Oct 25 2016

Can we learn graphic recording in 4 hours and actually DO something? YES! Part 1

Rarely do I get to go to an event with graphic recording as my primary duty. It is often an “extra” that I include in my facilitation practice. This year I was invited to the 7th Annual GFRAS Meeting in Limbe, Cameroon as their graphic recorder! Because it is a huge investment of resources – theirs and mine – I asked if I could also run a short “introduction to graphic recording” the before the event kicked off, and then we could have the participants fan out across the breakouts and field trips to capture sketch notes. I can’t be everywhere at once so this gave us some immediate practical coverage, but more importantly, I wanted people to see that this is an accessible, practical and usable practice. This first post is about the workshop itself. Part 2 will share a few stories from the workshop participants about their sketchnoting at the meeting and after they returned home. How are they using their new skills? Part 3 will share the graphic recordings I did with a little reflection on my own process. At the bottom of this post are links to other visual artifacts from the week in Cameroon.

The Workshop

img_20161003_103006995_hdrWhat can you do in just under four hours to help people master the basics of graphic recording? It turns out, you can do quite a lot. I love starting with the fabulous paired drawing activity I learned from Johnnie Moore.  In the debrief it always raises so many useful aspects about how we pay attention to and communicate with each other. It creates some fun and some comfort with taking risks. And drawing for and in front of people can be a huge risk for many of us.



Then we got into the practice immediately. My graphic recording and graphic facilitation workshops (short or long) always start with liberating our inner artist using an exercise I learned from the fabulous people at the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (I took their GR 101 course years ago!).

The “I Can Draw” img_20161003_112308329_hdrexercise introduces people to simple, body-based ways to draw circles, lines, use color, write clearly and, for extra fun, how using different materials can change and bring a sketch to life (yay chalk and pastels!) It never ceases to amaze me how such beautiful creations emerge, and how empowering this is. The exercise also loosens people’s bodies up to use bolder strokes, bigger lettering and to explore how color can change a visual experience with very little effort.


img_20161003_121758496Next we dug into specific skills of drawing people, icons, metaphors and ways to arrange images on one’s paper or note-pad. Because all the work I do with communities, agriculture, development and such, EVERYTHING I work with involves people. And it STILL intimidates me to draw people. We face this head on with simple ways to draw people. Stick figures. Bean people. Star people. Spring people. I loved how Merida immediately riffed on her people to integrate them into the sustainability work she is doing. WINDMILL people!


img_20161004_133510By now people were getting excited, so this is when we started playing with icons, particularly icons that relate to their work, world or context. I have a card deck of silly icons I made years ago. I asked everyone to grab one that they attracted them, and then sketch that icon a number of times to build some comfort. People observed each others’ drawings, swaped cards and iterated. I encouraged people to take pictures of icons – theirs or others’ – that resonated for them. This is so often a practice of “see, imitate, iterate and THEN evolve one’s own style”. Some people have a style right away, like Raj. You can see it in the first sketch note he produced the afternoon after the workshop.

Finally, we put everything together and I challenged everyone to graphically record a short talk I improvise on the spot about preparing to graphically record. Granted, I talked slower, repeated things and even offer a few hints, but really trying to graphically record real time for the first time is VERY HARD. It challenges us to a) listen deeply and carefully, b) identify what points are important and should be captured, and finally, c) actually draw them on the paper. The group did amazingly well for such a short introduction.  Afterwards we toured each of the examples, identified strenghts and looked for something new for them to try the “next time!”

Here are some examples of their work. Click to see larger images.

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Oct 25 2016

I am the Immigrant to my Neighborhood Crows…

I have been intrigued by Seattle’s crows since I moved here in 1981. They attacked my sons walking to school during nesting season one year and I went out and told them “hey, I’m a mom too. Don’t bother my kids, and they won’t bother yours.” They stopped dive bombing the boys. Since then I’ve been talking to them… in the yard, on the street. The other day one crow was having problems cracking open a walnut by dropping it on the street. I picked up a rock and cracked it open and walked away. These are my neighbors, who I barely understand, but whom fascinate me. I am the immigrant in their neighborhood. Read the article for the science! Beautiful photo from KUOW.

Listener Lauren Linscheid of Seattle sees crows flying every day toward Lake City Way. “I want to know where they’re going and why,” Lauren told KUOW’s

Source: Where Do Seattle-Area Crows Go At Night?

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Aug 08 2016

What does “digital native” imply? Just sayin…

F2FtoONlineA quote worth sharing from my blog draft backlog… emphasis mine. Smash stereotypes and remember many roots of learning are social, even online!

