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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

#MobileSapiens: A Creative Safari


This summer I took a chance on a new form of conference offering for me – the outside-the-venue-creative-safari. I launched it at Alan November’s Building Learning Communities (BLC 16), which is one of the most intimate and thought-provoking events out there. Part of my raison d’être is that I firmly believe in the use of smartphones as the ultimate device (at present) for the classroom. Coupled with BYOD programs and GAFE (Google Apps for Education), I am convinced smartphones are the most useful and intuitive approach (you can read more in this post, “Wires and Fires”)

For this workshop, I wanted to offer a

co-created experience

that was whimsical, low-pressure, and yet would provide participants with a chance to explore their own creativity and translate that into their classrooms. I’m of the opinion conferences should lean towards the participatory rather than the chalk-and-talk, as you can read in this post about the Creativity Zone at Learning Live in London.

A big part of Creativity is working within so-called “creative constraints”. These took the form of specific “challenges” for my cohort. I didn’t want to prescribe any number or particular sets of challenges, but rather offer a menu from which each attendee could choose. Hopefully this is a takeaway that you one can apply to the classroom.

Why should everyone do the same thing?

The Safari is set up, as I do with all my workshops, in a Google Plus (G+) Community. I love this platform because it may be organized like a website yet works like other social media sites, pushing the most recent posts to the top. One can also search within the community, (which is a huge bonus), and of course leverage hashtags. G+ works really well with mobile, which is why I used it quite a bit in the classroom to document ongoing activities (we had our own little paparazzi squad). When I run workshops, I similarly can run around taking photos of people engaged in the activities and quickly upload and annotate them

– like a real-time scrapbook!

But perhaps the most wonderful aspect of a G+ based workshop is the fact that

the conversation doesn’t die after the event is over

(hence the word “community”). Truly, it is a community of people – an affinity group I guess- that grows over time. I currently maintain no less than 10 G+ communities at the moment, with my Remix community pushing 500 members. They are perfect for curating too…I end up finding relevant links everyday and posting to various categories.

This is the description of the Safari:

“Let’s break free from the conference venue and explore our stunning surrounding environment, all while having fun with a scavenger hunt-style safari. Participants need a sense of adventure, a mobile device with camera, and a desire to create some found art and narrative. Experimenting with found art and photography sharpens one’s senses and better prepares the mind for creative thinking – that is, connecting dots in unique ways. You can participate individually or in a team but will have about 40 minutes to explore and create before debriefing with the group. Upload all images and other creative work to this space – as you go! Tag with the designated hashtag. Think about how you can use some of these activities with students or your team.

LINK to G+ Community (feel free to join!)

One of the things I didn’t do upfront but went back and fixed was to label all my challenges with the hashtag #challenge so that one can search easily as the community posts multiplied. I also assigned a unique hashtag to each challenge, hoping that might carry over into other social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Search #challenge within this community to access all challenges and please tag work with the challenge’s unique tag (direct link to challenges)

Prior to the event I advertised a bit with this little video (drawings by me using Paper 53):

As you can see from perusing the G+ community, I organized the challenges into three categories. We didn’t have much time to go over each challenge prior to setting out, but if I were to do this with more time I would (or ask participants to join ahead of time). Click on the title to take you to that category’s posts:




Prior to running outside the conference venue, I did review some recommended apps:


Some of the challenges required some provided elements I needed to prepare ahead of time:



which resulted in…



Or my Emoji cards!


which were a hit!




Perhaps my FAVOURITE SURPRISE (and delight!) is that one participant took it upon herself to create her own challenge, and what a doozy it was!


Carol van Vooren had brought along her portable watercolour set for some en plein air action…and look what she invented! We called it #artbomb.

Over time I’ll probably add some more challenges, but I really want to do this again…it would work for many types of events and could be customized. When participants returned we saved some time for sharing as well as suggesting how these prompts might be adapted for the classroom. In interesting side note is that several of the cohort felt they had increased their mindfulness in regards to their surrounding environment, and that they

“could never again look at mundane things in the same way”

If you’d like this type of interactive, creative workshop at your event, please contact me.

#workshop #alannovember #creativity #photography #mobilesapiens #pd #mindfulness #conference #mobile #blc16

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