Sunday, May 11, 2014

Intellectual Estuaries

I take no credit for the use of this excellent metaphor for thinking about new spaces for productivity and learning, but Alice MacGillivray has been engaging people in conversations related to intellectual estuaries and boundary spanning for years. Next week I have the honour of co-facilitating the Intellectual Estuaries workshop with Alice and Nancy White at the 2014 Canadian Network for Innovation in Education conference in Kamloops. I'm excited to be collaborating with these fun and amazing women!

Nancy spinning the agenda, photo by Alan Levine

Alice engaging the twitterverse during a Community Enthusiast event, photo by Hilda Anggraeni

I was fortunate to be Alice's Dissertation Fest "host" at CPsquare in 2008 where she invited us to explore ideas around boundaries, the topic of her dissertation: Perceptions and Uses of Boundaries by Respected Leaders — a Trans-disciplinary Inquiry.

Later, Alice co-facilitated the Vancouver Gathering of Community Enthusiasts events in May 2010May 2011, and June 2012 and each time introduced new metaphors, technologies, and ways of thinking about engagement.

As I was digging into the workshop planning with Alice and Nancy, I was transported back to the 2010 Community Enthusiasts event where, thanks to Alice's facilitation and Nancy's excellent visuals, we harvested quite a collection of thought-provoking ideas and questions related to working across boundaries, and informal and formal learning and meeting places. It's a great example of the power of metaphors for thinking about, and rethinking, communities of practice and social learning. I'm capturing it here in point form (partially because I don't trust Flickr will be with us forever!):

Sticky comments by participants:
- Reflection:
* group still together?
* getting big pictures?
* check in
* change leadership?

- Time to strategize
* Are we going in the right direction?
* check gear - are we ok?
- Places of discovery

- A landmark
* charts the course

- Time to slow down (deliberate)
* look around (back and forward)
* a luxury (build it into the project!)
* do it when things go wrong...reframe the problem

- Can be treacherous
* current flow changes...could dump!
* tough to get out of eddy
* Is that where you want to go?

Sticky comments by participants: 
- understanding the value of not trying to bring together things that don't mix
- Too much diversity too soon can be a problem. Need to grow organically.
- Things from 'outside' are sometimes seen as having more value
- Narrowing too quickly can be a problems too
- Keeping history and noting significance so that later-comers can understand value of confluence

Sticky comments by participants:
- History of community
- Mutualism = give and take
- Community: time, goal, project durations
- Power players
- Partnership?
- Goal is mutualism
- There are builders, users, and mutualizers
- Communities across boundaries

Sticky comments by participants:
- Individual vs communal migration
- hibernation, going dormant for awhile...allows new leadership to take over
- Difficult to report on metrics
- How to measure vibrancy?
- Are there scenarios of over population in online communities?
- Migration pathways...what they tell us of needs/habits of communities
- Migration as a with change of season...return, journey between communities
- Collective of smaller communities -- allows for more movement
- What are the attributes of a community that encourage you to stay or go?
- Migrating can break cliques
- Something to be embraced...constant growth sustainable?
- Carrying capacity

Sticky comments by participants:
- Keep people and situations focused
- Interpretation of what $s are for
- Leaders can be the less likely!
- Different world views
- Personal comfort levels -- what is good for one is not necessarily good for another
- Resource management
- Don't all look the same
- Nurturing place of socialization
- Place for establishing community
- Protection
- Tendency to interfere -- knowing when to, or not!
- History and change...collision vs opportunities
- # Beavers -- food source, protection, MAJOR accomplishments
- Provide a safe place, risk management, experimentation

And finally, I included this one because the little people pulling Alice to the edge of her boundary is such a good example of how crossing it make a difference: "Alice goes public!"

For the Intellectual Estuaries workshop at CNIE, we want to support this same type of energy, using metaphor to encourage rich conversations. In a nutshell, we hope participants will think about their own contexts, and how intersections of groups, disciplines, cultures, locations, age... whatever... can create new synergies. As Alice puts it, these intersections are not a guarantee for success, but they can make space for unplanned successes.

Workshop Details and Plan

We didn't prepare slides for the workshop. Rather we gathered some resources and outlined the activities on Nancy's Full Circle wiki. I'm copying it here because it's always good to have a backup!

Intellectual Estuaries

In nature, estuaries are meeting places. Fresh water, salt water and land come together, enabling productivity and biodiversity that is greater than the sum of its parts. Similarly, university faculty members and learning and development professionals may be able to create—or enable the creation of “intellectual estuaries.” These spaces bring together often-unlikely groups of people for learning that can be greater than the sum of the knowledge they bring.

Design of these spaces involves boundary spanning or blurring, openness to possibility, productive tensions and inherent ambiguities. Intellectual estuary design is to traditional instructional design what the un-conference is to the conference.
(Full description on

Overview from Alice MacGillivray

Alice is unable to join the workshop because of a scheduling conflict, so she prepared this video for us. Now she has a workshop presence without being there. Good boundary spanning, eh?

Estuaries: Community Meeting Places

An image to help us get our heads into estuaries as a metaphor.

Organizational Charts - Why is this model so tenacious?

Underneath, workplaces look like this

What Alice has to say about that

The Problem? 

Creative work and progress in communities of practice doesn't filter back to the centre.

From Gerald Midgley et al: Theory and Practice of Boundary Critique

Our challenge

Interesting Stuff happens at the boundaries. How can we pay attention to that?
How can we apply these ideas to our own contexts?
What are the boundaries we have set up? How can we make them more permeable?
How can we bring together unlikely groups of people? Who would they be?

Our Stories

Alice has some excellent examples demonstrating Intellectual Estuaries based on her own experiences at Royal Roads University (RRU) and CPSquare, and also Fielding Graduate University.  The story I'm most familiar with is collaboration between RRU and CPSquare, where members of a course KM 650 (can't find the title!) participated in the CPSquare Foundation of Communities of Practice workshop as part of their course requirements. 

Activity: 25/10

(from Liberating Structures)

1. Write down your bold idea
2. Mill around, pass your card to someone else, quickly review


3. Stop passing cards and pair up with someone nearby. Exchange thoughts.
4. Rate the idea on the card you are holding using a score of 1-5 (5 is high). Write the score on the back of the card.


5. Continue to pass cards around


6. Repeat 3 more times | Exchange > BELL > Exchange > BELL > Exchange > BELL

7. Add up the score on the card you are holding

8. Report out from those holding a score of 25, then 24, and so on until top 10 ideas have been shared

9. Comments on process?

Next Steps

I plan to take photos and report back on this session and others at the CNIE conference. Here's the full schedule.

See Share Create Visual E-Interviews

Webinar: See Share Create Visual E-Interviews

Monday May 12 17:00/10 am PDT, 1 pm EDT

Must interview questions be asked and answered with words? Learn to use videoconferencing, web conferencing technologies for elicitation techniques with graphics, photos & media and collaborative methods to generate visual data within the online interview.

More information and resources here: No registration, just log into Blackboard Collaborate for the webinar: 

This is the final live event of the book launch series hosted by the SCoPE community to celebrate the release of Qualitative Online Interviews

Monday, May 5, 2014

Qualitative Online Interviews

Last week we kicked off a 2-week SCoPE seminar on Quality in Online Interview Research. Although the discussions coincide with Janet Salmon's upcoming book: Qualitative Online Interviews, the purpose of the seminar is to have a conversation and share resources, so anyone involved in online interview research (isn't that most of us?) will be able to dig in.

The asynchronous forum discussion is anchored on 2 webinars:

Webinar: Fair & Good? Ethics & Quality in Online Interview Research
When: Monday May 5, 2014 at 10:00 am PDT (see your time zone)
Where: SCoPE Blackboard Collaborate Room
Description: When reflecting on your own design or completed study, when reviewing student work-- or serving as a peer reviewer-- what should you look for in qualitative studies that use data collected online? What ethical questions should be considered?

Webinar: See, Share, Create: Visual E-Interviews 
When: Monday, May 12, 2014 at 10:00 am PDT (see your time zone)
Where: SCoPE Blackboard Collaborate Room
There's also a tweet chat Tweetchat #NSMNSS scheduled for Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 7:00 am PDT: 5 Tips for Teaching E-Interview Methods

Go to the SCoPE seminar forum for all the details and conversations.  The book will be released May 13, 2014 from Sage Publications.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

