Brainwriting…collaborative brainstorming enhanced by Google Docs

Do the same members of the learning team contribute at every meeting, brainstorming session, and discussion?  Do we ever hear from everyone?  How do we offer others the opportunity to have their voices and ideas heard?

In Synergy and our PLCs, Bo and I have used Brainwriting from Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers to hear from everyone, to help members of our community engage in the ideas of others, and to build collaborative thinking.  This process, described at gogamestorm.com, uses index cards as the collaborative tool.

Here’s an example from our Synergy 8 team.  They were asked to pick a problem at school they would like to address and brainstorm.  (I had to type it up from the big Post-it notes used in the Synergy Coffeehouse.)

I think that sleep is a big issue that we need to solve.  I think over half the students at [school] don’t get enough sleep, and that we need to fix that.  Everyone needs a good amount of sleep to function well at school.  I think we should do a survey just to make sure of how many people at [school] don’t get enough sleep.  We should research different ways to get more sleep and educate others on our findings.  It would also help if somehow we made schedule changes to help school start later.  I think this project will end up bettering the lives of the students at [school] and help them come to school everyday better prepared.  I would hope that we could change the time of school starting in order to aid not just the students at [school] but students everywhere to get more sleep.  It will take a lot of research and preparation to

Pretty great thinking from 12- and 13-year-olds, huh?  Just for a little more clarity, four different learners contributed to the piece above.  Here’s how their contributions built the idea above:

Originator:

I think that sleep is a big issue that we need to solve.  I think over half the students at [school] don’t get enough sleep, and that we need to fix that.  Everyone needs a good amount of sleep to function well at school.

Index card passes to new team member and ideas are carried forward:

I think we should do a survey just to make sure of how many people at [school] don’t get enough sleep.  We should research different ways to get more sleep and educate others on our findings.

Index card passes to a third team member:

It would also help if somehow we made schedule changes to help school start later.  I think this project will end up bettering the lives of the students at [school] and help them come to school everyday better prepared.

Index card shifts to a fourth team member:

I would hope that we could change the time of school starting in order to aid not just the students at [school] but students everywhere to get more sleep.  It will take a lot of research and preparation to

Time is called.

It is important to note that as this idea was growing, three other ideas were growing too. To be more clear, here is another brainwriting sample from this team.

Why do people cut in line?  How do we prevent line cutting?

  1. Find people who cut in line
  2. Interview them: why, when, how they avoid detection
  3. Remove the motivation: this will prevent cutting
  4. Is line cutting different in different grades?

All good questions! How can we know who and why people cut in line?  How could we make others aware of the “taking the motivation” of cutting away?

They should notice.  If people cut to get bagels, for example, we could move or remove the bagels.  Maybe if they are somewhere else the line will form differently and cutting won’t happen.  I think we need more empathy for others.

How does my cutting affect/impact the people in line behind me?  Would anyone tolerate a senior cutting in line in front of a 1st grader?  Would we allow that to happen?  What is the difference in cutting in line when others can’t “fight back?” How do we encourage our community to model and live the Golden Rule?

We have also used brainwriting with our teacher-learners in PLC to build ideas and understanding around PBL.  We have used brainwriting with our Department Integration Specialists to build common lessons on digital citizenship.

The brainwriting process is fantastic and yields great results.  The index cards and Post-it notes are bound to a physical space.  What if we shifted this experience to a set of Google docs?  Would we get the same good thinking?

John Burk outlined using Google docs to using brainwriting with a team in his Quantum Progress post Brainwriting to explore digital citizenship.

“Here’s how it works:

  1. In google docs, create a template document with a writing prompt, and then place that document inside that collection. For us, the prompt was “Describe how to serve, lead and grow in a community.”
  2. Share the document with your class or colleagues, and ask each person to create his/her own copy of the template, and rename it with his/her last name.
  3. Have each person write for 3 minutes on the prompt on their copy of the template.
  4. After three minutes, ask each person to switch to the next document in the list, read what is written and then add to that document in the voice of the original author.”

John continues in his post saying “Once you’ve got 3-4 rounds with this, you’ll be pretty amazed by how the entire group has created a collection documents that present a range of viewpoints and yet share many common threads.”

How do we teach collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, and divergent thinking?  How do we coach ourselves and others to listen and contribute to the ideas of others?

_________________________

If you have ideas of how to use brainwriting to create collaborative experiences to move teams, will you share them in the comments below?  Will you read another’s idea and extend it to learn and share?

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