visualization, and/or (3) data journalism. Topics might include but are not limited to:

You will build core competencies related your topic of choice and reflect on the process of self-guided study. Think of this assignment as an apprenticeship in the art of learning to learn. Reflecting on how you learn will make skills acquisition easier and more rewarding. The assignment will provide an opportunity to pursue your own interests. It emphasizes the core literacies and habits of mind that will help you throughout the spring.

Required Components

ItemPercentage of Assignment GradeDue Date
Update 1: Proposal and Curriculum20%Friday, February 8, 2019
Update 2: Reflection and Updated Github Pages Content20%Friday, February 15, 2019
Update 3: Reflection and Updated Github Pages Content20%Friday, February 22, 2019
Update 4: Final Github Pages Content with Skills Log and Showcase Items40%Monday, February 25, 2019

Update 1: Blog Post and and Initial Curriculum

The idea of this first post is to move from a generalized focal area to a specific program of study. As Kaufman argues, rapid skill acquisition is most feasible when you choose a lovable project, focus your energy on one skills at a time, and deconstruct the skill into subsets (14). You should settle on a topic by Wednesday, February 6, as we will discuss our initial ideas in class that day. Next, you should go through the list of tutorials I've added to our Lynda playlist, as well as the weekly calendar, and flag some items that relate to your topic. (Use pieces from Propublica,, Slate, and The New York Times as aspirational models.) You should also do your own searching and add tutorials, lessons, articles, Youtube videos, etc. that relate to what you want to learn, and sketch out a rough plan for how much time you anticipate spending on each item so that your plan adds up to 20 hours. By Friday, February 8, you are required to post a description of the focal area you have chosen and a list of 10-15 subset skills you have identified, with links to tutorials. Put some pressure on yourself to be concrete, but be willing to revise later. The goal is specificity, not finality.

Update 2: Blog Post Reflection and Draft of Github Pages Content

Before posting your update, you should complete approximately 10 hours of deliberate practice related to your topic. Use your curriculum as a guide, but don't be afraid to make adjustments. More important than anything, document how much time you spend on what, and take notes on your experience. Your blog post for the week should be a reflection on the assignment so far, and you should complete a draft of your Github Pages content for this assignment. I have provided a template for your learning log, but you should build on the look and feel of the template in a way that matches your personal style. The log sheet asks you to account for how you spent your time and to reflect on your choices. Visit this log for at least a few minutes every time you sit down to work. It will be the primary instrument by which I measure your engagement. It will also become a valuable source for you when you write your final reflection.

Update 3: Final Reflection

This blog post should follow the same basic format as posts 1 and 2, but you should complete all 20 hours of deliberate practice related to your topic before posting. Now is your chance to reflect on the assignment as a whole. Turn back to your learning log and generalize about your experiences. Talk about what worked and what didn't. Talk about time management, tutorials, where you parked yourself to study. Did you use headphones? Did you get advice from your roommate? What would you change if you could start over? Bring a copy of your reflection to class. Engage with the readings we did on skill acquisition, learning, and deliberate practice.

Update 4: Final Github Pages Content with Skills Log and Showcase Items

At this stage, you will have already built a personal website for the course and added a link for the self-guided skills assignment. Now you should add your finalized learning log and examples of any digital content you created as part of your curriculum. Such content is not necessarily required (it will depend on your topic, of course), but having something to show for your efforts is always a good idea, even if it's not in a final state. Before you finalize your assignment, you should make sure all your links work, and that the various pieces of your self-guided learning assignment come together to form a logical whole. This might involve creating a clear submenu that takes users through the project, or even adding "previous" and "next" links to individual pages. In general, a user should be able to move around effortlessly without needing to press the "back" button.

Tips for Success

Grading Rubric

I will use the course's primary descriptive, non-numerical rubric for this assignment. It includes the following criteria:

Assignment Process: Evaluates whether students have followed directions properly. All materials are turned in on time and in the right place. Assignment directions are followed. Required components are all present and submitted on time.
Attention to Detail in Writing and/or Code: Language shows thought, precision, and control in word choice. Uses forms of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and syntax that are appropriate for published work. Demonstrates careful attention to proofreading. For websites, links work properly, images display, all html tags terminate properly. Page design renders as intended.
Interface Functionality and Design:Interface is easy to navigate and aesthetically balanced. Appears to be designed with an overall vision or sense of purpose. Data visualizations or interactives are clearly contextualized and show evidence of attention to design. Features that may seem out of place are well contextualized in written materials.
Synthesis of Form and Content:Digital functionality extends research in some way. Clear connections between design and subject matter. Approach conveys care and creativity. Work successfully imagines its audience and choices seem consistent with that audience. Elements that may seem out of balance are discussed in written materials.
Evidence of Effort:Supplementary statements and process assignments clarify and contextualize choices. Work shows no signs of last-minute, unresolved complications. Student has shown the professor drafts in office hours or during studio blocks.