MicroSCoPE: A closer look at what's happening in SCoPE

MicroSCoPE: A closer look at what's happening in SCoPE
Still Time to Register!
Thompson Rivers University, in beautiful Kamloops, British Columbia, is the venue for the year's Canadian Network for Innovation In Education (CNIE) conference, 13 - 16 May, 2014. The theme is "Confluences: Spaces, Places & Cultures for Innovative Learning".
May Activities
Seminar: Qualitative Online Interviews
1 - 16 May, 2014
Facilitator: Janet Salmons
Get ready for an interactive, multi-platform online world book launch and seminar! A Tweetchat, a discussion forum, and webinars will allow for discussion and exchange about strategies for teaching online qualitative or mixed methods, designing and conducting online interview studies, e-research ethics and topics you suggest.
Join in the forum discussion and mark these dates and times for the synchronous sessions:
  • Webinar: Fair and Good? Ethics and Quality in Online Interview Research, Monday, May 5, 2014, 17:00 GMT 
  • Webinar: See, Share, Create: Visual E-Interview, Monday, May 12, 2014, 17:00 GMT 
  • Tweetchat: 5 Tips for Teaching E-Interview Methods #NSMNSS Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 14:00 GMT 
Special Interest Groups
British Columbia Deans of Arts and Sciences Programs (private)
Facilitator: Steve Eccles
A big welcome to members of this group committed to the values and practices of sharing, openness, and innovation.
Educational Technology Users Group - Let's Talk
Facilitator: Leva Lee
ETUG is grassroots group of British Columbia educators interested in teaching, learning and edtech in higher education.
PeriSCoPE - Monthly Web Conferences
About SCoPE
SCoPE brings together individuals who share an interest in educational research and practice, and offers opportunities for dialogue across disciplines, geographical borders, professions, levels of expertise, and education sectors. Our activities are facilitated by volunteers in the community, and membership is free and open to everyone.
SCoPE members receive these email updates automatically. If you prefer to read MicroSCoPE on the web or via RSS, log in and change your settings by clicking onforum administration. Professional learning events and highlights are captured via
We welcome requests to host or promote professional development activities and projects related to teaching and learning. SCoPE is supported by BCcampus. Contact: Sylvia Currie (
Please spread the word about SCoPE!

Vancouver Workshop: Deepening Your Facilitation Practice

This is a workshop I don't want to miss. Sadly, I will, because of a scheduling conflict. However, I highly recommend it to YOU. 

Photo by Alan Levine
I was first introduced to Group Works at the 2012 Gathering of Community Enthusiasts in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dave Pollard led us through an activity using the card deck. I had looked at the deck prior to that, but there's nothing like experiencing it. There are endless possibilities, and this upcoming workshop is an opportunity to explore them. Go!

Calling all project leaders, teachers, facilitators, coaches, public engagement practitioners, non-profit board members, and others whose work involves empowering people to participate in groups, workplaces, and communities in a more dynamic and effective way!
We invite you to attend a professional development session where you will have the opportunity to: 
  • Reflect on your practices
  • Share dilemmas with colleagues
  • Get support on upcoming meeting designs
  • Storyboard events (past and future) to identify opportunities for more effectively employing the patterns of excellent group process
  • Integrate exemplary patterns into your professional life (and start to speak the shared “pattern language” of facilitation)
  • Engage with others who care about these things!
We’ll be using the deck Group Works: A Pattern Language for Bringing Life to Meetings and Other Gatherings as our lens. While familiarity with the deck will be helpful, it’s not essential — you’ll recognize the patterns from your own practice and pick it up quickly.
If you participated in the last workshop Group Pattern Language Project offered in BC, we expect this session will be sufficiently different to make it worth your while to join us again.  
When: Saturday May 24, 10:30am to 4:30pm. A simple soup/salad/bread lunch (vegan & gluten-free) will be provided.
Where: Cranberry Commons Cohousing, 4274 Albert St (at Madison just north of Hastings), Burnaby BC. 
Cost: Sliding scale $25-$150. 
Registration: Please register in advance so your hosts can plan appropriately; sign up at If you have any further questions contact Daniel Lindenberger at
Pre- and post-event Work Sessions: The day before and the day after the workshop we'll be hosting work sessions for those committed to supporting this work:  growing the language, articulating potential new applications, and promoting and nurturing the project. Some of the issues we’ll be exploring are developing curricula for self-guided study of how to use the cards,  new “e-versions” of Group Works, and outreach activities to spread the word. If you'd like to participate or learn more about this, please email Dave (
Led by: Sue Woerhlin, Daniel Lindenberger, & Tree Bressen. To learn more about them, check out the following:
Come participate! and let others know too: This should be a great networking and peer learning opportunity. Hope to see you there!  Please forward this invitation to other people you think might be interested in attending.  
—Daniel Lindenberger and Dave Pollard   Group Pattern Language Project

