Category Archives: Graphic Recording Reflections

Me in a Nutshell: Assignment 1 for Alphachimp Rockstar Scribe Course

Me in a Nutshell: Assignment 1 for Alphachimp Rockstar Scribe Course

I started the Rockstar Scribe course today and this was the product. The assignment was to introduce yourself to the class by representing responses to guiding questions about your life, preferences, and goals. I took some time to do this – about 2 hours in total, so it’s far more than I would spend on a typical real-time sketchnote, and because I had time to sit and plan and ponder, I think the outcome is better than most of my real-time sketchnotes/recordings. Or maybe I’m just improving?

I was thinking a lot about my learning trajectory for graphic recording/scribing today as I was outlining my goals for this course. I know I haven’t hit my 10,000 hours yet, which is what it’s supposed to take for you to be adept at a skill. So, I’ll continue chipping away at it, and hope to see some marked improvements over the next few weeks/months as I work through this course and consider the various techniques and tools presented throughout.

To me, the feedback is really one of the most important pieces of the puzzle other than practice and application. I want to learn from people who’ve done their 10,000 hours (or whatever that means in other terms of reference). That’s what I’m looking for most from this course and from sharing all of the work that I share in my various learning networks.

So, please feel free to share your thoughts on my work. What would you do differently? Are there strategies or resources that you can recommend which might help me to take a different approach to something or learn more about a particular area? I’m open to hearing your thoughts! That’s why I share 🙂


Creative Journalling Workshop #2

In our second iteration of the Creative Journalling Workshop with graphic recording, Paula and I decided that it might be worthwhile to focus more attention on the process of writing and the purpose of using a visual element in creative writing. We thought this might help with better defining my role (i.e., staying true to the purpose of graphically recording for the sake of producing a record of the event for future reference/inspiration) for the participants. Interestingly, this second group seemed to better connect with our original vision of supplementing and facilitating inspiration visually, as well as reaching individuals through various approaches (as opposed to verbal or purely text-based prompts).

It is also interesting to me that during the session, I really enjoyed creating the poster, and I felt very relaxed with this group. The participants were complimentary and the group had a positive and vibrant energy. However, looking at my poster today with fresh eyes, I see that it is one of my worst works yet! So much blank space…Not sure exactly what I was saving all that space for! Also, a lot of the text is really small and it looks quite sloppy to me. I still like elements of it…particularly the herbs and spices from the “If I were a herb or spice, I would be…” activity. This prompt was really cool, and I loved the responses. You can see that contrary to the first workshop, I decided not to include the names. This saved me time for drawing and colouring, and it is also in keeping with my realization that general is better than too specific in this case.

One of the highlights of this session for me was the “I didn’t know I loved…” prompt. I actually got out my pad of paper for this one, as I was really inspired to jot down a few ideas of my own. I just couldn’t resist. The primary purpose of these workshops is to help participants record “starts” or initial ideas that might lead to further development or inspiration at a later time. In the spirit of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, the workshop simply gets people to put pen to paper and write. In the group setting with that gentle “push” to actually write without sensoring or judging, I had the sense that the participants appreciated the opportunity to have this time devoted only to writing. I told Paula that I might like to sign up as a participant the next time around!

Creative Journalling Workshop #1

So Paula and I decided to dive right in and try an experiment in combining her creative journalling workshop wtih elements of graphic recording. We invited members of the community who had attended Paula’s workshops previously, as well as new participants, and the response was overwhelming (well, for me anyway…Paula is probably used to receiving such a positive response to her popular workshops).

Our idea was that she would facilitate the workshop as usual – helping participants to get words on paper through a series of writing prompts, timed activities, and optional sharing of one’s work. In the meantime, I would record the highlights as I normally do during facilitated sessions. The plan was to see how graphic recording might inspire these writers visually as they worked with text, ideas, and some of their own visual prompts. In addition, we thought that having a visual record of the evening might also be a nice way to honour the participants and some of the ideas they shared at the session.

I enjoyed the evening immensely. It was interesting to record this unique experience, and as an instructor of English language learners, it was a treat to listen to English speakers articulating their creative thoughts and stories so eloquently and thoughtfully. It reminded me that having an ‘artistic community’ is something I am missing here.

Despite enjoying the experience, however, Paula and I weren’t so sure that the merging of creative journalling and graphic recording actually “worked” in the sense that we had imagined it might. For example, I wondered if the graphic recording ended up as a kind of superfluous distraction that didn’t really add anything to the workshop at all. As the writers were all quite independent and skilled at their craft, they didn’t really seem to need more than the prompts from Paula, so our idea that the poster might inspire the participants didn’t seem to come to fruition with this group.

