Saturday, March 06, 2010

How to Create a Sandbox for Learning

Beth Kanter and I met at a workshop for foundations last fall. She loved the concept of Network Weaving and we decided to spend some time figuring out the synergies between Network Weaving and social media. We decided to use a call line she had but Skype would work as well. Meanwhile, she set up a little exercise for us to do, which she described on a google doc she set up.


1. Create 3-5 slide powerpoint with photos that defines/explain network weaving and your key ah ha from session
2. Upload into SlideShare
3. Put in the Network Weavers Group
4. Comment on someone elses slides
5. Create a new deck based on feedback and/or remixing the other person's

I invited a friend. Good thing as Deborah was the only one who did the assignment! Beth then took us to and showed us how to search the Creative Commons (free to use) pictures there. She was sharing her desktop but letting us make decisions about what pictures to use. It was lots of fun! We noticed the power of slides with only a few words – the image was what had the power to help people get new concepts.

I went back and made a new deck, using yarn and knitting images to represent network weaving and feeling a great sense of accomplishment. We invited several addition friends to the next session, and it was great to meet some new people. We got on Slideshare again and Beth talked about how people loved puppies and babies and so we made a deck using images of kids. Beth always had us spend the last half hour reflecting on what we had done. This time we noted the importance of helping people make an emotional connection to concepts to help them better remember and apply them.

In the next few sessions, a major shift took place. Someone else helped set up the next time using At each meeting, we’d decide what we wanted to learn or talk about. Sometimes we explored new social media: Google Wave, web-based project management, etc Sometimes we had clinics, where one person asked for advice. Sometimes we spent most of the time deeply introducing ourselves to each other. But what ever we did, we laughed a lot, appreciated each other and reflected on what we had learned.

After Beth’s initial guidance, there was no designated leader, not even a coordinator: we all took responsibility for making sure the needed tasks got done, we all took notes together (which is possible on google docs), and we took turns facilitating as needed (watching the time, making sure we spent time on reflection). This kind of collaboration can work!

I encourage others to start a sandbox of your own. All you do is invite a few friends to a skype call and figure out what you want to learn or do together. Let me know how it works out!

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