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?

In an “I can …” culture: Embracing “What if” and “Yet

My previous post, Spreading an “I can …” culture: Aware, Enable, Empower, has generated genuinely great questions.

  • What if they can’t, Jill? Really, what if they can’t say “I can…” at the end of the unit?
  • Math is so easy, Jill.  Can we do write “I can…” statement for other subjects, courses, or ideas?

Erin Paynter, @erinpaynter, published How Do You Help Student Reach Their Yet?  Can it be as simple as adding the word yet?  What if we repeat the questions with yet?

What if they can’t yet?  Really, what if they say “I can’t yet…” at the end of the unit?

From Erin Paynter:

“I find this one word to be a powerful tool to open a dialogue and to pause for reflection – on best instructional practices, on motivation, on student and parent engagement, and on teacher professional development plans.  It begins to wipe the slate clean so that we can work collaboratively on ways to engage our students in their learning by using more effective tools and strategies. It opens the dialogue to why and how – why aren’t they reaching their goals, and how can we get them there?”

Isn’t the answer now obvious?  We try again.  We collaborate to investigate other techniques, strategies, and opportunities.  We take action.  We send the message that “you can…” and we are going to work on it together until you can.  Learning is the constant; time is a variable.

Peyton Williams, @epdwilliams, answered the second question.  On her blog, Superfluous Thoughts, she published the essential learning “I can…” statements in her 5 Week Update for 8th Grade English post and in her 5 week update for Writing Workshop Enviro Writing post.

From Peyten Williams in an open letter to parents and students explaining her grading policy:

1) Letting a kid fail is not in my job description. I am supposed to teach, not judge. If it takes Johnny 17 times to understand where to put a comma between independent clauses, then so be it. I want him to learn commas, not learn that he can’t do them.

“I can…” instead of “I can’t…”  is teaching for learning.

I plan to use both sets of Peyten’s “I can…” statements to self-assess my writing and thinking.  I am thrilled to see that this “I can…” contagion can be both scalable and transferable.

Peyten’s posts also cause me to wonder what my “I can…” statements are for this semester.  By the end of this semester, I should be able to say “I can…” to the following.

  • I can embrace learning personally and professionally.
    • I can model that learning is process-oriented and ongoing.
    • I can use personal reflection to learn, grow, and challenge myself.
    • I can share my learning with others to garner feedback and to connect ideas.
  • I can use formative assessment to inform next steps in the learning process.
    • I can identify and acknowledge strengths, persistence, and challenges.
    • I can facilitate personalized goal setting and growth.
    • I can differentiate learning experiences based on the needs of each learner.

What if I share these “I can…” statements with my team?  How will they morph and improve? If “I can’t…” creeps into the thinking, will “yet” follow?

Spreading an “I can …” culture: Aware, Enable, Empower

While serving as a member of the Algebra I team at Westminster, I collaborated with colleagues to communicate essential learning targets to our community.  An example is shown below.

Graphing Linear Functions: Unit Two Essential Learnings – Algebra I

By the end of this unit, you [the learner] must be able to say:

  • I can state the formula for slope, am able to use the formula, and can apply that slope is a rate of change.
      • I can find the slope given two points.
      • I can find the slope from a graph.
  • I can find the equation of a line from given information including a graph, the slope and y- intercept, slope and a point, two points.
      • I can find an equation of a line given a point and the slope.
      • I can find an equation of a line given two points.
      • I can find an equation of a line given a graph.
      • I can find an equation of a line parallel or perpendicular to a given line through a given point.
  • I can demonstrate computational fluency with addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and powers of real numbers.
      • I can convert units by using the appropriate ratios (dimensional analysis).
  • I can apply linear functions to model and solve application problems.
      • I can solve application problems involving linear functions.
      • I can solve application problems involving direct variation.
  • I can read and interpret graphs.
      • I can read and interpret information given a graph.

I have been rereading The Power of SMART Goals: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning.

“In order to engage in high-quality assessment, teachers need to first identify specific learning targets and then to know whether the targets are asking students to demonstrate their knowledge, reasoning skills, performance skills, or ability to create a quality product. The teacher must also understand what it will take for students to become masters of the learning targets:  What must students do to acquire knowledge, reasoning skills, performance skills, or the ability to create a quality product? Equally as important, the teacher must share these learning targets and strategies with the students in language that they understand. It is not enough that the teacher knows where students are headed; the students must also know where they are headed, and both the teacher and the students must be moving in the same direction.” (Conzemius, O’Neill,  66 pag.)

As I wondered if the “I can…” work we crafted in Algebra I was scalable, I watched Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge again.

I’ve watched this particular TED talk at least 2 dozen times.  I learn something new every time I watch.  This time the talk connected to the “I can…” statements communication and collaboration with students.  Could we use the idea of “I can…” statements with younger students?

Conzemius and O’Neill encourage educators to identify specific learning targets and express them as “I can…” statements written in kid-friendly language.  Skill and strategies to be learned and assessed should not be a secret.  We should communicate desired outcomes clearly.

