Archive for the 'creativity' Category

Jun 27 2016

#SKiP16 – My Crazy Experimental Offering on Space, Media and Constraints in Visual Teaming

IMG_20160624_142629841Last Friday was a GAS! I spent the day at Sketching in Practice, an amazing offering from Simon Fraser University and led by the incredible Jason Toal. In my next post I’ll recap more of the event as a whole, but I had an amazing time offering a one hour experimental session in the afternoon exploring the impact of the arrangement of space, offering of media and provision of (or not) of task constraints in how a group works together using visual practices. This is part of my preparation for the workshop Michelle Laurie and I are offering this September in Rossland, BC, My Pens, Our Pens: engagement through participatory visualization. More and more I want more than the visual harvest of graphic recording. I want to really dig into the practices that use collaborative and shared visuals for doing real learning and work. So this was a great opportunity.

Here was the description of the session along with my initial planning sketch:

Session title: What if? An experiment to explore if/how structure, format and media influences our interactions

IMG_20160627_074439769_HDRSession overview: Are you ready to be the principle investigator and subject for a short experiment? Join us in this hands on, fingers dirty, experiment on the impact of structure, format and media influences on our interactions with each other. You will be assigned a cohort upon entering the room, with some degree of instruction and materials. You will participate for 20 minutes with that cohort. Then we’ll do a gallery walk and debrief of the experience. Magic or mayhem? Or both? Let’s explore.

As people entered the room (about 35) I assigned them a number. The stations were preset around the room with a number showing on a card. I gave the briefest of brief introductions, as I wanted this to be about the experience, not explanations. The teams dispersed and upon “go” they turned over their cards which provided a brief set of directions (or lack thereof.) The teams then had 20 minutes. The stations included:

  • Station 1: On the floor, a rich assortment of media, and task of simply drawing with no talking allowed. Media included regular markers, pan pastels and crayon markers.
  • Station 2: On a table, no specified task and use only the media provided (dark and light chocolate bars in a bag!)
  • Station 3: On table, provided media (regular markers and crayon markers), no task specified, team can only communicate by singing
  • Station 4: On table, plan a trip from Vancouver BC to Seattle using only images/no words (but you can talk) with regular markers
  • Station 5: Chairs in a circle, flip chart and pens nearby, task to identify a peer’s challenge and offer peer consultation.
  • Station 6: On table, no directions or other constraints.

It was fascinating to watch. The table with just singing as the team communication directions quickly became a pretty frustrated set of people. One person made an effort at singing, but no one else joined in. The table paper became covered with words and images of frustration, along with some comments on their appreciation of the squishy markers that go on like lipstick. The trip planning team talked about their task. When one person put down the latitude demarcation, the whole flow just burst forward and everyone started drawing. The chocolate coloring folks, after a few moments of disbelief, jumped in and we all smelled the chocolate. (I have to admit, after a while the bars looked less like chocolate than some other substance…) The no directions team started out slow but got into the swing of things with a fairly broad and abstract image.  The peer consultation group did not pull in the flip chart until I mentioned it halfway through but they appeared to be deep in conversation.

After the 20 minutes, teams had a few minutes to identify their key insights, then we did a gallery walk to each station to share insights. It was really interesting.

  • IMG_20160624_142639563Station 1: People for the most part stuck with the area of paper they started with, and did beautiful, amazing images. One participant worked bigger and provided some marks that offered opportunities for connecting the individual areas. The team felt that if they had more time, this integration direction would have really kicked in. There were some comments about how yummy the richness of media were. (PAN PASTELS!!)
  • IMG_20160624_142746673Station 2: The chocolate team had really dirty fingers! Despite the early disbelief, they embraced their medium. I think they also ate a bit of the chocolate, which seemed like a smart thing for me! Again, the initial marks by one member provided the start, role modeling that “embracing.” As we walked from station to station, this sense of the role of the “first person to make a move” proved very strong.
  • IMG_20160624_143702970Station 3: The singing only table had a fascinating discussion about the fear of singing in public and we contrasted that with the fear of drawing in public. We realized that the fear of singing made the fear of drawing seem less intense, so maybe moving people WAAAAY beyond their initial comfort zones (to singing), then stepping back (to drawing) might be a way to frame and reflect on our fears. That said, there were some lovely individual marks on the paper. AND a lot more text than I’ve seen when I’ve done this exercise before.
  • IMG_20160624_142247972_HDRStation 4: The trip planners said they really bonded as a team. They were worried they were going to be broken up to other teams and did not like that idea. Of all the teams, there was the greatest sense of “team!”
  • IMG_20160624_141959599_HDRStation 5: The consultation team had to pull in some additional chairs which were higher than the initial comfy chairs, raising the observation about power as manifest in the set up – the higher chair people felt they had to lean in more, and the lower chairs were perhaps more quiet. That said, they had a productive peer consultation. Visuals appeared to be a minimal part of their experience. It made me wonder about how explicit we need to be with both the provision of visual tools and suggestions for use. They don’t appear to be a default.
  • IMG_20160624_143218959Station 6: One tweet out of the no directions group cracked me up – something to the effect of “this is my favorite kind of direction!” They noted that there was some sense of wanting direction or leadership, but after one person made some marks, again, things flowed. However, they wanted chocolate, so they traded some markers with the chocolate folks.

