Monthly Archives: October 2012

Digital Graphic Facilitation at BC Campus

I was excited and honoured to be invited by BC Campus to be a graphic facilitator at their Open Educational Resources Forum (#OERforum) last week.

When they first asked for me to be a graphic facilitator, of course I immediately said yes but I also felt a bit of trepidation as I have never done graphic facilitation before.

I mean my job title includes Facilitator and I have facilitated numerous sessions here at my university and at conferences. I am not unfamiliar with group processes, conversation flow, organizing and planning sessions. Though I must admit, facilitation is a skill that always needs improvement, especially because it is subject to so many variables ranging from the type of session, the personalities in the crowd, even external factors like food, weather, even lighting can affect group dynamics. That is why I take every opportunity to learn from those who are great facilitators and to try new things when they come my way.

As for the Graphics part, I have been doodling conferences keynotes and session for a while now and recently gave a workshop at the Society for Teaching Learning in Higher Education conference last spring. Taking visual notes help me stay engaged and focused.

So, yes, I can doodle and I can facilitate but I had not quite merged visual practice into my facilitation to the point where I’d call myself a graphic facilitator.

I have made small inroads towards this goal.

When I asked specifically if BC Campus wanted graphic facilitation or what I usually do (visual notetaking), Leva was really accommodating and quickly modified the agenda to reflect that I’d be visual recording instead.

Here is a quick-not-to-scale doodle of the room layout:

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

I sat off to the side with my iPad connected to a projector and as I drew, my work was projected behind me (zooming and all). This is where paper probably has an advantage for the audience because they can see the big picture at all times. Using the iPad showed only what I saw. As a bit of a technical aside, I have a first generation iPad which means that the display is not mirrored. This was definitely a good thing for this purpose because the audience only saw my brush strokes not the menu items nor tools.

David Wiley kicked off the forum with his keynote: Why Open Education? (Actually his official title was Openness in education: from ideals to outcomes, which I abbreviated in my visual way)

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

I took visual notes and I was glad David used so many visual metaphors, especially how we can use copyright to our advantage much like a jiu jistu fighter uses the strength of his opponent to set him off kilter (bottom left of drawing).

What happened next surprised but delighted me. Paul Stacey asked me to review and share my notes with the crowd. I was a bit nervous at first but the process was actually quite fun. I told the group how I use the images as memory anchors to parts of a talk. It surprises me a bit when I review the notes how much I do remember, only triggered by the image I used to represent the idea.

David’s session was followed by round table discussions. Paul created the framework with some guiding questions and the groups used the local install of BC Campus’ collaborative document creator etherpad. Sylvia Currie facilitated online in twitter and in the etherpad.

As the group gave their feedback, I recorded it. It was nice to have so many sources of additional information to double check my work.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

This was followed by a panel that included Brian Lamb from Thompson Rivers University, Alan Davis from Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Cable Green from Creative Commons.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe
Brian did an excellent job of detailing the amazing things happening in the province of British Columbia. This should not be understated. There is some great innovation, sharing and excellent work that is happening already in BC.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe
Alan Davis discussed as a president the important role he has in change management. He talked about the long standing ideological stance that technology integration into university represents corporate interests and how his role is to facilitate the positive use of technology for better engagement. This was echoed slightly in the round table discussions about faculty buy-in through incentives, education and professional development.

Finally Cable Green talked about the importance of using policy at the governmental level to leverage open and how this can improve access and reduce costs overall. This resonated with the #OpenEd12 keynote by Carolina Rossini earlier that day. Policies are by people and people need to insist that policies work for the better good of people.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe
Cable urged everyone to tap into existing resources. How often funding goes to building from scratch when there are already a great many resources to use already. Why not try and build it up even higher, especially considering the states of Washington and California have also launched progressive policies for open textbooks.

The whole Open Education conference was launched by the Open Textbook announcement of Minister John Yap which gave the open movement a bit more momentum heading into the OER Forum. I have a mixed bag of feelings about textbooks, in general, but for the most part, I think this is a great initiative.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Paul led a final round of discussions. I recorded their feedback and Paul asked me to again share my notes to the group

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

I gave a quick summary of what I heard where some key take-aways. Feeding back key points to a group is basically a first step towards graphic facilitation, so in a sense I do feel that I did move a bit out of my visual recorder comfort zone into graphic facilitation. I received some good feedback from the participants that it was helpful and kind of like a sportscaster football “play-by-play”.

I really appreciate the opportunity to try something new in addition to the genuine warmth and encouragement I received from Paul Stacey (Creative Commons) and the fine folks at BC Campus- Dave Porter, Paul Stacey, Leva Lee, Scott Leslie and Sylvia Currie.

I hope I get a chance to try this again soon!

10/30/12 UPDATE: BC Campus #OER FORUM Recordings & Summary now online

N is for Nancy

I was incredibly lucky last Tuesday to get to spend a couple hours at the Justice Institute of British Columbia as Nancy White facilitated a World Cafe for their staff and faculty.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

I had met Mika Fryling at the Online Community Enthusiasts Forum last spring and so it was a pleasure to see and work with her colleagues at the JIBC.

Nancy facilitated the session with grace and her usual upbeat enthusiasm; able to quickly read the energy levels in the room, astutely changing the session from listening, discussion to improvisational ZIP, ZAP, BOING and back to a 1-2-4-all roundtable feedback.

“Hear that?” she’d ask, “The volume has changed”

Just like that she’d switch the activity before participants had a chance to meander from the discussion topic .

I volunteered as the visual notetaker. I’ve been taking digital notes for a year an a half now but this was a bit of a departure from my comfort zone. Usually I can sit cloistered up in a corner and make my notes privately. At most one or two people peek over my shoulder to see what I’m up to but for the most part, my visual recording has been a solitary activity.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by shareski
At the end of the talk, I can upload it and share it digitally via Flickr and Twitter and the conversations usually unfold in the online realm.

Ah, but this was different. The World Cafe is most effective when the participants can see the collective contributions shared visually. I was given a huge 8ft by 4ft sheet of white paper, some markers and some pastel chalk. The gravity of the permanency of this analog mode was not lost on me.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Choconancy1

After a lot of contemplation, I set forth to write the title:

Oh, the horror. I spelt LEARNING with two I’s!!! Digitally, I do this all the time to ensure the size of the lettering is consistent. This is easy to remedy, just erase the inside and carry on. No one is the wiser.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

But here I am in front of the crowd and I’ve got a very awkward looking N that I cannot erase the middle scribbles out of (like I can with digital)

Immediately I scribbled in the N in black marker. Because I chose to overlap my letters in LEARNING I couldn’t colour them all in black and I was in a complete internal panic.

Nancy came by and I confessed my error. Half expecting her to wince at her decision to let me help, she calmly says, “oh did you bring boo boo labels?”

*Boo boo* labels are those Avery labels that you can repurpose and stick over little mistakes while working quickly on paper and then continue to draw as if nothing has happened. Basically the paper form of white-out. Frankly that never even occurred to me and at this point was too late anyway, as I had committed to covering up my blunder so quickly by fervently colouring in the N black.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Choconancy1

As we got started, I felt more and more comfortable and in my element. During the little moments between the action, I would revisit the title and try and work something out that was a compromise between the stark black and white.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Choconancy1

As Nancy gave plenty of opportunity for participants to change seats, change groups, and change perspectives accordingly, many people came up to me and offered words of enthusiastic encouragement. This was very reassuring and I was very glad no one mentioned my earlier foible N.

Overall, the session was really excellent. It was a joy to to watch Nancy in action and absolutely and excellent professional development session for me in my own role as a faculty/educational developer.

Here is the final result. I’m quite pleased with how it all turned out.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Quite possibly the most interesting moment came when one of Mika’s colleagues, Steve came and complimented the visual recording. He told me that he often enjoyed lettering but felt like he was missing something. When he saw me colour in the N, he said to himself “aha! so that’s what you should do!”

I told him how funny that was since it was an obvious mistake but it really made me smile and think of Bob Ross and “happy accidents”. Sometimes things that are not planned have the best unintended consequences. A real learning experience for me for sure!

Again, thanks Nancy & Mika!

Promise of Reflective Journals

As part of our new eLearning initiative, many faculty are keen to integrate blogging into their coursework.

There are so many great examples out there, starting with the venerable UMW Blogs, DS106, Cathy Davidson’s crowd-sourced grading model (Duke), Mark Sample‘s pedagogy and the class blog (George Mason University) and a lot more.

A lot of the resources brought me closer to home and reminded me of our own Tim O’Connell, Associate Professor & Chair of Brock University Recreation & Leisure Department, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences and his list of publications.

