Small Group Creation Ideas

I believe in treating adults as adults. That doesn’t mean I, as a facilitator, cannot be inspired by techniques teachers use with children in their classrooms, right?

Here are a few inspirations from Karen Moler of FlamingoFabulous in 2nd Grade. Facilitators, be inspired! And see if any of Karen’s challenges show up for you working with adults!

Here is a tool I use in my classroom to “randomly” partner my students up for activities. I love giving students the opportunity to choose their own partners but there are always a few who just can’t work together well but insist on doing it anyway. I also pass out cards and find the match to find their partner from time to time. But sometimes you need a quick way to ensure that your students are paired up academically or according to behavior. Soooo…. I created the partner wheel.

via Flamingo Fabulous in Second Grade: More Behavior Management and Freebie!.

And more

Usually, I have the “turn to your elbow buddy” or use the partner wheel approach to finding thinking partners, but I wanted another mode for finding good thinking partners so I made this variation of  Paula Rutherford’s Feathered Friends or Clock Buddies. Students will take their paper around the classroom and ask classmate’s to be their thinking partners for specific days. So if Johnny wanted to be partners with Sally, and they both had their Monday box available, Johnny would write Sally’s name on his paper and Sally would write Johnny’s name on her paper. It would go like this until everyone has every box filled. If it is done right, there should be no overlaps or duplicates. From then on, all I have to do is say, “Today children, I’d like you to sit with your Friday thinking partner on the carpet.”

Monday Video: 4 Perspectives on CoP Evaluation

I often have a “deer in the headlight” look when someone asks me about evaluating communities of practice. I think that is because I have some stereotype in my head about evaluation. But in fact, when I let my common sense kick in, I know of and use many evaluation approaches. I guess I never called them “evaluation approaches.” Recently my friends Etienne Wenger, Bev Trayner and Maarten deLaat wrote a lovely paper on “Promoting and Asessing Value Creation in Communities and Networks.” It is lovely because in many ways it gives voice to the “common sense” practices I’ve used and seen around me. And it gave me confidence to say yes to an interview with the KMImpact Challenge earlier this year. The video came out today. Besides sounding like I’m on speed… what do you think? How do you evaluate your communities?

via Nancy White of Full Circle Associates on CoPs – YouTube.

Living Example of Community Q&A Power

Bees, by kokogiak on Flickr, CC some rights reserved

From the wonderful and amazing Seattlefarmcoop : Seattle Farm Co-op comes evidence of the power of online communities and networks. Look at the time stamps.

8a. bee swarm
Posted by: “heatherleagr” (email revmoved)
Date: Thu Aug 18, 2011 10:37 pm ((PDT))

My bees just swarmed!  I caught them and they have successfully moved into their new hive.  I wonder if it is too late for them to build up enough to make it through the winter, or should I combine them with their old colony.  Any beekeepers out there with suggestions?  thanks, Heather

8b. Re: bee swarm
Posted by: “Andres Salomon” (email removed)
Date: Thu Aug 18, 2011 10:51 pm ((PDT))

Personally, I’d combine them with the old colony.  There *are* still drones flying (at least outside of my hives), but they’re dwindling.
It would take a lot of luck (and heavy flows) for the old colony’s queen to mate, and the new swarm to build up quickly enough to put away 40lbs of honey for the winter.

However, if the old hive has a huge amount of capped honey and you’d like 2 colonies, you could transfer food stores to the swarm hive. Recombine or purchase a new queen if the virgin queen fails to mate.

Oh, and keep an eye out for afterswarms!

When the domain — what people care about — is clear, the repetoire of a community can be nimble and powerful.

Why I Love D’Arcy Norman’s Blog

IMG_4652I have lost track of my blog readers, buffeted by eddies of excess digital content. I stumbled back upon D’Arcy Norman’s blog this afternoon with pure delight. (The is one of his Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr … sometimes I prefer to just watch someone’s Flickr stream instead of read so much. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to set that up on an iPad for an idiot like me?)

It has been a long time since I visited D’Arcy’s blog. I new Alan Levine was heading that way and since I’ve been following Alan’s trip, the time felt right. I did not head for one post, I just read and scrolled. Kismet. Serendipity. This seems appropriate during August, where I am cutting myself some slack, in anticipation of an insane Fall work schedule. (Thus the gardening posts and food themed Tweets.)

My networks are now for the most part serendipity networks because they have become too large for me to track. When I need to research, interact, I can activate them for sure. But now they are like going to the candy store, staring at the counter for a few minutes, then picking a chocolate or two.