My sense is that most of the people enjoyed the experience in the end, even if they experienced frustration or remorse that they were not in a particular group. There was a lot of interest in both the dynamics of the space/constraint/media question, but the new element that came up for me was the role of the first mark, who makes it, and how they make it. This sets the tone.

If this intrigues you, consider joining us for the workshop My Pens, Our Pens: engagement through participatory visualization.

Here is the photo set on Flickr:

Exercise: Implications of medium, space and constraints

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Jan 27 2016

Reflecting on my 2015 #365Photo Project

BradBradBradAs the month of January quickly slips into the rear view mirror, I realize it is now or never to reflect on my 2015 #365photo project. I had been watching Alan Levine and others do this practice for a few years and decided it was time to try it.

It was nearly a year ago when I made my only reflective post on the project last year, one month in.   While I can’t come close to the analysis of my fellow #365-er,  Eugene Eric Kim  and all his reflections on his 365 Project, it is worth putting on the reflective glasses and taking a moment. Even my sister prompted me to do this on Facebook. Go Cesca!

My Process

The picture taking process was almost always opportunistic. The value of knowing I wanted to capture and share ONE photo a day really upped my “noticing” while on walks, but if I did not get outside of the house (ah, Seattle’s winter) I found I had to stretch and sometimes even set up a picture. There certainly were stretches where nature was a key inspiration. Spring, Spring, SPRING! Flowers. Patterns of leaves and other natural elements (often juxtaposed with my feet, for some reason – at least a dozen) show up a lot, particularly fallen camellias! There are many of my family, particularly my granddaughters who are irresistible, but I also worry about putting too many pictures of them online.

Taken as a whole, they do tell the story of my year. You can see the travel, the work, the family, the seasons, the food!

The camahogada-tUdGera was somewhat of an issue early on, as I was using a fairly basic, lower resolution phone camera. I got frustrated but people said, CROP and use filters, to use the limitations of the camera as a feature, not a bug. That helped me over the hump, but in the end I’ve used cropping and filters only a handful of times. Lazy? Busy? Probably both. And I got a better phone with a better camera late last year and that FELT more fun. Especially for macros, which I enjoy.

I did NOT have a practical and consistent workflow for my project. I mostly posted from either my phone or one of my tablets to Facebook, MOSTLY got those into an album, and then at the end of the year downloaded the lot and imported them into the more easily sharable Flickr. I think some got lost and mis-categorized and I have totally changed my 2016 workflow for #366photo (yes, leap year!).

This year, every photo gets posted to Flickr using the phone app which also allows me to cross post on Facebook and Twitter. I always cross-post on FB, and sometimes on Twitter if the image is either pleasing to me or has some timely relevance to a wider audience as now only my friends can see my FB posts. I restricted them late last year instead of posting them publicly, mostly to protect my family. I should have done that earlier. When I post to Flickr I can put the image right into an album. Later I can go back and tag, but that is not a top priority.

Reflections

The process itself was wonderful. It was, in a sense, a meditation in paying attention to what is around me. Looking back, I smile at the pworkinprogressictures of friends, my family, of nature and of the many places I visited and food I ate. It is a celebration of the full and rich life I get to live. Here and there it hints at the bumps in the road. I think that is because I don’t really have too many and I don’t really want to make a big deal out of them. If there was one visual theme on bumps, it was fatigue!

The sharing part turned out to be a much bigger surprise. How many people on FB had a little “line of sight” into my life surprised me. The number of “likes” surprised me – people actually PAY ATTENTION to this stuff? The reflections shared with Eugene and Alan Levine were wonderful moments of learning.

As 2016 dawned I had just about decided NOT to do this again. Then the urge crept in. The three things I gained from the project were worth continuing:  a) the practice of noticing,  b) sharing, and c) learning, because life is always a work in progress! (And my workflow for it is already better. The pictures are here.)

My Pictures

I decided it would be fun to select some of my favorite pictures from 2015. As I noted, I was unhappy with the quality of many of my shots, but looking back, some are really pleasing to my eye.

CameliaShoes crappycroppy selfieatwork shadowflowers iliveinabeautifulplace horsechestnutshoes mylarry sandplay melbourne quotidian playginwithpapa




bugs
playjoy shoefrost noticingnature windowdawn furry oldbarge fiddlestilllifeinmontrealbeauty shoestilllife hanginout octasketti friends3 greenlake2 friends2 friends1 fallfeet skyfeet Greenlake squashedcameliapoetry frostyshoe wilddave

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Nov 27 2015

Unleashing Joy Through Visual Facilitation – Part 4 of ISS Fellowship

This is the fourth 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 and Part 3. While I intended to write these WHILE in Australia, it has, er, ahem, taken a bit longer.

When Brad Beach (of Chisholm) and I were noodling on what I might share through my fellowship, I was exceedingly happy that he was willing to step out of the more traditional practices and dive into visual or graphic facilitation. We scheduled two rounds of a 3 hour “Doodle, Draw, Learn” workshops to introduce teachers to the power of visuals for engagement and learning. I think we accomplished this well in the workshops. They also reminded me of something else that happens when we allow ourselves to freely draw. Joy fills the room.

IMG_20151117_084544759As before, I’ll share the content points first as reference, then reflect on my experience and share a few words from the participants. Finally, there is a visual artifact at the end with resources, support materials and a deck compiling all the images from the day.

The structure of the workshop is designed around modeling an interactive initial engagement visual activity, unleashing of drawing joy (“I CAN DRAW”), development of icon skills and wrapped up with another visual activity, this time focused on reflection and evaluation. The agenda is communicated using a visual agenda (of course, and from the photo, you can see this works even on wrinkled flip chart paper) and the feedback is captured with video – another visual medium. In the middle I share example visual artifacts and offer a few thoughts so people can get off their feet and rest for a few minutes. This is where we begin the conversation about where to apply visual practices in the classroom – online or offline.

All in all, this is a very ACTIVE experience. But people generally report being energized, rather than exhausted. Interesting, eh?

Process

Here are brief descriptions of the exercises, in case you want to try them:

  • IMG_20151117_090853483_HDRPaired Drawing:  I learned this from Johnnie Moore www.johnniemoore.com/blog/archives/000380.php and have blogged about it. One pen, one paper, two people taking turns drawing a face, one pen stroke at a time with NO TALKING. There are so many ways to relate this activity to your teaching or meeting goals. It is great not only to “break the ice” but to show patterns of communication and collaboration and the interesting effect of assumptions! More photos here.
  • IMG_20151117_100534192I CAN DRAW: This is again a common and fabulous activity that is used in MANY introductory graphic facilitation workshops. I learned mine from the folks at the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP) and have seen it done many times with amazing variation. The essence is getting up at a wall and using our bodies to draw circles and lines, play with color using chalk pastels and finally getting a sense of the basics of lettering, including size and proportion.Pastels are messy, but they are MAGIC. Something always happens in the room when we use the pastels. I think this is where the joy really becomes visible.
  • IMG_20151112_152422185Visual Vocabulary: This exercise builds off of the circle, lines and lettering of “I CAN DRAW” and introduces basic human forms (stick person, bean or shapes, springs, etc.) I reference heavily the work of people like Dave Gray,  Austin Kleon and others who have generously shared exercises, videos and how-to’s online. You see examples of the resources in the slide deck at the end of this post. OH, and I role model imperfection, believe me!
  • Icon Jam: We follow the vocabulary exercise with a quick round of icon jamming, an activity I learned at an IFVP gathering. I start by calling out a word and asking people to do a quick “telegraph sketch” of the word. Then after a while they call out the words. In one workshop I had them label their icons as a future resource. In the second one, I had people move from paper to paper to both see other’s work, to experience what it is like to “draw on someone else’s paper, and to guess the meaning of the icons. I liked this variation a lot. You can find examples of past workshops here, where we often do this on 3×5 cards
  • IMG_20151111_162410511River of Life: This exercise uses the visual metaphor of a river or a road to stimulate reflection of the past, present and future. In the workshop, the prompt for the past was “what did you expect coming into the workshop.” The present prompt was “what did you learn and experience today.” The future prompt was “what is your next step using what you learned? What more do you want to learn?” Read more at http://www.kstoolkit.org/River+of+Life and more visual examples here.

Application

In the two Chisholm workshops the educators talked about a variety of ways to apply this. There were the expected elements of using visuals to be welcoming and break up text. They spoke of not only the power of visuals, but the power of beauty, as they surveyed the beauty that came out of the “I CAN DRAW” exercise. A few mentioned the utility for working with their more challenging, younger students. Some had to let it sink in, as thinking about visuals in online learning where text has been the dominant form, may take a while.

One of our “non Chisholm” participants, Joyce Seitzinger talked about how she will incorporate more visual activities in the “Learner Experience” workshops she is designing.

Reflections

My key learnings from these workshops affirmed or developed the following ideas:

  • I can get over my attachment that the “I CAN DRAW” exercise MUST be done on large scale paper. We basically had paper that was flip chart sized and I think it still worked. You can’t quite get the full body experience, but it works. This is important because it is hard to find rooms where there is space and permission to do large scale drawing on paper on the walls.
  • Don’t underestimate joy. Make space for joy. Liberate joy!
  • I still would like to find a way to show and practice some of the online options even in a short workshop. I have struggled with this because I feel the foundational experience of working on paper is a must.

Video Harvest/Feedback:

Finally, I decided to try some video feedback vignettes. After I made this video, I realize it missed half the content of the workshop, so I’ll need to do a second try. I’d love any feedback to help me improve on the next iteration!

 

Slides with Resources: Visual Facilitation in Learning – Resource Slides

Rachel Smith on Drawing in the Classroom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tJPeumHNLY

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Sep 09 2015

What art can teach us about knowledge work

painting4How Art Reveals the Limits of Neuroscience” by Alva Noë is a fascinating read that asks us to step beyond the idea that we are our brains. It is stimulating me to reflect on some things I’ve been trying to articulate about knowledge sharing and  the transformation knowledge into new ideas, application, etc. It relates to some conversations on how we share knowledge across research projects, between journalists who care about their communities, and people who are trying to improve the world.

In observing how our experience of art changes when someone else shares their experience of the work, Noë writes:

This shift — from not seeing to seeing, from seeing to seeing differently, from not getting it to getting it — is actually very common. We live and learn, look and ask, bring what’s around us into focus continuously. At least part of what makes art different, or special, is that it yields the opportunity not only to “get” something, perhaps something new, but also to catch ourselves in the very act. In this way, art illuminates us to ourselves.

Interestingly, when I started to read it, I was not actually looking at art itself. The experience Noë writes about resonated deeply to my experiences of seeing people take in an idea and transform it into something they can use, apply, and “own” in the very productive sense. Own it in terms of being able to to use it meaningfully. Imagine a way of reducing open defecation, or changing water use habits. Imagine being able to take the building blocks of an idea and transform it into a locally useful solution. She frames it as the “world as the playing field for our activity,” and thus the interplay with it.

“This is not to deny that the world acts on us, triggering events in the nervous system. Of course it does! But the thing is, we act right back. Every movement of the eye, head, and body changes the character of our sensory coupling to the world around us. Objects are not triggers for internal events in the nervous system; they are opportunities or affordances for our continuing transactions with them. The world shows up, in experience, not like a diagram in a brain chart but as the playing field for our activity. Not the brain’s activity. Our activity. Not activity inside our head. But activity in the world around us.”

Now that I’ve read it, I’m thinking about how art can help me address my challenges with knowledge work!! Take a few minutes to read the article.

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Dec 15 2014

Art, Brains and Awe

Stephen Downes posted this link in his OLDaily today. Take a moment out of a busy day and look at the images that Greg Dunn has created from images of the human brain. This quote says it all:

Image from Gregg Dunn

Through his art, Dunn hopes to give voice to scientists whose work usually isn’t appreciated by the general public, he said. “Art has the power to capture people’s emotions and inspire awe [in a way] that a lot of charts and graphs don’t have.” Credit: Greg Dunn

via Dazzling Images of the Brain Created by Neuroscientist-Artist.

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