We developed this PD activity so you get a chance (1) to practice facilitating an activity while not feeling like an expert and (2) to build empathy among facilitators for learners who may approach an activity differently than they would. (Read more about the original, live and in-person version here.)
First, do the simulation…
Choose your own facilitation adventure using this Google form.
Then, see other role-playing facilitators' replies…
Scenario: Say Hello to Speedy "D"
You circulate in the room as your patrons work on their projects, and notice a patron leaning back in their chair. Patron D says, "I'm done”! You take a look, and you see that D has copied the paper circuit example, making a basic project with a cat with glowing LED eyes, and nothing more—nothing of their own added to the idea. There is still plenty of time left in the workshop. D seems interested in the activity, but seems just as happy to sit around, doing nothing.
The PLIX Facilitation Technique you might try with Patron D
What do you say to or do with Patron D?
I would ask them to tell me how they created their project. I would ask questions to get them to de-brief with me and then ask them to share with another student.
I like it! Ok since you seem to enjoy the process, can I give you a bigger challenge to think through? Do you think there is anyway to combine this project with this one to make one mega-creation? What would you build?
Wow D, you put that together very quickly! Is there anything you'd like to create with a paper circuit? Depending on D's response I may offer suggestions of creating a vehicle or something they enjoy.
Try to get them to talk about their process; maybe start by asking them what they thought of a certain part of the activity—was it tricky? Ask them how they might do it differently if they are designing for another group. Having others share can be inspiring.
I would encourage them to repeat the process.
I would ask Patron D questions about their project—why did they choose to make what they did? Can they tell me a little more about the story of this cat? I would then frame an extension activity based on their answers. How can they add to their project to expand on the cat's story?
I really like how you made the eyes blink, what else could you add to it to make it better?!
I would have set out a variety of half-done examples to encourage creativity and diverse versions of the patrons' products. But since this patron made an exact copy, I would engage them in conversation about the steps they took to get to their finished product.
Tell me about what you have here? Is there anything else you could make it do?
Did you have a chance to see what others have been working on? You might get some new ideas you could add to your project.
Now that you have the basic concept down, try creating something else through trial-and-error! Maybe brainstorm ideas with a friend or someone that is doing a different idea than the one you finished. If not try helping a friend out by walking them through the process of getting the item to work.
Hey, this Maker over there could use your help getting their paper circuit to work. Now here's the challenge for *you*: you can only answer questions and explain things to them, you cannot do it *for* them. Are you up for it?
What are some of the things other are trying? Is there anything you can do to make this your own?
Celebrate the learning process/encourage peer learning. Have you noticed any differences between what you've created and what some of the others creators have done?
You figured it out, that's great! I wonder how you could adapt this cat or what else you could do with this technology? Wander around and check out some of the other projects people are working on.
That's very cool. I wonder how many more ideas you could come up with (write down) in two minutes? I'll bet you can come up with a lot. To make it more interesting see if you can come up ideas in all of these categories: animal (like your cool cat idea), vegetable, and mineral. Have fun with your list--get weird. I'll come back in a couple of minutes and see what you came up with.
Encourage 'D' to engage with other makers, perhaps to help a peer who is trying something more creative but could use a bit of help figuring out the circuits.
Suggest patron D help someone else who is tackling a more adventurous project.
You did a fabulous job. I see you understand circuits. How can you improve on my example or if you were facilitating what would you have made? If that does not work, I would try: Would you like to walk around and help others?
Great job with making the cat! What do you think can be added to make the cat move?
I would be sure to reinforce D's willingness to participate/create by commending them for their technical understanding of the project and ease of assembly.Encourage personal touches and open mind to alternative approaches.
- Do you like cats/have cats? —— I bet you could make this one look like yours
- Do you have a favorite animal? I bet you could make a pretty cool version of this project with that animal.
- I like insects, so instead of a cat I chose to make fireflies instead.
I would ask open-ended questions about their experience with completing the project, with the aim of finding out which parts they enjoyed or what kinds of ideas came to their mind as they finished it. An interesting example project might help this patron get inspired.
I see you have finished with your cat did you see what patron B is doing with his project how is yours similar to theirs how is it different?
I see that you have gotten you cats eyes to light, that is fantastic! Would you like to take time to walk around the room to see what some of the other people are working on that might spark your interest for future projects?
Show examples to Patron D and encourage them to make another project
It always depends on the student but I would ask leading questions about their process and how they could improve or add to their creation. Would they be able to do this with different materials? More lights? Different types of circuits? (parallel vs. series) etc.
I would like to talk to them to see if there are other ideas they would like to try. I would like to have ideas on hand, maybe a mystery bucket with ideas in it or problems. Or other prompts.
I love what you did, do you think you could have added anything else to your project?
I congratulate them on successfully making a circuit, rather than focusing on the simple circuit they made. Then I might see if they would be interested in helping others or looking around the room at what other people are doing. This might make them realize there is a lot more they could do and keep working, or help someone else struggling with the basic concepts they've mastered.
Hi Patron D! Wow you did an awesome job creating your cat. I noticed you made your cat's eye glow. That's pretty neat. I wonder what other parts you could make light up on the cat? Or maybe even something else for the cat to interact with? Do you have any ideas? I'd love to see whatever you come up with!
Ask if speedy d would like more supplies or materials to work with.
I would say that they did a great job by following the example and ask if there is anything missing or could be improved upon. Hopefully that would give them the idea to go further and add something new.
Wow, that looks great! I really love the glowing eyes. What do you think would happen if you tried to make the ears glow instead?
Engage them in conversation to have them show me how they created the project.
It depends what is going on, but I may suggest they help someone who is still working and struggling.
Great job on the cat! What other ideas do you have for how you could use the materials? Could you make other animals for the cat to interact with or something for the cat to play with or on? Are there other directions entirely that you could go? Do you see anything that others are working on that give you more ideas?
Great that you are done. Can you share with me what you did and how you might expand on this idea?
Looks like you get the concept but why don't we make this creation 100% your own by adding your creative style to it? How can we take this to the next level? Don't worry about making mistakes, that's part of the fun.
Ask: what are going to do next? How would you change what you've made or do you want to make something else?
Scenario: Check in with Stuck "T"
You leave Patron J and notice someone across the room fiddling with the printed materials on the table, half-heartedly turning the example projects left, right, and upside down, but they don't have any materials or any project pieces in front of them. You come over to see what's up. Patron T says, "I've just never worked with electronics before!" T sits and looks around at the others who are busily tinkering. "I don't even know how to get started! How does this circuit thing even work? Would it be okay if I just make a card without all that other stuff in it?"
The PLIX Facilitation Technique you might try with Patron T
What do you say to or do with Patron T?
I would do my best to explain the materials and what they do and then would ask them to check with patron D to see how they made their product.
Why don't you start with a card? Sometimes just getting going might help you get more comfortable with the process. And, 'hey Patron J', this is Patron T-Patron J is getting ready to start a large project and might enjoy someone to talk through it with. Patron J, why don't you use Patron T to bounce some ideas off of.
I'd suggest that Patron T takes apart one of the simpler examples and reinforce that the goal of the activity is to experiment with the circuits and become a little more comfortable with them rather than creating a card.
Actually, I've been there and appreciated a brief explanation of the 'circuit' thing, or better yet, have a neighbor explain what they are doing and why. I might ask them to design something without the other stuff, then go back and ask how they might incorporate the LEDs into the design.
Encourage T to just play and it doesn't matter if it's good or right
I would reassure Patron T that it is okay to not know how circuits work—they can learn as they experiment and create, and if their project doesn't work, that's okay—we can all help each other! I would suggest that maybe they start by creating a card and then seeing how they can add a light up element to it using the examples.
This is how this example works, (showing connections), Patron J is making X let's see how his works. What would you like to create?
