N is for Nancy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!