During two long-term studies, which looked at learners who had personal connected devices or were using a powerful online learning community, we found that many users struggled to operate the basic tools. Those who were more active users, rather than somehow miraculously working it all out for themselves, in fact belonged to groups of active users among both friends and families. It seems that learning to be a competent user of technology is a social and cultural experience. However, even where the learners were competent users of the device or service, they were not naturally effective learners using technology. Simple things like arranging their work so they could find it again was a challenge and there was no evidence of working iteratively, incorporating feedback from teachers or fellow learners. Searching skills were pretty rudimentary. They did enjoy drill and practice exercises and referred to these as “games” which they “played”.The minority who did use their devices more did also revisit work they had done earlier, including a few who referred back to relevant work in primary school following transfer to secondary. Being able to create, save , share and rediscover their work via a personal device was a game changer for the few who found out how to do these things – but they were a minority and they had help from home and friends, which made the difference. Not much evidence of the “digital native”.

Source: ‘The idea that young people are digital natives is a myth’ | tesconnect

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Aug 05 2016

IJHTS: 9 questions you can’t answer when not visualizing your work

I Just Have To Share: From Jim Benson, image by @toddaclark

@toddaclark’s visualization of Jim Benson’s List

I book marked this over a year ago and meant to blog it. It is still worth sharing. And as a bonus, I’m slowly chipping away at my blog draft backlog. 🙂

Source: 9 questions you can’t answer when not visualizing your work | get LIT from Jim Benson’s post.

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Aug 04 2016

The website or the people who make them?

holdingcenterI was attracted by the title of a 2015 opinion piece in the Observer by Thomas Oppong @Alltopstartups,  33 Websites That Will Make You a Genius. If only! Apparently so were many other people because if you search on the title and first sentence, you will see the article republished all over the place. I had tucked the url into a draft blog post that I’m finally getting to today! (Note: there are actually 34 on the list. Brainpickings did not get a number. Brainpickings, by the way, is one that I’d prioritize reading!)

Why are people interested in these lists? Are they really going to go out and working on getting smarter? Does anyone have time to read them on a regular basis? For me it is an interesting reminder that there is so much interesting stuff out there we must both use it and not let it overwhelm us. Or let lists limit us because the diversity is much richer than can ever be boiled down to 33 or 34.

The question I sit with is WHY are these 33 websites considered so valuable? Is it the website, the artifact, or the people who make them, individually, collectively and everything in between! What if instead of listing these sites, we had a chance to sit down and have a meal with the people behind them. Now THAT would be WONDERFUL! Here is the list with Thomas’ annotations – and thank you Thomas! At the end I leave you with a question similar to the one Thomas left at the end of his article.

1. BBC — Future — Making you smarter, every day.

2. 99U (YouTube) — Actionable insights on productivity, organization and leadership to help creative people push ideas forward.

3. Youtube EDU — The education videos that don’t have cute cats in boxes — but they do unlock knowledge.

4. WikiWand — A slick new interface for Wikipedia.

5. The long read (The Guardian) — In-depth reporting, essays and profiles.

6. TED — Great videos to open your mind on almost every topic.

7. iTunes U — Learning on the go, from some of the world’s top universities.

8. InsightfulQuestions (subreddit) — Intellectual discussions that are not necessarily genre-specific.

9. Cerego — Cerego helps you build personalized study plans based on your strengths and weaknesses to retain knowledge.

10. University of the People — Tuition-free online university that offers higher education in multiple course streams.

11. OpenSesame — Marketplace for online training, now with 22,000+ courses.

12. CreativeLive — Take free creative classes from the world’s top experts.

13. Coursera — Partnering with some of the top U.S. universities, Coursera offers massive open online courses for free.

14. University of reddit — the product of free intellectualism and is a haven for the sharing of knowledge.

15. Quora — You ask, the net discusses — with top experts and fascinating back and forth on everything.

16. Digital Photography School —Read through this goldmine of articles to improve your photography skills.

17. Umano—Explore the largest collection of audio articles powered by real people. Dropbox has acquired Umano. Brain Pickings is a great replacement for 17.

Brain Pickings — Insightful long form posts on life, art, science, design, history, philosophy and more.

18. Peer 2 Peer University or P2PU, is an open educational project that helps you learn at your own pace.

19. MIT Open CourseWare is a catalog of free online courses and learning resources offered by MIT.

20. Gibbon—This is the ultimate playlist for learning.

21. Investopedia — Learn everything you need to know about the world of investing, markets and personal finance.

22. Udacity offers interactive online classes and courses in higher education.

23. Mozilla Developer Network offers detailed documentation and learning resources for web developers.

24. Future learn — enjoy free online courses from top universities and specialist organizations.

25. Google Scholar — provides a search of scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources, including theses, books, abstracts and articles.

26. Brain Pump — A place to learn something new everyday.

27. Mental Floss — Test your knowledge with amazing and interesting facts, trivia, quizzes and brain teaser games.

28. Learnist — Learn from expertly curated web, print and video content.

29. DataCamp — Online R tutorials and data science courses.

30. edX — Take online courses from the world’s best universities.

31. Highbrow — Get bite-sized daily courses to your inbox.

32. Coursmos — Take a micro-course anytime you want, on any device.

33. Platzi— Live streaming classes on design, marketing and code.

If you had to suggest one website that presented a more diverse perspective or represented views that don’t often make into lists like the ones above, what site would you recommend I look at?

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