Here are a few chocolates from D’Arcy’s recent blogs.

he rides a steel cable. A link to a mind blowing YouTube video of a person who rides bikes where most of us can’t even imagine. I’ve watched it twice already.

ds106 campfire jam.  Friends jamming F2F and online.

photo(s) friday: dock life. Beautiful family photos.
And my favorite, which is so good I have to copy snippets that D’Arcy quoted… Thanks, D’Arcy!

on conformity through positive reinforcement.

From Neil Strauss’ article in the WSJ:

Just as stand-up comedians are trained to be funny by observing which of their lines and expressions are greeted with laughter, so too are our thoughts online molded to conform to popular opinion by these buttons. A status update that is met with no likes (or a clever tweet that isn’t retweeted) becomes the equivalent of a joke met with silence. It must be rethought and rewritten. And so we don’t show our true selves online, but a mask designed to conform to the opinions of those around us.

and contrasting Like culture with the power of positive narcissism:

“Like” culture is antithetical to the concept of self-esteem, which a healthy individual should be developing from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Instead, we are shaped by our stats, which include not just “likes” but the number of comments generated in response to what we write and the number of friends or followers we have. I’ve seen rock stars agonize over the fact that another artist has far more Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers than they do.

and on freedom from Like culture:

So let’s rise up against the tyranny of the “like” button. Share what makes you different from everyone else, not what makes you exactly the same. Write about what’s important to you, not what you think everyone else wants to hear. Form your own opinions of something you’re reading, rather than looking at the feedback for cues about what to think. And, unless you truly believe that microblogging is your art form, don’t waste your time in pursuit of a quick fix of self-esteem and start focusing on your true passions.


Indeed, Hallefrackinglujah. And let’s hear it for summer serendipity.

Gratefulness: August Garden in a Cool Summer

My friend and mentor-of-many domains, Barbara Ganley, asked me to offer a guest post related to my gardens sin her Open View Garden blog. This week I finally feel some inspiration — we’ve had more than a spattering of days that an legitimately be described as a warm sunny day here in Seattle. I debated about cross posting… What does gardening have to do with onsline communities, facilitation or technology stewardship, right?

In fact at a metaphorical or den spiritual level, these topic have everything to do with each other. They are each about systems, about intent and improvising with whatever you are dealt. They are about finding regeneration, life and beauty wherever we look. So here is what I wrote for Barbara…

Gratefulness: August Garden in a Cool Summer

In mid July we talked about the number of MINUTES of summer we’d had so far. One of the coldest. One of the wettest. I was still in shock that I kept my poor tomato seedlings squished in the too-short cold frame well into June, stunting their growth and productivity. My pea starts grew slower than a glacier. I was morose and relished my week in the sunny warmth of North Carolina. At yoga class, were we try to practice a more positive, accepting attitude, we could not stop those little comments about the weather.

(Have I ever mentioned that as I get older, I crave light, sun, and warmth more than I ever did before? I do. I”ll say it again. I do!)

Now a month later I walked out into my garden and realized the abundance is there this year, but in a different way. I was just not looking at it through the eyes of abundance. So here is a little tour from our small garden.

For those who don’t know my geography, I live in Seattle, in a neighborhood called Ravenna or Ravenna-Bryant (we are actually smack dab between three named neighborhoods. So identity is always a bit tricky.) Our lot is 50 feet wide and 100 feed deep. Our little house sits towards the back of the lot, so our front yard is both our front yard and our back yard. 🙂  We put in raised beds the summer after we moved here in 1984. Over the years, we’ve hacked back the overgrown shrubs, removed most of the lawn and replaced them with plantings, patio and deck, to enjoy “outdoor rooms” even though the weather here doesn’t always encourage our venturing forth.

The lot is bracketed by three very large trees – so large that when you fly over the area on the way to a landing at the airport (approach from the North) you can spot our house easily. It’s the one you can’t see underneath the three big trees! To the southeast there is a huge old horse chestnut on the corner of our neighbor’s lot. It drops blossoms, chestnuts (watch your head!) and leaves in abundance. I only wish the darn nuts were edible. They keep the squirrels busy in the fall, burying and losing them. We have, needless to say, many small horse chestnut starts all around the place.

