Experiment in writing a half-hour per day: What is writing time?

My experiment in writing a half hour per day is progressing. One month into my writing commitment,  I’ve been able to reflect on what really happens when committing some routine time to “write” about things I’m working towards.

I’m quoting the word “write” because I’ve discovered I spend a lot of time not writing, as sketched below:

Writing time

Writing time for things I’m working toward is actually proving to involve several steps.

Along the way, I’ve learned that I prefer 60-90 minutes of time of “writing time” versus 30 minutes.

Thinking about Writing goals

I’m finding committing time to write regularly is really helping me to be goal focused. I’ve set some personal-professional learning goals for 2014, i.e. “What am I hoping to learn to improve my skills and how can I apply it to my work?” Thus, keeping a spreadsheet with a list of my goals, then generating a list of associated blog posts ideas, complete with a lists of blog post titles (and notes for each)  is one activity I’ve been working on during “writing time” over the past month.

Connecting Ideas with sketchnotes

I’ve also found that doodling/sketchnoting/visual note taking (one of my 2014 learning goals), is helping me jump start the writing process by providing myself with a visual map of what I should write about. It also helps me see the relationship behind the ideas I’m trying to make. One of the realizations I’ve (and many others, I’m sure) have had is that when I try and express my learning in one linear path, it completely chokes my ability to communicate. Drawing something non-linear, seems to be the first step to being able to write something linear, as funny as that may seem.


Next, I’ve been able to write and publish a few blog posts. This is gratifying, even though I’m shooting for 500 words or less and have missed every time!   However,  since my recent realization that making sketchnotes seems to be expediting and streamlining my thought process about what I should write, I think I may be able to achieve this goal for future posts, especially if I can further execute my ‘next steps plan’ (read on further).

Discerning with whom and when to share

I realize the last (and sometimes even the first) part of the equation to writing is discerning with whom and when to share (as Harold Jarche writes). For example, here are some of the questions I consider: Should I write in a paper journal, Evernote journal, this WordPress blog? What blogging tags should I use? Who should I share it with and when should I share it with them? Maybe I should write something and share this with my work team, an online community,  my Personal Learning Network?  What hashtag should I use if I share on Twitter or Google+?

What’s next to keep me “writing”?

As I think about all that is really involved with “writing time”, I’m finding I need more structure or a continuation plan. How will I write less per post, publish more frequently, and write things I and others will find most valuable?

Three next steps plans (outlined in rectangles) for continuing to blog

Next steps plans (outlined in rectangles) for continuing to write on my blog

Here is my next steps plan:

  • Find several tracks or series, where I can gain some momentum by writing blog posts in a series of smaller, but yet connected pieces. I plan to keep a spreadsheet where I can prioritize, schedule, then check off blog post titles and tracks as I complete them.
  • Include writing time into daily priority list. If I’m short on time, discover which of my writing steps can be completed to move me forward to completing a blog post.
  • As I see a list of unfinished blog posts grow, I will likely fold the review of my unfinished posts occasionally into my priority lists, so I can determine what to purge or keep and refine.

So there it is, one month later, I’m finding I’ve made progress in working on putting “writing time” into my daily workflow.  The last observation I’m making here, is that I didn’t originally give myself a commitment to blog, I made a commitment to write.

I’m finding the little bit of feedback and conversations I’ve generated through several blog posts has been so beneficial, that it’s driving me to stay focused and find better ways to write and share through this blog.  So, on that note, future progress reports may be focused on my experiment in blogging.


Perspectives from Multiple Participants – A lesson from family vacation

I’ve been looking at the role of participation and co-creation in science and education. A recent presentation provided a glimpse of how John Porter, Steve Hadcock, and I are seeing the expectations and potential of social media and new technologies really changing the way we see educational professionals interact and participate with the interested public and partners.

In this presentation, I shared two resources I continue to look to when thinking about how we may involve people in research, education or perhaps better put – how we can involve ourselves in learning and working with the public or non educational professionals to accomplish community goals and outcomes (local or global):

Lessons taken from capturing views of our family vacation

A recent family vacation to the Grand Canyon was great a reminder about the value of engaging people to contribute to gain multiple perspectives, and also how I see the younger generation expecting to contribute, interact and move from more of a mindset of passive learning to active learning.

Grand Canyon

Capturing the ‘big picture’ views at the Grand Canyon

Returning from our family trip,  I uploaded photos from several devices (family camera, ipod, iPad, Mom’s smartphone, Dad’s smartphone).

I realized that for the first time ever, all of us could participate to capturing the family memories.

Capturing photos on the family trip

Everyone captured photos on the family trip

During the trip, I discounted the potential of just about everyone else’s photo contributions (but mine). Mostly because I had “a plan” in mind.  I figured their shots would be blurry or too close up, or not tell much of a story.   I was wrong.

While I had been busy making sure not to miss the chronological details of the trip, and major sites, my kids captured the details, the little things that probably will evoke the most memories.  I first noticed this when I uploaded my youngest son’s pictures.

Pottery from Hopi House

Pottery from Hopi House

I opened the iPad he was using, fully intending to delete or edit a lot of what he captured (largely because I saw him take such quick shots and random pictures), but instead what I saw a rich set of photos.  He captured his experiences, where, I, the self-appointed person in charge of the family camera concentrated on getting the picturesque scenes.

