Tag Archives: drawing

Creativity in the Open workshop


Tweet with images from the Creativity in the Open workshop: one of our icon jam/dance jam, and the other of a music jam right after it.

In October 2017 I participated in a workshop at Thompson Rivers University called Creativity in the Open. This two-day workshop featured sessions on music, drawing, dance, educational technology, and much more.

I and Rajiv Jhangiani facilitated a session called an “icon jam.” This was based on a session I had participated in during ETUG‘s spring workshop 2017, facilitated by Jason Toal and Leva Lee. Jason has posted some information about the icon jam on the Simon Fraser University EdMedia site.

The basic idea of the icon jam, as I understood it from the ETUG workshop in 2017, is to get people to quickly draw icons for a set of concepts, compare them, and discuss what one can learn from this activity. Drawing quickly is key because you don’t want people to get hung up on trying to make their drawings look really nice. The focus is on the concept and getting it across in a picture rather than a word, and it doesn’t matter if the picture is drawn really well or not.

The group generates a list of icons to draw, and then each person has 30-60 seconds to draw each one (up to you how long you want to give people; we gave people 45 seconds for the first couple of rounds, and then 30 seconds after that). We gave out coloured index cards and people drew each concept on the same colour card. So, e.g., here is our list of concepts and colours:

  • help (green)
  • risk (yellow)
  • spring (pink)
  • permission (blue)
  • power (purple)

Then, when everyone has done their drawings, we put all the same coloured cards together and do a gallery walk. We discuss similarities and differences, icons that stand out as different from the rest, which ones we find surprising, etc. During this or afterwards, the group discusses the value of this kind of activity for teaching and learning. For example, I have found that this is a way to get at different nuances and meanings of concepts in a way that you don’t immediately get just by using the word. For complex philosophical concepts like “justice” or “morality” or “good” or “personhood” or “self” (etc.), this could be a way to generate different understandings of the ideas.

Another thing it brings out the ways in which our social, historical, cultural backgrounds influence how we put ideas into pictures. And it can generate discussion around that: why do several people use X icon for Y idea? What lies behind that? And is that social, historical, cultural influence limiting how we understand the idea?

We added a twist to the icon jam, though: Rajiv brought in a movement aspect to it after we were finished drawing and discussing the icons. We took the same list of icons and, in groups, turned each one into a movement. Then the groups came together and created a dance. It was really fun and wonderful to see that people weren’t too self-conscious doing it. We think perhaps warming up by talking about not worrying about one’s drawing, and just drawing even if one thinks one is no good, might have helped. Plus, we already had the icons for the concepts and that could help spark ideas for a movement for each concept.

If you would like to see our planning notes for the icon jam session, they are on a Google doc.

This reflection by Tanya Dorey nicely explains more about the session (and has photos of the icos!), as well as how the whole Creativity in the Open workshop came about. It was such a fantastic experience–two days of being creative with wonderful people!

Summer of tears and hope

This summer has been tough. Hell, this year has been tough. Okay, this lifetime. But it seems there have been more and more reports, each week, of atrocities around the world. And each time they hit me hard.

Somehow the attack in Nice, France on Bastille Day 2016 hit me the hardest. Maybe because it was a family event, a happy and fun event I can imagine my family going to anywhere in the world. Maybe it was the extreme violence of it. Maybe it was just because it came on the heels of so much else. But it’s really hard for me to take.

So I decided to draw a picture. Maybe art therapy would help? It helped a little.



I was trying to express my crushing sadness without letting it crush me, while also reminding myself of hope and work to be done and beauty and love that still exist and that we must cultivate.


I also took up an invitation to participate in a collaborative poem through #clmooc, on this post by Terry Elliott.

He had taken a poem by someone else and focused on a few words.

picture of a poem over another poem with words turned into colours and a circle image

Image from here, original here


Now, this original creation (the words in colours) came from work many of us did in #clmooc. See Deanna Mascle’s post about it.

Then Terry invited others to play with his creation on a Hackpad, so I did. And the result kind of resonated with my feelings today and the image above, without me trying to have it do so. I kept focusing on the words “struggle” and “love,” and realized they can go together and help me think through my pain and outrage. Struggle and love.

So I, too, took words from the picture and then added them to Terry’s chosen words. I then left some of it for others to play with, later. The first screenshot below is Terry’s poem; the second is my additions (at the top).



I have to say, doing all this today has helped me feel a bit better. Especially the part where I am in a collaboration with others to make things, things that make you think, that invite others to join in. That’s really what I need right now. Maybe many of us do.


Post script later that day…

Daniel Bassill added to my drawing in a fantastic way that extends its meaning and impact. Please see here!

Having someone else resonate and connect and extend what I did is amazing. Thank you, Daniel!