To the east, directly behind our house, is a big old maple we estimate to be just under 100 years. It is our air conditioning in warm years, shading the house from the hot afternoon sun. In the cool, cloudy summers, I admit I curse her a bit. The arborist tells us the tree is healthy, but heading towards its natural decline as the trees usually live about 100 years. Ours has a lovely vase-branching structure, so there are no humongous branches to fall and crush things. Thank goodness.

On the north east corner sits the sisters: two trees, one on our property and one on the neighbors, but growing root to root, trunk to trunk. Ours is an old Douglas fir which I estimate is about 80 feet tall. The other is a pine that is infected with some disease that is slowly killing it. These two so block the rain that the chicken cook beneath it stays dry unless the rain is blowing vertically from winter’s southerly gales.  Between these three grand dames, you can imagine … I have little full time sun on my garden and it is diminishing by the year. Our raspberries are less sweet. Our greens and peas less robust, robbed of sun. But our ferns and hostas are lush. Thank goodness for shade plants.

But I want to talk about the food that comes out of the garden, and the flowers, like the huge, fragrant “Conc’d Or” (sp?) lillies on my dining room table, the raspberries in my freezer and the dozen eggs in the fridge, courtesy of “the girls” — our three urban chickens ensconced in their cleverly overbuilt coop. The dinosaur kale, the amazing Japanese cucumber that has thrived despite the weather. The clusters of small, green tomatoes on the vines in our “Earthtainer.”  The few slender green beans that survived grazing by the chickens. (Oh, and the second planting of sugar snap peas totally destroyed by the chickens and my not so clever fencing…)

As I look around, I see the horseradish loves the mild summer. That the growth on the apple trees and berries promises good harvests next year. That the hard work I did to amend the neglected soil over the winter DID pay off, even if the bounty is modest. I made two batches of jam this week with the berries, augmented with apricots and some rosemary I had to appropriate from a hedge on a walk, as mine were wiped out by a sudden freeze late last Fall. How glorious the jars look, how delicious the jam tastes. How appreciative friends will be when they receive them in the winter holidays. (If I can stop myself from eating all the jam up myself.)

I think of the three rows of potatoes planted in my friend’s sunnier, larger yard north of Seattle, how we weeded and prepped the rows together, and how she has shared half the harvest. The first row is in and I have eaten creamy new potatoes with home made pesto – even if I had to buy the basil from the farmers market.

I can sit out on my patio. The wifi even reaches there. Or the deck to the south of the house, where I also relish drying my laundry when the weather permits. It smells so good. I can eat bread and jam, jam and bread. I can talk to the chickens and listen as they talk to me. I can hear the scolding crows (who scare the chickens) and blue jays. Watch for humming birds on the cape fuschias. Holler out to neighbors, now that we’ve hacked down the 20 food holly hedge (not so friendly!) It is amazing what cutting down a hedge will do, or placing some comfy chairs around a small round patio made of bricks reclaimed from a neighbor’s chimney when they remodeled.

There are signs of community everywhere. In nature’s community responding to a wet, cold summer. In the human and animal neighborhood. Opening my eyes, reframing my perspective, I see potential where before I saw dark, grey, soddenness. From mud to jam.

Gratefulness is powerful.

Apricot/Berry/Rosemary Jam

Inspired from FoodinJars , Mrs. Wheelbarrow, and   Open View Gardens (for the French maceration approach)

5 cups apricots – sweet, mushy and pitted

1 cup of berries – raspberries, blackberries – -whatever

juice of 2 lemons

3 cups sugar

1-3 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary. Yes, rosemary. Go light if you are shy…


Wash, pit, and measure fruit into a large glass or plastic bowl. Finely chop and add rosemary. (Doesn’t everyone like green bits in their jam?) Mush things around a bit and then cover and refrigerate over night. I forgot and let mind sit two nights. (I also made this without the maceration and twice boil method – just boiled the whole lot for 15 minutes. It was good too!)

When ready to cook the jam, sterilize your jars, lids, rims etc. (Read good advice from others listed above for all the details!)

Drain the liquid from the fruit into a large non-aluminum pan and gently bring to a boil up to 220 degrees F. Add back in the fruit, bring to a boil you can’t stir down and cook for 5 minutes or until the jam coats the back of a spoon thickly. Take off heat, pour  into your nice clean jars, put on caps and rims making sure your jar tops are wiped clean and process in a boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes. (Again, read their recipes for all the how-to’s. They all have great blogs)

Take the jars out of the hot water bath (carefully), cool, label, share and enjoy!

Full Garden photoset here.