Flexing Facilitation Muscles at UBCO

I’ve been spending time the last couple of months reading and watching videos about facilitation online and face-to-face, and discussing the possibilities of different techniques with colleagues and FLO (Facilitating Learning Online) workshop participants. But I have had limited opportunities to really test out new approaches with other experienced facilitators, so I was thrilled to have the chance to “flex some facilitator muscle” with Sylvia Currie and Beth Cougler Blom during several face-to-face events hosted at Kelowna’s amazing UBCO campus.

1.  May 31 – FLO Enthusiasts gathering

a visual illustration of FLO development

The flow of FLO

BCcampus manager, Sylvia Currie, organized a one day gathering of FLO-FDO enthusiasts (Facilitating Learning Online and Facilitator Development Online workshops) at UBC’s beautiful Okanagan campus. The session objectives and intentions were diverse and emergent and our audience was knowledgeable and open to sharing and exploring. What a great environment to try a range of facilitation practices!

SylviaC started us off by “setting the scene” for participants with less knowledge of the development of FLO workshops.

Purpose to Practice wall chartBeth got us rolling by introducing the Purpose to Practice structure  (a Liberating Structures technique) that we planned to use to keep us on track and support the varied facilitation techniques we were going to explore.

We created a wall chart of the structure to allow us to refocus throughout the day and to collect the outcomes of different explorations. At the end of each activity, coloured notes (Post-its) containing the essential findings/suggestions were posted to the relevant “petal”.

slide Low Tech Social NetworkI took the opportunity to try a new approach (new to me!) to warm up the group – a Low Tech Social Network game from Gamestorming. As the “enthusiasts” didn’t all know each other, it was a creative way to have them share something about themselves, what FLO meant to them and to take a few minutes to see what they had in common with others. The integration of simple drawings and having to post their avatars on the wall seemed to be really effective. We also used the “network” wall later in the day to brainstorm the additional people we would have liked to have at our session.

CoverStory-slideBeth tried another Gamestorming technique “Cover Story” that challenges participants “think big” by creating a magazine cover that “tells the story” of  what things would look like several years in the future. Our challenge was: “What would the widespread adoption of FLO look like by 2020?”

The activity generated a lot of concentrated work and some bursts of laughter. The storytelling by each group was rich and diverse. I had wondered whether the need to make the story visual would slow down the creative sharing but it didn’t – and allowing them to speak about the cover story made it more meaningful for everyone.

SC-principlesWe switched back to Liberating Structures to identify our “rules” or Principles (from the Purpose to Practice chart). I started them with Min Specs and asked them to think about “must dos and must not dos” to help us achieve our purpose. My estimate of time was way off as people began generating a list of maximum specifications and then consolidating the items and voting on the most important (what couldn’t we do without) “rules”.

We had planned to follow Min Specs with 25/10 Crowdsourcing (moving from listing ideas to thinking “big picture” again) but we consulted during their group work (the joy of working with two experienced facilitators is the flexibility and imaginative problem-solving that becomes possible!).

SC-networkWe rejigged and simplified the remainder of the afternoon to ensure that everyone had a chance to share.

We drew them back to the Low Tech Social Network wall to collect ideas about the additional people (Participants) they thought would be important to achieving our Purpose – we had people write the titles or people or organizations (not specific names) and post them around the perimeter of the network wall.

Beth refocused the group on thinking about Structures and Practices how each person thought we could re-organize to distribute control (Structures) and to identify next steps (Practices).

SylviaC pulled the day together by facilitating an open sharing and storytelling circle (a very loose circle) to allow each person to share their final thoughts about what we’d accomplished and what lay ahead.

By the end of the day we had learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t about the facilitation techniques we’d chosen and we had a very useful collection of ideas and artifacts that we’re still distilling to guide us further.

2.  Jun 1, 2 – ETUG’s Spring Jam Workshop

During our planning for the May 31st session, we talked about putting in a proposal for ETUG’s spring workshop. Somewhere along the way (I blame Beth), we ended up putting in three proposals and all three were accepted.