One of the highlights of my week involved collaborating with my colleagues to write Everyday Math “I can…” statements for our learners and their families.   It really started a couple of weeks ago with our fantastic 2nd grade team in a team meeting.  In less than an hour, this team of highly motivated educators discussed the essential learnings for a unit and developed the set of “I can…” statements shown below.  I’ve chosen to quote the entire post to show their good work.

Unit 1 in 2nd Grade Math    (posted on 08.20.12)

Unit 1 has begun! This unit is primarily a review unit which focuses on numbers and routines. Lessons review tools in the toolkits, routines for working with partners and small groups, using the number grid, telling time, and counting money. Students are encouraged to practice their addition basic facts (sums through 9 + 9 = 18) as much as they can each week using flash cards, games, or the computer to hone their skills. Later this week, we will post a list of websites that will be useful at home. Today they were given a place in their white binder to record their practice times. Before we know it, the addition facts will be mastered making computation much easier!

By the end of unit 1, your child should be able to say:

    • I can draw tally marks.
    • I can find the value of a collection of coins.
    • I can find missing numbers on a number line.
    • I can solve number grid puzzles.
    • I can tell and write time to the half hour.
    • I can show 10 several different ways.
    • I can count by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s.

Two weeks later, with no coaching from me:

Unit 2 in 2nd Grade Math!     (posted on 09.06.12)

Unit 2 focuses on reviewing and extending addition facts and linking subtraction to addition. Children will solve basic addition and subtraction facts through real-life stories. In Everyday Mathematics, the ability to recall number facts instantly is called “fact power.” Instant recall of the addition and subtraction facts will become a powerful tool in computation with multidigit numbers such as 29 + 92.

By the end of Unit 2, your child should be able to say:

  • I can add and write turnaround facts.
  • I can write fact families.
  • I can add single-digit numbers.
  • I can subtract basic facts. (up to 18 – 9 = 9)
  • I can extend a numeric pattern and solve and write the rule for this pattern.

Please click on “Read More” to view the Unit 2 parent letter.

While Kiran Bir Sethi’s inspiring TED talk has always spoken to me about PBL, this time I focused on helping learners progress through the stages of aware, empower, and enable.

    • Aware – see what is to be learned
    • Enable – adjust and practice behaviors to learn
    • Empower – lead others to learn

Offering learners multiple ways to become aware of what is to be learned and designing experiences to lead learning and practice should enable and empower the learner to grow stronger and more confident.

This week, our amazing 3rd grade team, collaborated on Everyday Math “I can…” statements.

Unit 2: 3rd Grade Essential Learnings

 The main topics of Unit 2 are addition and subtraction of whole numbers with special emphasis on the basic facts and their extensions; solution strategies for addition and subtraction number stories; and addition and subtraction computation with multi-digit numbers.

By the end of Third Grade math, children should demonstrate automaticity with all addition and subtraction facts through
10 + 10 and use basic facts to compute fact extensions.

By the end of Unit 2, your child should be able to say:

  • I can identify the digits in a multi-digit number and express the value of each digit.
      • Example: 465
        The value of the 6 is 60.
  • I can find several names for the same whole number.
      •  Example: 20
        Twenty
        10 + 10
        Veinte (or another language)
        32-12
  • I can use basic facts to compute extended facts.
      • Example:
        If I know 2 + 3 = 5, then I know 20 + 30 = 50 and
        200 + 300 = 500.
  •  I can add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers.
  • I can tell and show time on an analog clock at the five-minute marks.
  • I can complete “What’s My Rule?” problems.
  • I can solve number stories and write number models.

Please refer to the Unit 2 family letter for additional information and vocabulary.

Our goal is to facilitate experiences to spread the “I can…” contagion.  We want our learners to be able to say:

      • I can do math.
      • I can solve problems.
      • I can persist when I struggle.
      • I can collaborate with others to learn together.
      • I can communicate what I know and what I want to know.

Next week, our wonderful 4th grade team begins “I can…” work.  Hmm…this seems to be spreading.

Will writing learning targets in the voice of the learner rather than the teacher help all interested parties focus on the learning rather than the teaching? Can we spread the “I can…” bug?  Will we strive to be contagious?

_________________________

Conzemius, Anne; O’Neill, Jan. The Power of SMART Goals: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2006. Print.

Water instead of Soda #PBLidea #AskDon’tTell

Is there PBL potential and academic content in this commercial from Nestlé?

By replacing one sugared beverage a day with [a bottle of water], you can cut 50,000 calories a year from [your] diet.

The fine print in the ad says that this is based on replacing one 12 oz 140 calorie sugared beverage daily with water for a year.

Where could a discussion of this ad take us in class? What questions will learners ask? What questions will we ask our learners?  What questions might be asked to challenge learners apply what they know?  What questions might be asked to promote problem-finding, problem-solving, communication, leadership, initiative, action, service, and other critical competencies?

Ask; don’t tell.  Listen and learn.  Just ask a question…see where it takes us.