He captured photos of the art from gift shops, the rugs and loom exhibit at the Hopi House, and even how we saw things through his toy compass-magnifying glass-thermometer 3-in-1 kit.


This compass-magnifying glass-thermometer 3-in-1 kit was part of the Grand Canyon adventure

These things are all details that I would have forgotten over time, but they meant something to him, and now we’ll have these pictures to reinforce these memories.

Applying lessons from family vacation back to work

As I bring this back to my work world, it was a great reminder of …

a)how far technology has come to enable someone in grade school to capture a great shot

b)due to an abundance of digital storage space (Terrabytes+) and the low cost of taking a lot of digital pictures, we often have a new opportunity to capture more of the little details than we did, say, 15 years ago when developing photos was the only option.

c)both big picture and little details help us put together the pieces we need to capture value. (Had I had let my youngest take all the pictures, we would not have gotten a sense of the big picture overview of the trip.  Had he not captured details,  we would not have had a sense of the fullness and richness of the trip.)

d)digital participation can help us understand what questions to ask. (Seeing details from my son’s perspective made it possible to follow up and ask him more detailed questions. I found that what he saw, learned, and observed is really quite fascinating and that he internalized the experience more deeply than I had understood originally.)

Questions and ideas for gathering participation in science and education in new(er) ways

As I translate this experience back to my work, and the articles I mentioned above, it prompts me to ask these questions:

  • How are people seeing, wanting, and able to participate in the world in a way that was not possible 5, 10, 15 or years ago?
  • How might seeing what other people are seeing or valuing through social media help scientists and educators gain new insights or do their jobs better?
  • As mentioned in New Report: Engaging Citizens in Co-Creation of Public Services, what new role(s) (e.g. explorer, ideator, designer, influencer) might people like to play in a project, opportunity, community, or collective effort that might not have been possible before social or digital media existed?

Last but not least, on a practical level, I’d like to point to a recent presentation done by my colleague Amy Hays:  Instagram for Instaprogramming (see also part of her presentation on YouTube). Amy is great at demonstrating how visual social media tools like Instagram can involve both new and existing audiences, while simultaneously expanding or deepening our (the researcher’s or educator’s) understanding of what may be learned or achieved through digital and collective participation.

Grand Canyon Sunset

Sunset captured by our youngest picture taker during an evening walk at the Grand Canyon – South Rim.




Finding ways to visually explain personal learning in networks

As part of a recent assignment (note: I started this posts months before I finally published it) for the Exploring Personal Learning Networks MOOC, I’ve been thinking about how to better explain how technology enabled networks have expanded our personal learning networks.

Thus, I wanted to compile some of the resources that are helping me learn to visually communicate what this network expansion might look like for an individual person, or perhaps more specifically a community educator. Here are three that I found particularly useful:

1)The Connected Educator and Social Media –  While this Prezi might not have shown the exact connections between people or nodes in a network, it connected the ideas of how an educator could connect with others in different online social spaces (or circles) in Facebook or Twitter,  or how they could use Pinterest to gather and share resources in those spaces.

I marveled at this Prezi, because the author connected a sense of space and purpose without necessarily making each connection a person to person connection.  IMHO, this was a great use of Prezi, and would more difficult hard to convey with a linearly sequenced PowerPoint.

2)Dave Gray’s Connected Company Flickr slideset has some great visualizations which I frequently review. I find “Customers are connecting.  Are you?” could be a helpful and powerful illustration of how we used to predominately learn in physical spaces. Now technology enables us to connect quite continuously across geographical and time boundaries.

While I find people already know this is happening in our networked world, when they see a visual explanation like this, it begs people to ask: “How might I make better use of these continuous connections.”

Customers are connecting. Are you?

Image: Dave Gray, CC BY-ND 2.0, http://www.flickr.com/photos/davegray/6338447273

3) Nancy Duarte’s The Importance of Visual Storytelling video (or slides 15 and 16) offers a simple way to draw the expansion of a network from a core circle of people.  Since I’m often speaking to education professionals about how we can use social media to expand our networks in new ways, this seemed like a good way to express this expansion from a core group or circle.

4)Making Sense of Emergent Patterns in Networks  – This blog post was a little more of an analytical resource than I was originally seeking to find on my quest for networked visualizations.  Yet, I found stumbling across this series of network visualizations led me to think more about how people are grouped together in clusters or by community and what that might mean. I thought figure 8, was particularly interesting since it showed the position of a liaison between clusters. Aa-ha, I thought, a new way to think about drawing groups and connections – not every one has to be placed in a connected circle!

So what do I plan to learn from compiling this networked visuals list?

1)I think I will spend more time investing in trying to draw with my digital pen, as Duarte’s and Gray’s posts are giving me some good ideas.

2)I’d like to spend more time thinking of connected or networked analogies that may help me convey how network connections can make things happen. For example, how could I illustrate if someone shared something in one place, how that might make an impact somewhere else in the network?

3)I need to figure out a few key tools besides PowerPoint that will help me communicate network expansion better.  Prezi seems to be a good fit because of it’s map-like navigation.  I have also been using Sketchbook pro,  Snote, Bamboo notes in conjunction with a digital pen,  but I still find myself limited in one way or another with these tools. I think partially this is because I need more practice both in what to draw and how to use the technology to draw and share, and partially because I’m still learning which tools transfer across my computer, tablet(s), and smartphone so I can pick up where I left off or share from any device.