In addition, the recording itself proved somewhat difficult, as I realized quickly after beginning with the “If I were a colour…” introductions that getting details from the writers might not be the best approach. I started to think that perhaps a more general “feel” for the session might be best, particularly with the possible goal of using the poster as future inspiration. I thought that getting too detailed might be stifling, whereas more general depictions might encourage more freedom in future brainstorming sessions.

Overall, it was a terrific experience in a number of ways – to see how the workshop runs (and get some ideas for my own creative writing!), to try something new and to work a little outside-the-box with graphic recording, and to share this experience with a group of interesting and creative people. It was a pleasure to be a part of this experiment and to brainstorm ways that we might improve it in our next session.

Note: the picture I have attached here is not quite finished, as I am trying to work with individual “quilt blocks” created by the participants in one of the writing activities. My plan is to work them into the empty squares if possible. I will post an update when this happens! As you can see, the poster displays some of the highlights of the actual writing prompts (i.e., Remembering a photograph, This is the hand that…, etc.). It also contains short excerpts from the found poetry activity that captured my imagination (“dead at foot of castle wall…”, “life is fine, fine as wine…”, etc.). It will be interesting to see how the next session emerges with an entirely different group!

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Appreciative Inquiry #2

Appreciative Inquiry #2

My second AI session was with a group of AI facilitators-in-training in mid-April. The group was fantastic – energetic, inquisitive, and full of great metaphors and creative ideas. I was inspired by the AI materials and their use of the daisy, so I incorporated the flowers as a tool to organize group contributions. However, organization continues to pose challenges for me in real-time situations. I guess this is always a challenge – choosing what to write, how to represent it (i.e., text, pictures, which pictures will evoke the best connection to the original idea, etc.) and where to put it on the poster. If I over-think this part, I am immobilized and waste valuable time that I could be using for listening and filtering more from the group. If I start committing too soon, I may miss an opportunity for more appropriate placement of ideas. I’m not getting too stressed about this in the moment, as I think it could ruin the entire experience; however, I do reflect on this process afterwards and wonder whether and how I could have done things differently.

I was particularly pleased with the content of this poster, as I again was pressed for time – 1.5 hours total and no post-session edits. There is a lot of white space, but it seems to work with this particular poster. The colours are appealing, and I think I was able to really capture the essence of the entire segment I attended.

There was a lot of interest from the group about graphic recording, and the facilitators invited me to come back at the end of the week to give a short presentation on my experiences of graphic recording – specifically in the 2 AI sessions I have done.

I am even more eager to complete the AI facilitator training now, as I think it will give me more insights into the process that will help me to provide better representations of these sessions.

Thank you to the attendees of this group, who were so complimentary and enthusiastic about having me record their session. It was a pleasure to meet you all, and to be involved in your training week!

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Appreciate Inquiry #1

AI session part 2 for Science Instructors

I attended this session, which was part 2 of an Appreciative Inquiry process for Science Instructors in early April. I attended for approximately 1.5 hours, which I didn’t feel was long enough, but as I am still volunteering my services for practice, it was all I could afford during an already full week. The group was welcoming and enthusiastic, so this helped with my energy during the session. Graphic recording is much like teaching in this way for me – I feed off the energy of the group and it definitely affects both process and product.

I had initially set out to do this particular session because I thought it might involve “science-y” language that would challenge me beyond the usual education-based recordings I’ve done. I am also interested in learning more about the Appreciative Inquiry process, and hope to complete the facilitator’s training workshop in the coming year, so this was my first taste of the inner workings of this approach. While the Science instructors focused more on education topics than on specific Science topics, I incorporated some science-themes in the drawings (fortune teller excluded!). The AI approach and materials also seem to lend themselves nicely to metaphor and design; for example, “energy” themes. I look forward to representing more AI sessions in the future.

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Doha Debates – A lesson in notetaking with Brushes

This is a slide showing my notes from Doha Debates on March 19th, 2012. I had the opportunity to attend the live taping of the debate thanks to a colleague who managed to snag me a ticket (thank you!!). The audience comments and questions were intriguing and informative, while the panel itself left much to be desired for this particular debate. I was happy to have the chance to attend and see how it all happens behind the scenes. It was also another chance to try out my note taking skills using Brushes.

I struggled with whether to post this as-is. You can see where I got tired/lazy and my handwriting gets sloppy. I’ve been meaning to edit this slide, but things are piling up, and I’d rather share it unedited, than keep it too long and not want to share it at all. This is a test of my perfectionism – to let something go before it’s polished to my liking. So, here it is – warts and all! If I do get around to editing the slide, I will certainly post the edited version for comparison.

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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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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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