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Drawing on Walls: Opening Up Visual Practice Possibilities

YAY! Here's another visual facilitation workshop to look forward to! Nancy White is coming to the 2014 CNIE conference at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia to facilitate this one-day workshop and blow our minds with a fabulous keynote. :-)
CNIE Visual Facilitation
Image by Hilda Anggraeni
This one day experiential workshop takes place almost entirely at the drawing surface. We'll start by warming up our drawing muscles and silencing those pesky inner censors. We’ll build some basic drawing practices so we can release our minds and attention to how we can use them at the conference, in our work and any place! We will practise a few examples of participatory graphic facilitation activities. You can expect to go away with your own starter set of icons, ideas and approaches which you can use immediately, links to resources and communities of practice, and ideas about how to hone your practice.

The room is small but we can fit in a few more people so sign up! Guaranteed to be an excellent experience you'll never forget and you'll leave with buckets of ideas on how to apply these new colourful skills in your workplace.
Nancy and I are also facilitating a session with Alice MacGillivray called Making Space for Intellectual Estuaries. More about that later...

Monday, March 10, 2014

5 questions

This is cross-posted from BCcampus. I was interviewed by the fabulous Maria Lironi. I say fabulous despite having just met her. You know how you just immediately connect with people sometimes? She listened to what probably seemed like abrupt advice -- present me as part of a team, and no "yearbook" style photos!

I got a glimpse of her life, too. Maria also rides motorcycles and works from home in an environment surrounded by quiet and wildlife. (Ok, so I ride a scooter, but hey.)

Thoroughly enjoyed the process. It was also nice to get exposure for all we do in professional learning at BCcampus.

As the senior manager of professional learning at BCcampusSylvia Currie is part of team responsible for creating and fostering open learning opportunities for educational professionals across the province.
Sylvia Currie
Sylvia Currie
1. Tell a bit about what you and your team do?
Social learning and open practices are at the core of what we do. We create both informal and formal learning opportunities through face-to-face and online activities, and communities of practice.
This includes workshops, webinars and discussions organized though the Educational Technology Users Group and SCoPE, an international community. Right now there is big focus on adopting and adapting open textbooks.
We also build on existing resources, especially those that have made a positive impact in BC post-secondary institutions.  One such example is the Instructional Skills Workshop Online that was originally developed at RRU as an Open Educational Resource.
2. How does a community of practice benefit post-secondary education?
community of practice brings together people who share in an interest in education research and practice, and provides opportunities for sharing. Geographical borders disappear online as communities of practice have the ability to connects people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact, either as frequently or at all.
3. How is the work that you do influencing post-secondary education in BC and around the world?
Educators say, “I wish I could live in BC!” I think there’s a little bit of open envy. We’ve been nudging the open agenda along for a long time. We also believe there are many advantages to sharing beyond our borders and engaging in dialogue with practitioners around the world.
Good examples are the SCoPE seminar discussions, collaborative partnerships with institutions to offer MOOCs and conferences as well as supporting research projects.
Last year, I travelled to the Universidad de IbaguĂ© in Colombia to give a talk about learning communities and networks at the annual Congreso de PedagogĂ­a y TIC.
4. Why is this work important to you?
This work fits with my philosophies about education—that learning should be a continuous process that invites multiple perspectives, reflective practice, and new, sometimes unplanned, experiences.
I also feel that something very special happens when working with individuals who are motivated to share their time, expertise and work because they want to learn themselves, and to help others.
I came to BCcampus in 2008, and brought with me many, many years of work experience in a variety of roles in British Columbia post secondary education.
It helped that I was already very connected with people across the system— educational technologists, faculty, administrators, and researchers.
5. How does someone access the department’s services?
You can check out our website and calendar. Many of our events are free.

Notable quotes:

Learning should be a continuous process that invites multiple perspectives, reflective practice, and new, sometimes unplanned, experiences. ~ Sylvia Currie
Something very special happens when working with individuals who are motivated to share their time, expertise and work because they want to learn themselves, and to help others. ~ Sylvia Currie

Learn more: