Get out the notebooks, post it notes and begin spit balling, tossing ideas out there and let the discussion begin. Oh wait it isn't 1990 anymore. Today there is a cornucopia of apps or sites that bring the process of collaboration and brainstorming to the 21st century. I have played around with some of the examples I include below, but I am not an expert in all of the potential applications each one has at its disposal. My plan for this post was to share out as many examples as I could find, and let you judge for yourself what works best for you.
I must admit this is not one of my best posts, mainly because I am not the expert on this subject. However I included a few reviews and blog posts from others to provide information beyond my minimal knowledge and experience. I just came across a post about one of the brainstorming apps and remembered there are so many of them available that I wanted to chronicle them to help others find one to fit their needs. My experience with these apps has been very positive. It is a great way to engage students in the learning process and create a lasting record of ideas, discussions and problem solving. The process of brainstorming hasn't really changed over time, but the tools create some advantages over the old paper and pencil, or whiteboard predecessors. First you can save your work. I teach multiple sections of the same class, and sometimes the discussion goes beyond one class period. In both situations it is nice to be able to save the work. You can compare the ideas from a previous day, or previous class period to see the connections each class was able to make.
The tools allow for collaboration from all students. Some of these allow more people to participate at one time than others, while some have more features and functions. Each of these have things they excel in and areas where they could be improved.
My purpose is not to steer you to the right one with lots of pros and cons because I don't have the experience on these apps to do that. I simply want you to be aware of the multitude of apps available and how they can be used.
Brainstorming- this is the most basic of the uses for this. I have done it in my class, and have participated in it with educators as part of edcamphome.
Organization of ideas- Creating timelines, graphic organizers and other visuals.
Research Project- Collect and organize research notes, videos and other resources to see information visually.
Alternative Project- For students who struggle to write essays or complete other more in depth projects you could use this as a way to allow them to demonstrate their knowledge. Instead of paragraphs, students could create notes, organize them in more of an outline form, and include video clips that help demonstrate their ideas and thinking. If designed well, this can still be an appropriate and rigorous task for students who find writing a challenge.
Some key features that may help you see more value in the use of any of these tools.
Organization: Notes- share of ideas are quick and easy. Organization of ideas- you can easily move notes from place to place quickly.
Identify author of idea: Notes posted by students can include each student's name or initials to connect the idea with the student. This can be a way to help you record contributions from each student. This could be useful during discussion to identify the student who made a comment or shared an idea to allow for elaboration.
Video: For many of these apps you are able to add video to help make the collection of ideas more dynamic.
Below are some of the other examples that I have played around with. Like so many technologies I find, I like to play around with them until I find the things that are going to fit my purpose. What sometimes happens when you have so many choices is you get to a situation where you have to pick one and then forget about the others. That is kind of what happened with all of these technologies. I picked Listhings to use in my class this year and never came back to Realtime board or Padlet. At this point I am not sure why I chose Listhings over the others, maybe the fact it was a chrome extension and thus I didn't have to remember a site address was the big difference at the time. Now I believe all are chrome extensions so I will have to go back and play with these more this summer.
Listhings - I used this one several times in class. It is a chrome extension and easy to use. The picture to the left shows one example from my class from earlier this year. You can save each of the sessions individually.
Realtimeboard - I have done some preliminary work with this app, but never used it in my class. As I mentioned previously I had to decide on which one I was going to implement for my class, and I tried Listhings last year.
Padlet - used to be wallwisher but now has a new name. This is probably the most well known of the brainstorming apps. I have heard lots of feedback on this one, and know lots of people who have used it.
I included links above to help provide more detail from people who have more experience with these apps. The last point I want to make is that all of these apps are FREE! I don't pay for any app on my phone, or service I use. Yes there are some that might be worth the money to add the extra features, but I don't use any app enough to need to pay a monthly or yearly fee. There maybe some out there who would throw out a list of apps they use and pay for, and I welcome those examples. I can only speak from my own experience in saying that I have been able to adapt, adjust, or find alternatives to complete the tasks I need.