Monthly Archives: March 2012

Let a thousand iPads bloom!

The Technology in Higher Education conference in Qatar was hosted by Texas A&M Qatar on February 27-28, 2012.

This was an opportunity for me to try out the iPad for note-taking in real time. Using the Brushes app, I prepared the title in advance for Bob Munroe’s session, “Let a thousand iPads bloom” and took notes during the presentation. This was an interesting experience, as the conference was about using mobile technologies, and I was using mobile technology to visually represent the content. This particular presentation title really caught my imagination, and I was eager to record it mostly for that reason (of course, it also interested me because I was eager to hear how other institutions in Qatar are introducing/supporting mLearning). Interestingly, the speaker’s metaphor of choice was actually sunflowers (not tulips, as I had prepared), as they apparently are low-maintenance and you can scatter the seeds haphazardly and they will grow where they fall.This was the “Carnegie Mellon approach” represented in my recording through several themes that Bob Monroe highlighted.

As you will see from the youtube video (below) showing the brushstrokes from start to finish, earlier notes are sketched in hastily to ensure I am capturing the main ideas of the lecture. Later, I went back and did some post-session editing to add some finesse to the lettering and a few more visuals.

I am currently working on an iMovie with voiceovers, which I am editing for length and to smooth out some of the rough edges (like the part where I messed up the layers). I hope to have the edited version ready to share in the near future, but in the meantime this one might be interesting for you to see the unedited process from beginning to end. Please view it in full-screen mode so you can read the text!

I welcome your feedback and suggestions!

Below is text from the script for the iMovie of my recording, which summarizes the main points from this conference session (I used the abstract for the session to make sure I included all of the key points set out by the presenter):

As Bob discussed in his session, over the past two years Carnegie Mellon Qatar has made a deliberately unfocused effort to substantially increase their use of mobile computing devices for education, integrate them with teaching and meta-curricular activities, and make them ubiquitous throughout the campus. After conducting a poll of university staff and faculty, it was recognized that opinions on exactly how to approach the introduction of mobile technologies on campus were polarized.

Despite this lack of agreement, an executive decision was made to try to incorporate one type of mobile technology – iPads. iPads were purchased and provided to faculty, Computer Science post-graduate students, and the campus library for students to borrow.

While it appears the initial financial investment is paying off, it remains to be seen whether the iPads will be utilized in more focused ways to enhance learning environments on campus.

As Dr. Munroe observed, there appear to be limitless opportunities to use iPads in interesting ways in education, but the question remains…HOW will educators accomplish this?

Rather than pursue an aggressive top-down program, a very “Carnegie Mellon” approach was chosen. This involved making devices, time, and energy available to faculty and students and encouraging them to experiment and report back on what they discovered – what works well, what doesn’t work so well, and how to make effective use of the devices and their ubiquitous network connectivity.  

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Recording the Great Teachers Seminar…

The Great Teachers 1-day Seminar facilitated by Mike McHargue and dozens of other small-group facilitators at College of the North Atlantic – Qatar on Tuesday March 6, 2012 was a unique take on the usual 3-day retreat format created by David Gottshall.

It was exciting to see the staff filing into the gymnasium for their Professional Development day, as this was the biggest group I have recorded and I knew it would be challenging. With the plotter paper taped and markers poised, I began the poster with the title while the introductions were made and seats taken.

The small group sessions were tricky, but I circulated with my large notepad, taking quick notes when ideas or phrases caught my attention and/or imagination. I am particularly happy when people use metaphors, and if you look closely at the poster, you will see which ones facilitated images and symbols.

The day brought a lot of sharing of expertise and narratives from participants. I particularly enjoyed the 6-word essays about what a “great teacher” is. You can see those in the little banners that appear around the edges of the poster.

All in all, it was a fantastic learning experience. I spent the day at the poster (from about 8am-3pm) and then another 2 hours or so the next day finishing up and adding the 6-word essays. Because the many facilitators had taken their own notes and I was unable to keep up with the afternoon sessions, I also referred to those notes to synthesize the ideas represented in the “blocks” on the poster. I had some help with this, thankfully, as by that time it started to feel like overkill. Looking at the poster now, I feel it is very text-heavy and not enough of the pictures really “pop”…perhaps because of the mono-chromatic theme of each discussion topic. These are the things I am learning as I gain more experience. That is the amazing thing about graphic recording – I learn so much each time I do it.

I definitely prefer capturing the process in real time, as opposed to aiming for the inclusion of other people’s notes. In this particular seminar, it made sense for the organizers, as they wanted me to represent the contributions of as many participants as possible. However, having done this, I think a smaller group is best (for me), and I am happy to take responsibility for synthesizing the ideas that seem most relevant to the aims of the group and the client. I believe this is the role of the graphic recorder, after all.

On another note, I felt comfortable recording this session, as it dealt with issues of teaching and learning – which also happen to be my area of expertise. I am currently scheduling some sessions with groups outside of my immediate field to see how I do when the jargon is unfamiliar and I am a little out of my element.

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Graphic Recording at Great Teachers Seminar March 2012

College of the North Atlantic – Qatar Professional Development day-long session captured here

Recording the Great Teachers Retreat in Al Khor…

Recording this session on March 2, 2012 was a lot of fun. I was recruited at the last minute after one of the organizers saw some iPad visual recording I had done at the Technology in Higher Education Conference on February 27-28th. I arrived at the resort in Al Khor at about 7:30am and began recording one of the small groups at about 9:30am. I started with the “problems” in the top left corner (see photo). This was a lively group and their facilitator did a great job of ensuring everyone spoke and responded to one another before moving on to the next person’s “problem”.

Throughout most of the day, I circulated and took my own notes of various group discussions on the different themes, synthesizing on the poster continuously. By late afternoon, I requested that the small group facilitators take notes on the final discussion before dinner to give me time to catch up on the poster. Time is a challenge with larger groups and large spaces, but I am learning how to deal with these issues each time I do another session.

This was the longest session I have ever done, and it felt like a marathon day. I wonder how other graphic recorders deal with fatigue and information overload during long sessions.

One of the best aspects of this experience was the ‘browsing’ by participants throughout the day. People would stroll by at the breaks and chat with each other about the themes and images coming to life on the poster. One participant commented that she could hear her own voice when she read it. That made my day and her comment stays with me now whenever I am representing people’s ideas in this way.

This year’s Great Teachers Retreat Qatar was sponsored by:

  • Weill-Cornell Medical College in Qatar
  • Qatar University
  • College of the North Atlantic – Qatar
  • University of Calgary – Qatar
  • Northwestern University in Qatar
  • Texas A&M Qatar
  • Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar
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We have liftoff!

Welcome to my blog!

This space will be dedicated to my work as a graphic recorder/facilitator. I hope it will inspire someone the way other visual artists’ blogs have inspired me. 

I have to be honest…this is not my first attempt to keep a blog. My past attempts have failed. It seems my filter is too strong and the inner critic armed with endless censors and excuses. I hope this time will be different and I will feel free to share the things I create, as well as things I stumble on in my searching for still more ideas, resources, and artistic catalysts.

Enjoy! I welcome your feedback and suggestions – perhaps your comments will motivate me to keep the momentum going.