Archive for the 'collaboration' Category

Feb 18 2016

Liberating Structures: I’m a String Being

RhapsodyMany of you know I’ve been using Liberating Structures a lot in my facilitation work. One of the “leaps forward” for me in the last year has been my ability to string various structures into a coherent agenda. The leap has come from learning about other practitioners’ strings, and batting ideas back and forth with them about my strings both visually and in text. (The visuals really help me!) This “thinking together”  helps me consider my plan and improvisational options so I stay fully present AND flexible when I facilitate. The strings also help me be transparent both with my clients and participants, and I can easily encourage them to learn, use and take ownership of their own meetings. (I am insisting more and more on every gathering being, among other things, a way to up our collective practice/intelligence on working/playing/thinking together.)

I’ve been thinking about those of us working on strings together as “string beings!”

I was thrilled when Keith McCandless made the most recent  LS News & Updates about Rhapsody for Strings 🎻🎼 The newsletter shares a set of strings along with very short narratives of each string. The strings of Tim Jasko-Fisher and Fisher Qua, layering structures over each other were particularly enlightening. (Images below) I asked Keith if it was ok to republish here to spread the news even more widely and have included it below, along with some of the fabulous strings that our group shared.

Here is a string I shared:

c6401977-e1a8-4386-8d49-70c3aa69e5c6

 

I’m also interested in how to easily share and work on strings together (see this reflection on some tool testing we did.) I am getting more and more questions directed to me individually, and I think it would be more useful and efficient to do this as a community. For one thing, each person would have access to a wider repertoire of experience and strings. And two, there is great learning in the process, so why not share it. So maybe you want to become a String Being too. Read to the bottom of the newsletter for how to join us…

Here is the newsletter text:

One Liberating Structure can transform a meeting.  A powerful string can draw out much-better-than-expected results in a way that forever shifts the pattern of working together. Below, accomplished maestros share and rhapsodize about their favorites.

As familiarity with the LS repertoire increases, there are an infinite number of combinations and riffs.  AND, there are certain strings that simply knock your socks off. With the suggestion that a picture tells a thousand words, the editor [Keith] has limited the narrative from each maestro to a puny three sentences. Future LS News will feature interviews that dig deeper into details (e.g., invitations, twists, turns, and LS punctuation).

  1. Building Financial Literacy with High School Students
  2. Liberating Learning Together:  Using LS in Our Work
  3. Leadership Retreat: High Dive Into Collective Strategy-Making
  4. Tap the Founder’s Story To Uplift Next Level Innovation
  5. Management Meeting: In Charge But Not In Control
  6. Get Over Yourself, NOW! Prepare To Go Deeper with Your Customers
  7. Cross-Sector Community Groups Catalyzing Learning + Action
  8. Catalyzing Nursing Knowledge for BIG Data Science
  9. Strategic Planning to Tactical Plans in Three Fractal Movements

We know there are many more maestros who have strings to share. There is an experiment underway on Slack for people to give and get help from other practitioners. Joining is clunky at the moment (if there are any Slack maestros out there, help us?!): Email Fisher to request access. (You can also email me and I can add you- NW)

Source: [LS News & Updates] Rhapsody for Strings 🎻🎼

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Feb 15 2016

The Post that Keeps on Keeping On: Zoom and Re-Zoom for Facilitators 

Back in 2013 I came upon a lovely facilitation tool/activity called Zoom/ReZoom using Istvan Banayi’s great books, ZOOM and RE-ZOOM. Every once in a while I check my site stats and dang, if this post isn’t hit daily, and sometimes 30+ times, which far exceeds my average hits these days. The traffic seems almost entirely from search engines. My interpretation? Either Zoom is a very cool word, or people are actively looking for ways to engage with each other. :-) If that’s you, link back into this old post where there are resources and a story of using the activity.

Last month I finally got a chance to use a facilitation activity called Zoom which I found on the Wilderdom’s Game resource page— a great resource!  I deeply appreciate that they put the “copyleft” designation on all their resources. THANKS! As I learned and read facilitation ideas from other sites, I realized I should share some of my experiences as well. Here is the description from Wilderdom’s resource page (which also includes all instructions – I’ve attached a pdf copy at the bottom for taking to an event, but please DO visit their page!)

Source: Zoom and Re-Zoom for Facilitators | Full Circle Associates

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Feb 05 2016

Technology Stewardship: App Integration Testing

I can never fully leave behind my passion for Technology Stewardship that came out of co-writing Digital Habitats. It showed up again this week… and the power of thinking out loud together… I decided to try and capture what I learned. Sorry, it is a bit long…

One of the things I’m doing a lot of these days is designing meetings and gatherings using Liberating Structures. Part of the design practice is to put together a “string” of structures. I usually do this with a little set of cards, or just sketching on a page.

string

Another part of my practice is to share my draft strings with other LS practitioners for feedback. This is incredibly useful because the structures are so flexible, they can be used in many, many productive ways. My peers are discovering and using different approaches than I am and this sharing of draft strings helps us both see our own practice in new light, and enhance our repertoires by learning from each other.

A small group of LS “string beings” as I’ve started to call us, have been working mostly in an informal email string. We’ve talked about alternatives. I set up one based on my online consultation site here (password: strings ) but it is awfully clunky.

Some of us have been using Slack (“a messaging app for teams”) in other work and play projects. What I’ve really liked about Slack is it sets up a light communications net for quick conversations, a place to leave links and just enough ability to segment using different #channels that you can keep a tidy house.  So we set up an instance to play around with our LS stringing work this week.

While Slack is great for the social fabric of quick conversation, and pretty nifty file sharing, it does not have the sort of whiteboard capability where we can construct, share, play with and comment upon strings. So I went searching for a white board or pinboard app that had Slack integration. Why the integration? Because while we all get excited looking at a new tool, if it is not in our day to day “line of sight” we will forget about it. A great string might get posted, but if no one knows about it, or forgets about it, the peer collaboration evaporates. We need little signals.

I started with https://limnu.com/ which has a whiteboard plus notes, allows three free boards for experimentation (which expire after 7 days – fair warning!) and Slack integration. You can spawn a board WITHIN Slack, which turns out to be a really useful feature because you don’t have to remember to go back and tell everyone to come look at your new board. Slack’s search is good, so you can easily re-find your boards.

Limnu itself still feels a little buggy. Boards load inconsistently, and today each time I go into a board, my cursor is stuck on one image and the scroll bars to move around the board are gone. I’ve tried reloading but will have to troubleshoot more. There is a great little built in chat and once you poke around there is a sufficient set of features, but not so overburdened you will never discover them. Like many tools these days, you do have to click around and discover. Not everything is obvious (to me!) I can import the LS icons, but I can’t pin them to a note, so every time I move a note, I have to move the image, so I let the images go. I can’t format the text in the notes, so links to the structures are not hot. But I can play with a string, so the basic functionality I need is there. Here is a slightly blurred screenshot of a board (to blur client information…) I inserted a screen capture of an earlier string of a colleague shared in PPT (from Keith McCandless), did a little playing with the swirlies. We used the chat to discuss the string.

Limnu_2016_2_4

Limnu is not, however, as useful or elegant as Boardthing. Wait, why not use BOARDTHING? I wonder if it has Slack integration? Boardthing has been a great tool for building shared visualizations, particularly because it gives a group agency in shaping ideas and information. I like it! I can always put a link to a Boardthing board in Slack, but what if…

So I headed over to the Facebook Boardthing page and asked my question. Not only did Dave Gray and his CTO Gareth Marland chime right in, they and others like Sam Rose and Jon Husband started asking really useful questions.

Friends, this is technology stewardship in action and this is what this story is really about. Here are the questions that helped unlock my own understanding of what I was grasping for.

  • What’s your use case Nancy? Something that dropping a link into Slack can’t solve? Would love to hear more. (Dave Gray)… my response:
    Good question about why integrate. For a number of teams/[projects, slack has been our place for conversation AND link to our artifacts, related working tools, etc. It has the qualities that support social fabric, so it is the place to maintain some level of attention.

