Students attend school to learn. But what is it that they are actually there to learn? Is it the class material? Or is it something else. I believe that the main aim of school is not to learn the material but to learn how to learn and to learn how to organise (to organise yourself, to organise yourself, to organise your life, to organise you life). You go to school to learn how to think. This is the fundamental skill that is going to determine how successful you are in your life.
Very few people realise this. Even fewer people appreciate it enough to incorporate the idea into their classes. (For a good discussion on the topic have a read of Edward De Bono’s “Think! before it is too late“).
Let’s change the tide on this. This entry, and the next few, will look at activities that have a direct focus on getting the students to think and also about how they think.
The first thing we are going to look at is brainstorming. Now brainstorming is an activity that is best done in person. For more discussion on brainstorming you may want to look here. We can, however facilitate pre and post brainstorming activities in Moodle to help foster the process.
Pre Brainstorming session
What we are going to do is set up a glossary activity. This is where people will be able to list ideas. Use the random glossary block so that you can display random entries on the course main page so people can see them while doing their other work. This will get them sub consciously thinking about other peoples ideas. You could allow comments for the glossary entries but I would advise against it as we should be keeping an open mind here as opposed to being critical of other ideas.
The idea is that leading up to the brainstorming session, students will be expected to put ideas into the glossary. They are free to do this at any time they have an idea. They must put in at least one idea but can put more if they like. Offer bonus marks (or some other incentive) for coming up with novel ideas.
Actual Brainstorming session
For the actual brainstorming session there are many techniques you could use. Pick one that you are familiar with or are interested in or think would be appropriate for the given topic.
Post Brainstorming session
After the brainstorming session we want the students to reflect on the ideas that were generated and also the process that was used. For this we want to create a forum and set it up with a series of questions to get the discussion going. You could have questions such as:
- Which solution did you like the best and why?
- Describe a solution that was unexpected and explain how you think it was derived.
- Do you think the process worked? How would you improve it if we did it again?
- Has this session changed your opinion on the topic? If so, how?
- How well do you think the class worked as a group?
If you are going to run another brainstorming session, you may give the students a choice on which technique they would like to use. You could use a choice activity to allow them to vote on it.