I have had the pleasure of attending a couple of his sessions which are very interactive and thoughtful. While his most recent publication, The Intersection of Web 2.0 Technologies and Reflective Journals: An Investigation of Possibilities, Potential and Pitfalls unfortunately sits behind a paywall, I think his work with reflective journaling (regardless of modality) can be very applicable to blogging in general.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Prospective Journalling: reflecting IN the moment.
Retrospective Journalling: reflecting in hindsight.

There’s certainly something to be said for blogging regularly, as Dr. O’Connell asserts that writing daily will move you from habitual to critical … (*ahem* this is something I know I can get better at!)

Revisiting Reflective Journals cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe
Key take aways: Describe, Explain, Articulate Learning.

It is important to clarify expectations regarding purpose, audience and criteria. Audience certainly changes in an open blog versus a hand-written notebook.

The key to good journalling is to describe what makes a good journal (or blog post), for example, is it:

  • Deep, Meaningful?
  • Enhancing Learning?
  • Integrating ideas, experience and data?

What new questions are generated?

Some faculty who teach courses that deal with highly personal and sensitive content are leery to have students blog openly for fear that they will be exploring ideas they are afraid to make public.

We’ve looked at LMS options where online journalling can be kept private between instructor and student. This changes the audience aspect back to just the instructor and inevitably changes the voice and purpose of the journalling. A few faculty are overwhelmed with this option as it requires a lot of supervision for each of the students. Ideally we are shifting the feedback to student to student interactions also. Oh, hey, connectivism!

It’s interesting to be in the space where this stuff is not new by any means but new to many faculty here. I think there’s a lot to be learned from others’ experiences and thankfully they are sharing openly on the web for all to benefit.

Which brings me to my final thought that I’ve been mulling over for a couple weeks now. I highly respect Lisa M Lane for the work she does and her thoughtful approaches to sharing. When she wrote about the Unhelpful Dichotomy, I kind of shrugged my shoulders, nodded my head and sighed. I do agree this dichotomy exists.

Or do I?

Can a dichotomy exist with a healthy middle? Because I also think there are many people along spectrum but perhaps those folks in the middle aren’t vocal enough.

Well, in the spirit of nurturing my own reflective journalling process, as the quiet middle, I will attempt to add a median voice to the mix.

While I think it is extremely helpful to have card-carrying utopians out there, who preach the word of Blog, I still live in the cautiously optimistic middle-ground.

As Jason Greene says, “when you’re travelling against the curent, you have to paddle much harder”; these tech-utopians need to have so much more enthusiasm to overcome the fact that they are a minority. I’m thankful for the proselytizers, they give me the supportive push to go forward and share that enthusiasm with our faculty.

Though, I must admit, I am not always enthusiastic; even in cases where I am certain a technology will help, I often back down when I know that a faculty member cannot be swayed. Ultimately I am not the one teaching that course, at the front of the room, grading the papers, commenting on blogs or moderating the forums.

Lisa’s program for online teaching was once is called Pedagogy First, which is my Centre‘s mantra. I never suggest a technology without first thinking of the implications for the pedagogy, even for our eLearning initiative.

If something is beyond their comfort level, then we discuss ways of scaffolding their learning. I spend a lot of time reassuring faculty that they do not need to be an expert in technology to use it. That they are capable of learning while teaching and as long as they are sincere and honest with students then it should work out fine.


This is a big risk and many faculty are hesitant to put themselves out of a position of control and power. In academia power comes from knowledge ownership. To knowingly admit lack of knowledge in an area is scary and no amount of enthusiasm will reduce that fear. This might be where there is a difference between students and faculty. Students are used to relegated to the position of not-knowing. Faculty are at a point where they feel they are expected to know everything. Someone commented recently about the difference between students and learners. We can graduate out of student status, but we should be learners always.

Stephen Brookfield, at his talk at Guelph University last May, often admitted that just when he thought he had figured something out, he needed to readjust, recalculate, relearn.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

My favourite thing he said, as captured by Natasha Kenny is that his “How we study our own autobiographies as learners is essential to our development as teachers.”

So this brings it all back to being critically reflective on an ongoing basis (with or without technology).

Update: The book is out! Unlocking the Power and the Potential of Reflective Journals. Timothy S. O’Connell and Janet E. Dyment.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Giulia Forsythe

Recording how to listen

Do you wanna listen to DS106radio on your iPhone, iPod or iPad?

I made this for you!

how to set up FStream on your iDevice

Here’s the short summary: type in –

More information available at:

Notes on DispRecorder

I used a new (slightly expensive at $10) app called DispRecorder to screen record the steps to set up FStream with the correct URL. I always forget the URL but after about 100 takes, it is ingrained forever in my memory. (Until tomorrow)

Hat tip to Andrew for first blogging about this app last month.