I would invite one of the participants who has acquired more skills with circuits to chat with the patron who lacks those skills or needs a little instruction or inspiration.
If you really want to just make a card, that is fine, but why don't we look around at some others' work and see if anything inspires you. Take them to a peer and ask them to tell us about their project.
Sure, and if you made a card showing what you would want your project to do, I bet someone could help you find ways to make parts of it work, if you wanted to give it a try.
I would sit with the Patron and try to go through the process with them. Even if the final result would not be different from the base model, they would hopefully learn a bit and feel more confident with working the materials next time they interact with them.
Sure, why not? That's how most of my projects start too! And if electronics still don't sound fun for the card you wanna do, that's fine too! Also, I noticed someone who couldn't figure out how to draw what they wanna draw, but that seems to be your thing. Can I introduce you to them for some help when you're done?
I think Patron A has done something like this before. Lets see if she doesn't mind you watching her, maybe she'll talk you through what she's doing
What kind of card do want to make? Try creating a design and then figure out how you could add the paper circuits to light up part of it. We have plenty of material to try out different ideas. I can help you figure out how to get started or Patron J might be able to help you figure how to connect the circuits.
Hi T. No worries if you're new to this. I am too. I'm curious about what the others are doing? Do you want to check it out together? Walk T around to others, maybe ask some questions. If you know someone else who you think might be a peer instructor ask if they would be willing to help T get started and ask T if that's ok. If so circle back. If the peer instructor is unknown maybe hang around before circling back. If T doesn't want help from the peer, maybe look at some others or try and get something started together asking some open ended questions without pressuring T.
Encourage 'T' to become more familiar with the components, start with just the battery and LED - how do you make it light up? The copper tape is an extension of the LED 'legs', can you make a path for the circuit and still light up the LED? Work from simple to more complex.
Suggest patron T work with someone else
I would start with: what is your plan for a card? Then I might give some gentle, easy examples how he might light up his card. I would show simple, unfinished examples, including mistakes. Maybe suggest using his amazing creativity for a card with a partner who likes the circuitry part and they can collaborate.
That's ok! That's what this activity is for, so we can learn. How about we work on it together with Suzie who is just starting to make hers.
Reassure T that we all start somewhere and it's okay to be unfamiliar with something. Figuring things out along the way can be fun and exploring this electronics stuff is worth a shot. Gauge T's understanding. Figure out where the lack of understanding or hesitation exists and find a way to resolve that.
I could explain the components in a different manner. Employ my own project as an example - it's more tactile and easier to explain/demonstrate. Frame the project as art rather than tech. "Let's start with the card, we can get that part going. What would you do with that?" Get T to think creatively about what they can make without getting hung up on the electronic aspect. Once we get that interest sparked we can come back to tinkering with the circuitry.
If there is a patron working on the project who has more experience, I might ask Patron T if they want to work together. This would not work in every situation, because you need to make sure you're not sending patron T into a situation where they just observe and the more confident patron does everything and dominates the process.
You can make the card and then just try some of the things to make a circuit. This is Patron V maybe you could work together to create two things and spring ideas off of each other.
Do you see any of your friends in here working on a project or maybe something that looks cool to you? How about we go and visit them and see if you could work with them and they can show you what they are making.
Encourage T to play with the electronics and not worry about completing the project
Offer to allow them to work with another student. Allow them to reverse engineer on of the example projects. Ask more in depth questions in order to REALLY understand if the student is just having trouble getting started or there is a roadblock in the learning.
It's ok to not know, I had to learn too! Feel free to walk around the room and look at how some of your peers are doing it. I can help you get started with the basics of wiring.
Yes you can make just a card, however let's work together or with C over here and learn the tools
It sounds like we need to pump up some of the more basic information associated with circuits to make Patron T more comfortable. I'd grab a few books and see if we can find some examples explaining some terms and the process as a whole. Once we have that foundational knowledge set together then we could hopefully look at some of the diverse examples together to get some ideas. If they still aren't feeling inspired, I'd encourage them to make a card however they please. Their finished product may not be what I had planned, but they at least got the opportunity to engage and might feel more comfortable the next time around.
Hi Patron T! I know technology can seem a bit intimidating. Why don't we grab some of the materials and just play around with them and see if something works? If you want, we can see if someone else can lend us some tips on how they got their project working?
Say, "Sure! I'll get you some supplies to start making a card." Then I'd probably sit with them for a bit and make a simple circuit as demo. Probably ask them what type of card they plan to make.
I would tell Patron T that I didn't understand it either! If I printed out the zine for each patron, I would explain to them that I started by copying the simple paper circuit in the zine, and was amazed when it worked. I would suggest trying that, and then seeing if that inspired them to go further.
Try to get them to engage with the patron next to them. Ask the patron next to them to explain how they got their circuit to work, in the hopes that that would get Patron T to get a sense of how to get started.
Have them sit down next to someone who knows the project and work with them.
I would suggest a guided prompt with a bit more scaffolding to get them started.
I'd grab an example project to let them examine how it works. As they examine I'd explain each piece and what it does. The battery gives the power. The metal tape lets the power flow in a circle. If the circle is broken the light goes out. If it's closed it lights up. It's ok, if this is your first time. Your project doesn't have to be a perfectly polished thing. You can just have fun experimenting with an idea and see what works and what doesn't. Do any of these examples give you any ideas for what you might like to try?
I know it can seem a bit overwhelming trying something new. Let's see if Jimmy here can share why it works, then you might get some ideas to try.
I'd look around the table and find someone who looked they were having fun and say "check out what Patron B is up to, looks like they have something pretty interesting going on" in hopes that Patron B will connect with and inspire Patron T. If Patron T still seems reluctant I would run down the basics of how the materials work citing some real world examples and encourage Patron T to take chances, there is no such thing as the wrong way.
Let's work on projects next to each other. We can start with cards and add in the electrical components that seem cool for our cards. I'll show you how the pieces work and you can decide what to add to your card.
Scenario: See What's Up for Focused "X"
Patron T seems satisfied. You look around and notice Patron X over by a window. X is focused, quiet, and a bit shy. X has a large pile of materials on the table in front of them and is making something they seem to be very excited about. After you've been standing watching them for a good ten seconds or so, Patron X notices you're there. "Oh, hi! Um... I prefer to work on my own, if that's okay," says Patron X. From a peek at their project, it appears X doesn't need any help from peers or from you, the facilitator. You ask X about their project works, and X explains it all in detail. X says, "I like the way I made this. I'll show it off to the group when I'm all done."
The PLIX Facilitation Technique you might try with Patron X
What do you say to or do with Patron X?
I would celebrate their work and ask some questions that might encourage a next step.
I look forward to seeing the finished project. If you finish early, would you mind going over to Patron T & J to see if they need any help? They are working on a fairly big project too.
I'd tell X that it is okay for them to work alone and share their project with the other kids. To encourage peer learning I'd let the rest of the kids ask questions and possibly think of ways to build upon their project.
Make sure to follow through to 'show it off'
Encourage X to share now what he knows and does with the group
I would encourage Patron X to engage in peer learning by offering to help other participants. I would ask if it would be okay for me to send other participants who need help their way.
I love how you made that — you should show that to Patron T!
Some people are just more comfortable working on their own.
Not everyone wants to work in a group. Acknowledge their work and remember to come back to them when it's time to share.
I am not sure what exactly I would be able to do that would not make X uncomfortable, since they were clear about wanting to work alone and only share at the end. I feel like others would benefit from seeing some of X's ideas, and might suggest that sharing at an earlier stage could be helpful for those who may be stuck, or ask if they would be willing to help another patron if they went to them with a question.
I would allow them to build on their own but let them know that I am available if they need another set of eyes. If no one else needs my assistance then I would work on my own version of the project.
Sounds like a plan! I'm sure you'll get questions from the other makers, that looks like a pretty awesome project!
"Okay, but if you want, I think Patron J may be interested in what your doing. He's never done anything like this before..."
I can't wait to see what you've created! I'm sure everyone else will really enjoy your work, too.
I'm really impressed with what you've figured out. You don't have to work with anyone, but would you be willing to show everyone what you're doing now? It may help to inspire them or help them troubleshoot their projects.
Nice, X! You seem like you're in a groove. Thanks for volunteering to share later; that's a great idea. You really seem like you've got a knack for this stuff. Some of the others are new to this. Do you think you might want to help out some others get started later on? I'll circle back and see where you're at. Keep going!
I'd probably let them keep working, if this was an ongoing group I might try to draw 'X' out to help others (peer learning) or maybe to help create examples if that was too big of a leap.
I would say fabulous. I can't wait until you share. You are very talented if others are struggling would you mind helping them? Or can I send someone who needs inspiration over to look at what you are doing ?
Ask Patron X if they would be ok with sharing their creation and process with the rest of the patrons.
X has the know-how and passion to be a teacher/facilitator to others. I would commend the job well done and encourage X to share their work and process with the group, emphasizing the value in their creativity and passion, and how that can be a benefit to the whole group (plus yeah, you get to show off something of which you are proud).
When the patron is ready to share the project with me and the group, I would ask them questions about what their process was like and try to spark conversation about their steps, techniques, and inspiration, not just the finished product.
Sharing your project at the end would be awesome!
I am so glad that you are using your creative juices to make something of your own design. I am looking forward to your reveal.
Encourage Patron X to see if any of their peers could use help while they wait.
I would ask that if finished early Patron X perhaps offer help to others in troubleshooting if they are done before time is out. Perhaps they have a better example to show then the examples made by staff....
Share with them that their project is looking great. Then tell them that while they are very good at working on their project and that they did a great job alone, there may be some of their peers that are struggling and that maybe they can help them out or maybe still learn some thing from them. We are all always learning.
Great, maybe after you finish you could help others who may need it, because it sure looks like you know how to do this
Of course, I celebrate their creativity and success, it seems like they've grasped the concepts well. Then I might ask if I could highlight their work with the group, before it's complete, so that they might be able to help others as well. If not, I make sure to get them involved helping others the second they're done.
Hi Patron X! Wow thanks so much for explaining your process! Your project does sound pretty cool! You know, sometimes I find that I can make my projects even better after talking with friends or other people working on similar projects. I've had one friend point out something about my project that I've never even thought of before and it instantly inspired me to create something else for my project. Have you ever chatted with other creators before? I see a ton of great projects around the room. Maybe you can give some inspiration to someone else in their project or they can give you inspiration. Just thought it might be something you'd want to try out.
Say, "That's awesome. Your project looks great! Can't wait to hear all about it when you're finished. Let me know if you need more supplies."
I would say, hey that's okay, but I've noticed Patron T can be a little stuck. If you finish, would you mind helping her with her project?
They seem to be content with what they're doing, so I wouldn't try to force them to engage with the wider group if they didn't want to. I'd let them know that I'm there if they have any questions and that I'm excited to see their finished project when they're ready to share it.
Have them share their project at the end like they asked.
I'd celebrate their work and encourage them to share it.
You look like you really know what you're doing here and have a clear idea of your goals. I wonder if you'd be willing to work nearby some of our newer folks to allow them to get some ideas of how the materials can work?
I will be excited to hear your share your project, if others want to know more after that, I hope you are willing to work and share your knowledge with them.
I think the group will really like seeing your creation. In the meantime, why attempt to rebuild the project in another way and push boundaries?
I'm excited to see and hear about what you're making during the showcase!
Taking a Seat as a Participant
We compiled some of the things people said in the role of a participant in the second part of the activity in the PLIX Forum post: Personas Simulation: Three Elaborated Personas.