Thinking you can see: BIF’s Share-out Boards

As you enter the Big Ideas Fest 2010 through the main hallway you’re greeted by nine metal boards on wooden pedestals covered in colored paper and magnets. These are the Big Idea Fest’s Share-out Boards. Following their participation in each Action Collab attendees have had the opportunity to use the boards to present to fellow attendees their learnings from the Labs. I’ve noticed three key ways that attendees have used the boards to experience the collaborative and communicative processes at the Fest:

  • Sharing: this element is the foundation for the Share-out Boards – it should be, it’s in the name. While ISKME anticipated that attendees would use the boards to share the ideas that were being developed in the Collabs, attendees are also sharing the experience of problem solving. In order for the visualization of the idea to take place a shared vision about the problem and potential solution must be reached. Speaking to some participants between Collabs, it became clear that this type of internal consensus-building was critical for moving through the Action Collab process. Throughout the Fest, attendees were also encouraged to comment and contribute to one another’s boards, thus opening up the sharing component to the Fest-wide network.
  • Shape and Structure: As the conversations linking the Collabs’ problem to the solution became more defined, so too did the boards reflect this clarity. Random bits of yarn began to link various actors in education; arrows and natural elements of flow (reading the board from left to right, top to bottom, inward to outward) took the viewer on a similar (but abbreviated) journey that was experienced in the collabs; and circles, triangles, and squares formed from magnets and paper emphasized the key components of the group’s thinking.
  • Surprise: The most salient aspect of the boards that I found after visiting groups during the process of adding and revising their boards was the element of surprise. Attendees discovered that no matter how quickly or how well they organized their ideas on board, everything about them – the arrangement, the feedback from other attendees, the idea itself – could change at any time. This was not necessarily a bad thing. One attendee appreciated the uncertainty as part of the learning experience of the Fest. Another attendee was often surprised to find information and ideas from the Rapid Fire speeches reemerging in her group’s work, something that became more apparent for her as she mapped out supporting evidence on the board.

By the final day of the Fest, the Share-out boards were covered in Post-it notes, flipchart paper, magnets, string, photos, and, most importantly, thoughts. ISKME has captured photos of each board and will share it out with attendees in the coming weeks so that they may reflect on their learnings and the power of sharing out. Often part of brainstorming sessions for my job, it was an incredible experience to see nine big ideas about education form out of the tangible energy from the Big Ideas Fest 2010.

December 12, 2010