Nov 27 2015

ISS Fellowship Part 6 – It’s A Wrap!

Just over a week after I returned from Australia, I’m putting the finishing touches on the blog series documenting my ISS Fellowship in Victoria State, Australia. (Part 1, Part 2,  Part 3Part 4 and Part 5).This last post is to share a few final thoughts and the rest of the photos! (Are you a glutton for punishment? The set below is compiled from all the workshops. I estimate I was in front of over 180 people across 13 events, include a few I had not documented in previous posts. This includes meeting with some of the Better Evaluation team at RMIT, meeting with a group of my long-term edu-network-friends in Melbourne, and a planning meeting with the Chisholm team to collaborate on a project they are cooking up.

It hardly seemed like it was four years ago I was last in Australia. I have deeply benefited from my professional and personal connections made over my 4 trips “down under,” and count many educators and education innovators as inspirations and fellow travelers in this learning journey. Special thanks to Brad Beach and his family, without whom this adventure would have never happened, his team at Chisholm, especially Malcolm Jolly who had to constantly remind me where I was headed next and the topic(!!). Patricia Rogers and Arthur Shelley offered me both friendly home hosting and setting up great gatherings in Melbourne. Joyce Seitzinger set up our great social gathering in Melbourne. And of course, to the good folks at the ISS Institute for sponsoring my fellowship.

All the Workshop Photos:

<a href="" target="_blank">Click to View</a>

No responses yet

Nov 27 2015

All Work and Now Play – No Way – Part 5 of ISS Fellowship

This is the fifth and penultimate 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,  Part 3 and Part 4.

Besides my iterative round of cafe visits in Melbourne, I have also had the chance to hang out with my Aussie friends and see some of beautiful Victoria State. No fellowship journal would be complete without a hint of that beauty. So this slide show speaks for itself of what I saw. And, I must say, I got lost in the Ashcombe Mazes on the Mornington Penninsula, and ate some fabulous chocolate at Mornington Penninsula Chocolates. :-) I had cake to die for at Moo’s in rural Gippsland, and spent most of my nights in Karramburra. I even got to go to a school fete! (Ah, I loved the bake sale.)I went to the Night Noodle Market, the Victoria Library and ate/drank at many of the fabulous Cafes in Melbourne. Mama mia, y’all have a great Cafe Culture! And yet again, I saw no roos. I think they avoid me.

<a href="" target="_blank">Click to View</a>


No responses yet

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?


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 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 and more visual examples here.


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.


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

No responses yet

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.


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

No responses yet

Nov 12 2015

Weaving Networks in Melbourne – ISS Fellowship Day 2

Published by under events,learning
Tags: , , ,

This is the second in a series of post of my ISS Fellowship. For context check out part 1.

As I mentioned from part 1, Arthur Shelley and I found a zillion things to talk about, so much that when we got on the train to go into Melbourne Tuesday morning we forgot to validate our train fares and had to jump out at the first station, tap our passes and jump back on the train.

I was fascinated to learn about Arthur’s process of designing his classes and training offerings. He uses a lot of storytelling prompts and little vignettes to help us NOTICE our practices. This was put into action right on the train. We sat down in facing benches with one other person sitting next to me. We dove right back into our conversation about how we teach and a million other things.

Arthur started asking me a series of questions to demonstrate an activity he did. One of the questions was, “how many people are in this conversation.” Well, I said “it may be a bit improper to say this out loud, but really, there are three of us as I think the woman next to me has been interested and listening.” She immediately admitted she had picked up a thing or two and from that moment on, she was actively a part of our conversation. A musician, she teaches people how to sing and Arthur passed over his card and invited her to coffee to tell her about the Creativity Conference he is planning next year. Instant network augmentation on the train. Instead of staring at your phone, see what can happen?

NickHerftBetterEvaluationRMITOnce in town, and after an amazing slice of toasted and buttered fruit bread at Druid’s Cafe (I’ll be back), I headed off to another cafe to meet Nick Herft of the Better Evaluation team. We’ve talked on Skype, but never met. I was curious to learn about Nick’s key insights after his time working on the project. We met up at my second cafe of the day, Pearson and Murphy’s. Flat black coffee and a friand. mmmm….

Nick has seen the revision of parts of the site and tracked user behavior. I was interested in his observations about the challenges of a front page of a site that is SO rich in information and serves very diverse users. Most people arrive via a Google search for a particular topic, with fewer working their way methodically through the site. But without that “walk through” it is easy to miss all the goodies that Better Evaluation has to offer.  I asked Nick if I could do a quick video interview about some of his key learnings and he’s thinking about it – stay tuned!

IMG_20151110_135236528On to cafe #3, Mr. Tulk at the beautiful public library to meet up with old friend Joyce Seitzinger of Academic Tribe.  Hopefully you have picked up by now the threads of my first days on the fellowship – connecting and eating. :-) I particularly wanted to catch up with Joyce not only to just catch up, but to probe her deep knowledge about elearning to inform not only my week working here with educators, but also some work I’m doing on elearning in Africa and in the agricultural finance sector. You see, with a great network, you can improve your research right off the bat by eating and conversing together. In fact, as I look across the days here, conversation and dialog has been one of the centerpieces of everything I’ve done.

IMG_20151110_130141338_HDRAfter a bite to eat we wandered the streets and ended up in yet another cafe. This time I did not get the name, but it was a nice quiet place along the river. Those who know me well will be reassured that I had switched to herbal tea at this point, as we finished our conversations.

I circled back to Druid’s to meet up with Arthur and we took a quick visit into the Victorian Library with its fabulous dome. I was impressed with how full and busy the library was, with nary a spare seat to be found.

The second to last event of the day and the first formal “event” of my fellowship was to facilitate a session of the Melbourne Knowledge Management Leaders Forum, or the venerable, 16-year old KMLF as it is known. This is my third visit to the group and this time I wanted to share what I’ve been learning and practicing with Liberating Structures.

I love how the KMLF meetups start with two traditions: making a social network map of who is in the room, and a bit of wine, cheese and informal networking. I shared a few stories, and then we did a few of the structures, followed by a debrief with What, So What, What Next, one of my favorite quick debrief methods.  Slides are here and a photo collage at the bottom.

Stewart French volunteered to drive Arthur and I home, and again, the ride was a fast paced lively conversation, this time on the role of visuals and graphic facilitation, and creativity in general. After a shared bite, then my friend Brad Beach and my overall fellowship host picked me up for the hour ride to Korumburra in Gippsland. Long day, full of friends, colleagues and yes, CONVERSATION. We  learn, live and really enjoy ourselves through conversation!





One response so far

Next »

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.
%d bloggers like this: