About the Project

The Self Starter’s Guide series is an experiment in education and digital publishing. The aim for the titles in this series is to create high-quality platforms of useful and focused content, combining the best features of books (information-rich, lightweight and portable), videos (engaging, visual), lessons (instructive, well-paced), and websites (public, adaptable, current).

We’re launching with titles on two particularly fascinating topics, highly relevant for anyone looking to achieve success in career and creative paths alike (here’s to hoping the two paths converge!):

The Self Starter’s Guide to Multimedia Storytelling is about the intersection of communication, creativity, technology, and narrative. It explores the immense variety of mediums, tools, and strategies available to anyone wishing to craft a precise, beautiful, effective message.

The Self Starter’s Guide to Designing Your Education is about taking learning into your own hands, defining your goals, and moving forward on a self-designed learning path. It will cover mapping this path and setting forth on a trajectory for lifelong learning.

This content designed for those who are motivated, and have the initiative to learn on their own, but who could be more effective with an introduction to the basics and guidance along the way. The goal isn’t to cover all possible material, but to develop higher-level skills and frameworks and inspire further research and applied learning along the way.

Please visit the individual pages for each of these titles to learn more, and sign up for our mailing list to receive updates. Both books will be developed iteratively, with plans for a full launch in 2014—starting with whichever of the two generates greatest initial interest.

My Background & Story

My name is Brendan Schlagel. I’m a writer, filmmaker, technologist, and storyteller passionate about engaging people with elegant expressions of important ideas.

I’ve long had a love of learning, thriving on curiosity and discovering new connections across disciplines. For example, I’m fascinated by ideas about the nature of time, crossing from narrative theory to philosophy to theoretical physics; and I’m enthralled by how the concepts of networks and emergent complexity crop up in everything from biology to computer science to urban design.

For the majority of my life, I’ve been a full-time student, but recently I’ve started to question how learning happens, started to second- and third-guess the processes by which we gain knowledge and acquire skills. The decades-old paradigm involves largely passive, unidirectional knowledge transmission—the traditional top-down classroom model. It still dominates, but that’s rapidly changing. Education is being reinvented online, with new tools and methods making it possible to learn both more widely and more deeply than ever before.

But I feel like there’s still a lot missing. In the last year I’ve become passionate about experimental education, and am making it my mission to help bring educational content into its full potential. I’ve begun to explore innovative applications of the magic dust found at the intersection of technology and storytelling, and I’m captivated by nascent experimentation and curiosity in building the future of education. The genesis of Self Starter’s Guide is the knot of these several threads, tying together my interests in service of creating compelling and useful digital content.

Modern Learning: Foundational Requirements

The content for each Self Starter’s Guide will satisfy a few important requirements that are essential for effective and engaging learning:

  • Modular—you’ll be able to get an overview of the main topic, then combine parts in a way tailored to your own goals
  • Concise—not a semester of interminable lectures, but something manageable and highly edited, that you can digest in a weekend or two
  • Engaging—clear and actionable advice, with specific examples and everything you need to get started on your own
  • Essential—teaching skills applicable over a wide range of topics and potential goals, based on timeless principles
  • Adaptable—content will evolve to reflect individual learners’ needs—based on your questions and feedback
  • Intuitive—logical and easy to follow, with material that both makes intuitive sense and has clear utility
  • Effective—my highest priority, and the ultimate measure of this material, is that you can successfully use it to further your own goals

Experiments in Publishing and Education

You’ll see us refer to these titles as books for the sake of simplicity—but this is not a traditional publishing venture, or even a typical ebook series. It’s important to us that each project take form as a cohesive multimedia package, and incorporate far more content than a book is able to, so that they can be not only interesting but eminently useful. The core will be an ebook, released in multiple digital formats and prioritizing clarity and readability. In conjunction with this informational core will be many extra components: audio and video interviews with the most exciting and innovative storytellers and educators working, in-depth case studies, and hands-on lessons with example projects and easily digestible tutorials.

The exact format—both the shape of the content itself, and the means by which it’s distributed—will evolve as we research, revise, and incorporate your feedback into the work. At least initially, we plan to sell each title via multiple tiers of increasing value (and corresponding price). This will be necessary to fund high-quality content, but at the same time, we’ll keep as much material as possible available free online.