      Our work itself in most of these teams requires different tools at different times and it is easy to get compartmentalized into those tools and lose the social fabric elements. Thus the appreciation of Slack (or something like it) as supporting the social fabric, but not trying to bend it to all our other needs. Does that make sense?The Liberating Structures work is an example where Boardthing really fits the bill for the task work. I’m going to take our team on a “field” trip there when we can schedule it.
  • Can you talk about the specific features and scenarios you want to integrate with slack, or slack clone? (Gareth Marland)
    Good question about why integrate. For a number of teams/[projects, slack has been our place for conversation AND link to our artifacts, related working tools, etc. It has the qualities that support social fabric, so it is the place to maintain some level of attention.  Our work itself in most of these teams requires different tools at different times and it is easy to get compartmentalized into those tools and lose the social fabric elements. Thus the appreciation of Slack (or something like it) as supporting the social fabric, but not trying to bend it to all our other needs. Does that make sense? The Liberating Structures work is an example where Boardthing really fits the bill for the task work. I’m going to take our team on a “field” trip there when we can schedule it.
  • Can you think of very specific actions in slack you would want to integrate into board thing or vice verse? (Sam Rose)  Story: I am developing an LS string for an event. I want to get my peer’s feedback. I spawn a Boardthing board IN slack (so it is findable, searchable without me remembering to do it) – probably in a defined channel, and ask for that feedback. I would think carefully of the board name as the search function in Slack is nice and finding things again would be good. Folks would follow the link, play with the string (rearrange, substitute, comment, ask questions. The full context would be on Boardthing. That is the FIRST activity.
    After I use my string, I may want to return to my draft board and note what changes I did, what did and didn’t work. Then I’d want to export a snapshot of that string to share in our string library. Which currently doesn’t exist and we haven’t figured out how we want to do that. We have noted that creating a string and sharing a string are two different functions. The latter is content sharing with useful tagging.
  • So, in terms of the connection you would like to be able to create a shareable board within slack. and then they would provide feedback within the slack channel or the board? (Gareth)  I think feedback is best attached to the board containing the string but I could be misguided!
  • Dave Gray then came back with this summary: A. Alerts in Slack when a board is changed. B. Small version of board in Slack (probably not editable but one click takes you to board) C. Initiate a new board from within Slack. (We all thought this was great.)

Along the way other Slack clones were surfaced, and we are still batting around ideas. Gareth noted how important it is to add features only if they really add value, not clutter things up, and that includes features for integrations and alerts. In the research we did for Digital Habitats, we identified things like alerts and presence indicators as tool features that helped the social use of a tool. That still resonates today.

What did I learn? Dave summarized the kernel of the usefulness and features that make an app integrated with Slack or similar tools useful. There is this subtlety of WHERE the conversation takes place around an artifact, along with the very nature of the artifact. I needed visual, manipulable artifacts AND I needed it connected to a community of practitioners. These  insights now helps me refine both my tool selections and practices with my “string beings!” They also help me talk with other people about why I like Slack, which has been a bit challenging. I feel it, but I need to know how to describe it!

 

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Dec 09 2015

So You Want to Host a Web Meeting? A Resource

webconferencingA long time ago in a planet far far away, a group of people asked if I could share some of my web meeting tips. I have a lot of tips, most of them learned from many many colleagues from all over, both from watching the masters work and from resources they have created. Finally, I got around to starting the project. It was supposed to be a “tip sheet” of 1 page, both sides. hahahahahaha…

Because I love my smart friends like Pete Cranston (the instigator, I might add) http://uk.linkedin.com/in/petercranston, Susan Stewart http://guidedmeetings.com/ and Bonnie Koenig http://www.goinginternational.com/about/, I started a google doc. They added ideas, and I started writing.  You can see the genesis here.

Many pages later we have  So Yo Want to Host a Web Meeting? I hope you find it useful, and as always, I welcome comments, suggestions for improvements, additional resources, and catching me if I did not attribute properly. The latter was very difficult because so much of this has been learned along the way and ingrained into my practice. The challenges of standing on so many shoulders!!

Edit: 2/17/16 A great pre-webinar activity for when people are logged on and waiting for the meeting to begin from Rachel Smith at The Grovehttp://www.grove.com/pdfs/Do-Nows.pdf 

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Nov 27 2015

Relationship Centric Teaching – Part 3 of ISS Fellowship

This is the third in a series of posts about my ISS/Chisholm Fellowship in Victoria State, Australia. You can find the previous posts here: Part 1, Part 2.

learningLiberationBoth of my weeks in Victoria revolved around a series of workshops that were generally designed around the idea of increasing learner engagement. We played with all kinds of titles in advance, but of course, once I showed up and started to hear people’s stories, the new theme emerged: Relate and Liberate. I was very inspired by this quote:

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lilla Watson (Quote found via The Interaction Institute/ )

Coincidentally, an essay by Clay Shirky, The Digital Revolution Has Already Happened” was circulating when I was planning and it really hit home. In it Clay talks about the importance the access online learning has provided.