One of the sessions was fairly straightforward – we wanted to engage participants in our “wicked question” – how to spread FLO. We discussed different facilitation strategies and came up with a plan.

But the real challenge was designing our two “linked” sessions to explore two phases of Human Centered Design Thinking. How could we make that work in under two hours without knowing whether the participants from the first session would continue on into the 2nd session? How could we develop useful ideas with so little time and with participants that we couldn’t study or whose experiences we couldn’t share directly?  I wouldn’t have tried this alone but, I decided that it was definitely possible with Beth leading the way as she’d applied different aspects of this approach in her co-teaching and previous facilitation work.

Quick note:  We used the Human-centered Design Thinking approaches developed by IDEO (an internationally recognized design firm) – you can explore the resources on their Design Kit site

sketchnote Beth-Sylvia sessionsThe basic outline of our plan – thanks to @BarbaraBerry  pic.twitter.com/QuSNVcebwV

Session 1:  Inspiration

  • Introduce our Wicked Challenge:

How might BC higher educational institutions effectively share quality teaching and learning resources with each other?

  • Analogous Inspiration method:  provide different examples of sharing systems that participants might know. Ask them to work in groups and gather their thoughts about “behaviours” “activities” “emotions” they had experienced or might anticipate
  • Expert Interviews method:  provide participants with a guiding question sheet. Have them work in pairs (an interviewer to pose questions; a recorder to record the answers). Participants could choose to divide into threes and interview each other OR a pair could go out into the hallways and find people to interview.
  • Core insights and key learnings:  participants were given time to reflect and record their key learnings from each activity. What insights and thoughts had they had that might suggest a potential solution to our challenge?

Key learnings sheets were collected to be shared during the next session.

Session 2:  Ideation

  • Introduce(remind participants) of our Wicked Challenge
  • Distribute the Key Learnings sheets
  • Bundle Ideas method:  we allowed time for participants to work together to understand the items on the sheets and to consolidate them to develop one list of ideas (grouping ideas that seemed very similar). We hoped to have the group review the top ideas from each small group and to use a dotmocracy approach to identify the top ideas that we might prototype. We decided, because of time constraints, to try to get the group to identify one idea to develop.
  • Concept development methodsFrameworks and Map the Journey  I intended to ask participants to identify the elements of a system (suggested by their top idea) that might provide a prototype of a solution we could design. The 2nd step would have been to draw a map of what a user would experience as they utilized the system and moved between the parts or structures of the framework.

We adapted the concept development approach to ask people to draw a representation of their solution to the one potential solution that the group had identified. Groups were given a chance to quickly explain their drawing and solution.

Although the time limits made this very challenging, we did get some creative thinking happening and some thoughtful suggestions about practical steps to develop the idea maps further. During the Ideation session, I think we would have benefited from allowing the groups to identify different “top” ideas and develop their idea in any way they chose (drawing, oral description, storyboards, lists).

My overall learning about these sessions – good practice for guiding people through complex thinking tasks but the real value of “human centered” design thinking isn’t really possible to explore in such a limited timeframe.

I came away from our facilitation “workouts” with a renewed appreciation of the importance of humour, understanding and patience to support new learning. It would have been impossible to become a stronger facilitator without those elements – from my co-facilitators and our participants.

Further learning:


Exploring and learning at ETUG’s 2017 Spring Jam

Education by Design Spring Jam 2017Just back (actually it’s been nearly two weeks!) from a challenging, fun exploration of ideas, innovations, edtech stories and design practices at UBC Okanagan (a sunny, stormy beautiful campus in Kelowna). Another ETUG event that introduced me to new people and projects and left me with lots to think about and new ideas of my own to try for the future. A great way to start a summer break.

1.  How People Learn Plenary (Dr. Peter Newbury)

Dr. Newbury’s fast-paced, humorous and interactive exploration of three key findbeginner to expertings from the well-known National Academy of Science book “How People Learn.” was a great introduction to the Spring Jam. While I was familiar with the National Academies book, I appreciated his efforts to engage us in different ways we could help students “move from ignorance to expertise.” I chuckled at his explanation of how students move from “unconscious incompetence” to “conscious, competence” as I remembered my first university classes.

Further learning:

2.  Wikipedia Edit-a-thon   (Will Engle, and Christina Hendriks, UBC)

An “Edit-a-thon” is “..an organized event where editors of online communities such as Wikipedia edit and improve a specific topic or type of content, typically including basic editing training for new editors.” Will and Christina shared their experiences working with students to edit Wikipedia articles and got us all to dig in and try some simple editing tasks.

I attended to see how UBC had approached Wikipedia assignments as we’d tried something like this at Yukon College in 2003 or 2004 (without success). I’m not sure it’s much easier because of all the resources and supports available from Wikipedia; it seems as though the rules have grown (even though Wikipedia says it has no rules!) and the process has become more complex. But Christina and Will provided compelling evidence of transformational learning possibilities and shared a handout to follow if you’re interested.

Steps for planning Wikipedia student learning sessions:

  • familiarize yourself with the rules – remember the 5 pillars
  • provide introductory “easy” editing activities for students
  • determine whether writing articles or simply contributing editing “muscle” is the learning you’re looking for? Design your students’ assignment
  • Allow time to acquaint students with Wikipedia policies, explore “good” article structure, practice how to use the wiki, learn how to interact with Wikipedia community editors!
  • Connect with UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning & Technology for assessment structures

Further learning:

3.  Student-driven OER, 3D modeling and virtual reality tours – the next wave of OER creation and adaptation in BC  Rosario Passos, BCIT

Rosario spent the last year with BCcampus to work on open projects.  During her session, she shared some outstanding examples of co-creation of open resources with students and faculty at UBC and Camosun (funded by the BCcampus Open Education grant funding). Professor Christina Hendriks was in the audience and shared her experiences working on the development of the Open Case Studies Project at UBC.

The final portion of Rosario’s presentation focused on the upcoming BCcampus OER deadline – June 16th – new funding for ancillary resource creation, OER creation, Zed-Cred degrees

4.  Open Pedagogy: Making Learning Visible through Live, Reflective and Co-created Experiences   (Liesel Knaack, and Michael Paskevicius, VIU)

Open-LiesslMichaelIt’s not about open textbooks, or open pedagogy, or OERs! It’s about “…making of learning visible through community engagement and the design of authentic and lived learning experiences.” Liesel Knaack challenged the audience to move beyond definitions of “open” to focus on ways to make learning more meaningful, relevant and useful to students. Michael Paskevicius supported our understanding through the session by sharing useful models of openness – Attributes of Open Pedagogy B. Hegarty 2015 and Degrees of Openness, C. Hodgkinson-Williams and E. Gray 2009. Hopefully he’ll share his slides soon – keep an eye on his Slideshare channel!

Some examples of visible learning at VIU:

5.  Applying Design Principles and Collaborative, Visual Techniques to “Modules”  (Barbara Berry, Educational Consultant, SFU TLC Team)

Jumpstart presentation SFUJumpstart is an initiative between the Teaching and Learning Centre at SFU and the Faculty of Health Sciences aimed at supporting tenure track faculty to create “shareable” educational resources. They shared developing examples of design thinking approaches using storyboards, visual mapping, diagrams and templates

SFU TLC Team: John Born, Christina Drabik, Kar On Lee, David Rubeli, Robyn Schell, Jason Toal, Sarah Turner, Duane Woods, Gabe Wong. 

I don’t have much to share from this session as it was more about collecting our feedback and involving us in the story than about sharing actual outcomes – the project is in the early stages.

Keep an eye out for my next post. This year was the first time I’d stepped forward to lead an ETUG session, and, in the spirit of “if it’s worth doing…”, I was a co-facilitator of three different sessions with Beth Cougler Blom and Sylvia Currie.  I’ll do a separate post to share what I learned about different facilitation techniques (design thinking methods and a few ideas from Gamestorming) plus some of the creative ideas that participants shared with us about our “big” questions!