Some of the iTunes app store reviews are mixed, ranging from: ‘awesome, I love it’ to ‘I’m suing, it never works’ and that basically sums up my experience using the app. Except for the suing part, I never get that worked up about anything to want to sue (especially for ten bucks, LOL.

But the dude is correct, sometimes it really just doesn’t work. For some yet to be determined reason, some recordings never make it to the library, which in essence means they never were recorded. I cannot find a pattern for this. I tried different apps to record and the one I wanted to use the most, AutoDesk Sketchbook Pro seems least reliable, often hanging and never opening while being recorded. Then when it finally does open and I do some live drawing, it turns out it doesn’t record! Frustrating!

I thought perhaps time length was a factor so I tried different increments. I can’t definitively say length of time made a difference. Anecdotally it seems that anything over 3 minutes appears to not record but that’s not consistent, as I was able some times to get it to record longer. It almost feels like the recording doesn’t *stick*.

I thought it might have to do with available disk space, so I modified all the quality settings to the lowest possible just for testing. The video above was done at those low settings: Low Video, Half size, lowest possible audio settings. This didn’t stop the inconsistency of the recordings. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Other little things to note are that the app doesn’t seem to allow you to change the orientation, so if you start in landscape you better hope all your apps are landscape. I was foiled on that one, trying to switch it back and forth from the web page landscape view to Fstream view (which is only in portrait). My video looks a bit amateurish because of the orientation but I’m not that fussed about it at this stage. This probably isn’t really a concern for most apps, I would just keep it in landscape.

Overall, I am pleased with what the app does and how it works. As long as I have a bit of time and a lot of patience I’m sure it will only get better.

How to listen

This summer at UnPlug’d 12 I met a lot of cool people whom I’d never interacted with face to face nor online before. Once folks become a part of your network you find out a whole lot of really fascinating things about them.

For example, Matt Henderson. GNA and I knew we liked Matt almost immediately on the train. He had a very hilarious wry sense of humour and the three of us shared some great conversations.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by @DrGarcia

Someday, I’ll  download that LiveScribe interview with Matt in that first hour on the train heading north to South River (and then you could hear it too).

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by @DrGarcia

The thing that surprises me, is that while that was a great conversation and I was able to find out enough about Matt to know that I’d want to follow him on Twitter, I actually did not find out about a fraction of the super cool things he does as a teacher.

For example, this week when I interjected myself into a twitter discussion about the idiot Rob Anders with Bryan Jackson, D’Arcy Norman and Matt. It turns out Matt ran in the last federal election. And that his students ran his campaign. And that it was ALL their idea. He was basically their puppet politician. He tells the whole story in this brilliant TEDx talk about cultivating environments of autonomy.

I have also found out recently that Matt runs a web radio station for his students. How cool is that? He tweeted:

Of course, as this blog can testify, I take any opportunity to talk about ds106 and ds106radio and I’ve been eager to finish it up, as Matt will be doing this Manitoba-wide special area group PD session on Oct 19.

Alas, preparing this video by myself would be a contradiction to ds106radio’s very essence and it just so happens that a convergence of awesome is happening at the Open Education conference in Vancouver Oct 16-18.

This will be the grand moment of collaboration. In one boat, we will have: @DrGarcia @cogdog @noiseprofessor @draggin @grantpotter @dkernohan @brlamb @sleslie @dlnorman @mgershovish @bryanjack (nb: this is just the list from the Jam Camp page – if you are missing from this page, go ADD YOUR NAME!)

I realize that Matt only needs 5 minutes of video to talk about the power of radio for teachers and we’ll have enough footage to make a feature length documentary on the Dead Moocmen alone, but in the end we will have something awesome & concise.

In the meantime, if you’re not heading to Vancouver for Open Ed12, then get yer headphones on and tune into the conference, the jam session, the conversations /LIVE on ds106radio.

If you are unsure how to tune in, visit @grantpotter’s website describing it in crowdsourced elaborate detail.

UPDATE: settings have changed. Visit for info.

Or watch this little teeny tutorial I made.

I downloaded the DispRecorder app today to show you how to listen on an iDevice. If you’re on Android or using a desktop then I’m sure you’re clever enough to transfer the relevant bits of data to various contexts (i.e. the URL is the same)

Happy Listening!