I also wanted to focus on relationship centric teaching using conversational approaches. This was supported by a graphic facilitation workshop, which in the end, applied the relationship centric approach while introducing the joy of visuals and graphic facilitation in teaching and learning. You can read more about that workshop in Part 4.

threelegsFinally, I wanted to try out some thinking that I’ve been doing around how to shift such a strong emphasis on content to a “three legged stool” approach that looks at the interplay between content, relationship and social scaffolding, and signals (quantitative and qualitative data that helps us make sense of what is happening) not just from our courses, but across courses and options made possible by open learning. That will have to wait for a full blog post, but I’ll slide in my sketch here and leave it at that for now.

I was surprised that most of the participants were primarily teaching face to face. In my past visits to Australia to hang out with my educator friends, the emphasis had been much more strongly positioned on the online. So I made sure to talk about both online and offline contexts around the materials and processes. The first group at Chisholm were the Learning Leaders working on community based education. The introduction was strongly tilted towards seeing learning as liberation. I have a deep fondness for community based learning. The subsequent sessions were mostly TAFE educators or designers of learning courses and materials.

Process

In all of the workshops I tried to hold myself to the standard of walking my own talk. My plan was to focus on identity and relationship as a key to engaged teaching and learning, and use methods from Liberating Structures as a set of exemplar processes to embody this approach. That meant a focus on liberating the intelligence and passion in the room, making time for connections and creating conditions for useful conversations. My role was to be a catalyst, rather than positioning myself as the expert. This is a good thing, because I’m a learner first, expert… well, that is way down my “identity” list!

Liberating Structures were part of every workshop. We used Impromptu Networking to identify shared challenges, 1-2-4-All to make sense across those challenges. Then the subsequent structures varied by workshop. We  very successfully used Troika Consulting (I keep calling it by the name I know – Triad Consulting!) and Discovery and Action Dialog (DAD) to help address the challenges each group identified, W3 to evaluate the session, tagging on 15% Solution as the “What Next” step of W3 to identify a simple follow up step. In some of the workshops we ended with a simple appreciative networking activity to note who contributed to our experience during the workshop, and who people wanted to follow up with.

goatrodeoIn each of the workshops I offered a quick overview of Liberating Structures (see slides) that covered the micro structure concept and some other example structures. But I have found it has been more useful to USE them, then as appropriate, debrief them, rather than “preach” them.  I reviewed the basics of LS by showing a slide about the micro structures, the list of the 33 structures and shared Keith McCandless’ recent thinking about that (fragile) and rich space between over control and under control (goat rodeo – see Keith’s image to the right!) In the workshops there was insufficient time to talk about how to build an entire agenda by “stringing” structures, so I have included some examples at the end of the slide deck. That probably should have a blog post of it’s own!

In the session where we did DAD, I really appreciate the reflections about the value of iteration in DaD, and in staying close to the questions that are at the core of the structure to avoid “goat rodeo.”  Goat rodeo is everyone doing their own thing. Smart people fall into this trap all the time. In Troika, many people mentioned the freedom of turning one’s back to listen in. In all the structures people noted the deep importance of the starting questions. The more specific the question, the more precise answers are liberated.

A fabulous question was “when is it appropriate to use LS.” I offered an answer, but I also suggested I email everyone in a month and find out what they have used and done, and we’ll generate an “in situ” answer — nothing like reality!

Participant Feedback

In most of the workshops we did the “What, So What, Now What” debrief and reflect Liberating Structures. I was able to capture a few responses on video. Here is the result:

In addition, I received this quote in the mail this past week with permission to quote anonymously:

Hi Nancy,

Just a quick not to say thankyou for coming out to Australia, visiting us and giving us insight to your perspectives. 

 Can I just say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and put a couple of things into practice, nothing special but I went into class with a much more open mind and content within myself.

 I ended up combining 2 groups from 2 campuses for the final 5 classes and although the first night’s turnout was a little lacking, by the end they were developing new workgroups, mixing on their own, helping each other in understanding assessments and to top it off they even arranged a Christmas breakup for both groups together.

 The last night was purely a submitting work  and as a help session for those that hadn’t finished or submitted all their work and I still had nearly a full class!  They brought in cakes, all shook hands and celebrated and it was a genuinely nice thing to see.  Especially when most stayed around until 8pm on a work night.

 I wish you all the best in your travels and business.

Take care,

My Reflections

IMG_20151118_154110941Identity & Good Teaching

This issue came up most strongly in the workshops hosted by eWorks the last day of my fellowship. I took this little visual note on the white board. Our conversation about educators having a strong self identity as educators was the basis of good teaching. Good teaching comes before any facility with online teaching. It always goes back to those basics. This is no surprise, but surprisingly this concept can get lost with online initiatives because people focus so intently on content. Content alone can be found many places. The unique offering of the TAFE institutions is GOOD TEACHING.

Conversational Teaching

IMG_20151112_141319178An essential practice of good teaching – online or offline – is getting immediately into good and useful conversations. I asked people at many of the workshops if they struggled with discussion boards and many raised their hands. I suggested that we need to think carefully and skillfully about how we engage people so that things like discussion forums and web meetings are meaningful, not just things learners have to to. NO TICK THE BOX! This is where we can always improve our skill at designing really engaging questions that people can’t resist responding to, versus canned “discussion prompts.”

In our workshops, every session was started with a conversational approach that asked people what they wanted to get out of the session and what they had to offer. This activity helped me know what they wanted, and acknowledged their expertise as educators and designers of learning. The process used rotating paired conversation and without fail, the buzz in the room was robust and it was always hard to get people to stop talking. I take that as a sign of engagement! (Yes, they could have been complaining about me or the process… 😉 ) But again, this acknowledges identity in the context of meaningful conversation.

I asked people how they currently open conversations in their teaching, and how they might change this. One person said he was going to take is face to face group to coffee, instead of starting by reviewing the syllabus. Another was going to use the paired drawing exercise we did in the graphic facilitation workshop to help learners create relationships right from the start. Just two examples!

It was interesting to be in rooms with so many smart and passionate people, yet I sensed a reluctance for people to speak up at the full group level. Is this part of the identity thing? IS there a “tall poppy syndrome” issue in these organizations?  It may be some of those things, but for me it was yet another example of the critical importance of breaking people into smaller groups because intense, buzzing, engaged conversation emerged every time at the small group level.

brainBrain Based Approaches

Before the workshops I happened on a fascinating article on neurobiology. It described how neurobiology might inform our teaching practices, particularly the work of Dan Siegel. He talks about the unity of the “triume brain” of cerebral cortex (rational brain), the limbic system (emotional brain) and the stem (reptilian brain). Siegel “envisions the brain as a social organ,” and “the emotional system that develops in relationship.” I was taken how he describes a “sixth sense” as “mindsight,” and links this to mirror neurons. “What fires together, wires together,” is a way he talks about how we learn by what we observe. If we observer our teachers functioning as learners, will we be better learners? I think so…  Siegel talks about the power of associations that people make in order to make sense of the world. Positive and uplifting associations can be more meaningful, encouraging, and benefit change. There was so much in this and I only scratched the surface. But by the second week I had to make a visual…

Remember Group Process

A post on Facebook by the fabulous Chris Corrigan reminded me of some very resonant practices from the Art of Hosting and I grFrom Chris Corriganabbed an image to share about the Four-Fold path of Presence, Contribution, Participation and Co-Creation. I am a little shocked when I don’t see many of the deep process work from the facilitation community in teaching and learning. There are natural connections. So introducing across these communities is a particular joy. Going by to my “three legged stool” — this is the relational aspect. How we interact is as important as what we are interacting about.

Share Real Examples

Finally, it was fabulous to hear the examples of the educators in each workshop. In turn, I was able to share about a project I’m working on with an international team sponsored by the Justice Institute of British Columbia and the University of Guadalajara, the  UdG Agora Project. You can take a peek at a recent presentation online about the project from #OpenEd15.

Slides & Resources

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