It’s all in the cards

Slow learning sometimes gets ugly.

As I dig into a project, I often lose my way. Thoughts meander, new inspirations distract, themes overlap and diverge, metaphors expand and collide. Old wayward ideas have lusty affairs with hot young ideas. Best intentions reproduce, argue, cheat on past commitments, align with other inspirations and have messy seconds with other thoughts from other thinkers. My own thoughts battle with my own ideas.

Like any slow learner, it’s easy for me to get lost in my own learning.

I’ve found a cheap and effective power tool to help me find my way back.

I started using cards to organize thoughts about ten years ago while editing my meandering memoir, Looks Like Howard. I had written a lovely mass of loosely tangled vignettes. From this mess, I wanted to interweave a number of themes and nonlinear timelines into a narrative that would make sense. To do this, I used cards.

I distilled each story, theme, and idea to a single word or phrase that I wrote on a card. Then, I shuffled the cards around in about a thousand different ways until I found a sequence that would tell the story I wanted to tell. Without the cards, I don’t think I would have ever completed the project.

I soon found that cards are more than a tool for organizing writing. Cards can be magic.

I’ve used cards to

  • Collect bits of thought and information
  •  Ask interview questions (interviewees are given a card with one word topic printed on each card, and they choose which they’d like to talk about)
  • Organize thoughts and bits of information
  • Give as business cards
  • Inspire improvised movement
  • Trade as a collaborative cultural performance: Artist trading cards
  • Transform ordinary to-do lists and reminders to something inspirational
  • Tell me what to do next

Why Cards?  Why not something else? Unlike digital screen images, or –heaven forbid–sticky notes, handmade cards become a durable, physical, tangible artifact. I can hold them in my hand, put them in my pocket, shuffle them, lay them out, give them away.

I play with various plans and structures and maps. Sure, I could do this on the computer, but with the cards somehow it’s more fun.

When I make my own cards, I find the small format forces me to distill information, inspiration, and ideas to their essence. Plus I get to play with art supplies.

Who else is using cards?

Everybody, it seems. To list a few:

Dave Gray and his people at XPlane

Maya Design

Howard Gardner and Friends: the GoodWork Toolkit

Value Sensitive Design Research Lab

Tom Atlee and the Group Pattern Language Project

Centre for Nonviolent Communication

And then, everybody and her sister seems to be making her own goddessy tarot deck or something like it for divination and fortune telling.

The point is, the cards are so powerful,  I’d like to share my process of creating a personal deck for your slow learning journey with you.

And so, I’m offering this workshop,

It’s All in the Cards

 A session of  convivial art-making as we share the stories of our learning.

Why: to create a personal deck as a tool for use in planning for slow learning.

Where: My home studio in Liberty Village, Toronto

What to bring: I will be sharing my art supplies.
You can bring collage materials, paper artifacts to include in collages,
Your favorite art supplies if you don’t want to use my cheap ones.

When: By appointment. Expect to spend at least 3 hours.

If interested in attending this workshop, or for more information contact Patricia at Kambitsch dot com.

What’s your slow learning style?

I’m a sucker for learning more about how uniquely brilliant I am. I love to learn more about my unique personality quirks and strengths. I’m uniquely different. I bring unique gifts to any team lucky enough to have me as a member.

In other words, I’m unique like everyone else.

“This  learning style personality inventory indicator was  made especially for you.” PT Barnum

I may be as special as they next guy, but I’m also skeptical. Part of me resists being tested, typecast, and categorized. I’m much more complexly unique than any test can indicate, right? Isn’t all this people-type sorting just a bunch of hooey?

Still another part of me loves typecasting and categorizing as it helps me to get along with other unique people. I can blame your bone-headedness on your unique “learning style,”  or “personality type” and then give you a free pass. More importantly, I’m better able to  empathize with you if I understand that you might experience the world differently than me. And if I’m in the business of collaborating with a team, understanding how my teammates understand might help us all.

What follows is a tour of my doodle notes, featuring a few notable “learning styles” and “personality-type” people sorters, (complete with my snarky editorial comments).

Kolb’s Learning Styles

 Honey and Mumford Learning Styles

Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences


A.Q. Autism Spectrum Quotient

Myers Briggs
and the


and then there’s this. After all the intense doodling I did for this page, I just had to make up a people sorter of my own. So here it is:


or the Steve or Bill Personality In-dick-ator. (This one has less to do with how unique I am, and more to do with how I might classify the significant others in my life.)