Most of us, at some point in time, have been put through the process of creating an affinity diagram. Today, I wanted to see if we can use technology to take this standard meeting technique and use it online and in classrooms.
For those not familiar with the technique (or for those that may have done it without knowing what it is called), affinity diagrams are a way of taking a collection of brainstormed ideas and placing them into groups or similar themes, to sort through large amounts of information or to come to conclusions/solutions. For a better explanation (by people that explain it much better than I do), see this PDF.
In a nutshell:
- Throw up a question, problem or issue to your group
- Have them brainstorm every idea under the sun they can come up with. Write each idea on its own piece of paper, index card, or if you have some extra cash to burn, it’s worth it to spurge on some Post-It Notes™.
- Sort into groups, themes or solutions. You can then vote as needed.
Affinity diagrams are a great way to quickly compile a large amount of information with active involvement from everyone. But the purpose of this post is not to convince you to use them in a face to face meeting. Instead, I want to find out how we can make this work if we are not all in the same space or time. How do you do this over Skype or Adobe Connect? Do we use a spreadsheet to tabulate everyone’s results? Do we have a shared digital whiteboard for people to interact with? Seems inefficient and clunky. What if we want this brainstorm to be an ongoing process? And how do large groups such as school classrooms or online courses make use of the benefits of affinity diagrams?
So a quick Google search lead to a few online applications that seem like they could do the trick. After looking at a few options, I decided that I wanted to give Murally a shot based on its UI, features and reasonable educational pricing.
I have a feeling that this could be a great way to not only keep my own personal ideas organized (I like the stickies as to do lists), but also for my team to use in many different ways. I see short-term problem solving to long term planning all having a place here.
Rather than having me post a walkthrough of the site, check out the features here.
Tonight, I’ll be sending out invites to the rest of my team for us to test this tool. If this tool goes as well as I hope it does, we will send out our feedback, ideas and tips on ways to implement this into your classroom.
If anyone has any experience with these tools, or any general thoughts, please leave them in the comments below.