Brainwalk

Degree programme: Information Studies. Course: Communication on the Internet (elective course). Study level: Semester 7. Size of class: 16 (or more).

Motivation for the activity

The exercise gives the students the chance to share their ideas. This could be called a ‘funnelling activity’, with good ideas being condensed into a few useful paths that the students can take.

Central learning objectives for the course

The students should gain skills in various forms of communication either on the internet or in other digital contexts.

They learn to analyse the importance of digital media for human communication processes in one-way and multi-directional communication, and they learn to enter into an academic dialogue regarding the significance of digital media for communication and communicative contexts. The students also acquire the ability to develop and contribute to communication processes and strategies in and outside organisations; and to develop and contribute to the analysis, planning and organisation of communication, learning and collaboration contexts and communication strategies using digital media in relation to given contexts and target groups.

Central learning objectives for the activity

The students should expand their ideas with regard to their project instead of being fixed on one specific idea too early in the process.

Description of the activity

  • The class consists of five groups of different sizes, with each group working on their own project in the elective course ‘Communication on the Internet’. The exercise takes place at the beginning of the semester, so at this point in time the students have only identified a theme or vaguely defined case in relation to their project.
  • The students are placed in groups of four (one group at each table).
  • Each student is given a piece of A4 paper and a pen/felt tip in a different colour. They are given a very brief description of the exercise, but the individual steps in the exercise are not presented. The students are given three minutes to describe their theme/case in the middle of the piece of paper.
  • Then all the students leave their mind maps behind and move one seat to their left. The students now have two minutes to draw inspiration from and build on the mind map they have taken over from their neighbour. They might think of a theory which fits the content of the mind map; they might have heard of a similar case; they might have read something about the case in the newspaper; or the case might remind them of something. They write down whatever they think of in different branches of the mind map.
  • Then they get up again and rotate again to their left, where they will find a new mind map, and the exercise is repeated for two minutes.
  • Repeat this procedure until the students end up back at their own mind maps.
  • At this point, the students must think about their own mind maps for three minutes and boil down all the input into three good ideas for how to take their project forward. These three good ideas must be written on separate post-it notes and placed on the table.
  • The class gets together and discusses the outcome of the exercise based on the three ideas that have been written down on the post-it notes.

Outcome of the activity

The students benefit from seeing what their peers have written. The students broaden their ideas and then narrow them down in a ‘funnelling’ exercise, with good ideas being condensed into a few useful directions in which to take their projects.

It’s a useful exercise because the paper ensures that the students write things down. 

Useful tips

  • It might be worth thinking about how the students should be mixed at the tables: should they sit with their own project group, or should they be mixed with other groups? If the exercise is done at an early stage in the process of working on a project, it might be useful to put the students in their project groups so they can work together on their joint projects. If the exercise is done later on, it might be useful to mix the students in order to spread out their ideas.    
  • It may be difficult to read the students’ handwriting, so it might be a good idea to discuss this before starting the exercise. Ask the students to write legibly.
  • At the end of the exercise, you can do a quick final round in which the students are only allowed to work on each mind map for one minute. This can be beneficial because the students are now familiar with the exercise, and they may have thought of some new ideas which they didn’t write down initially. This creates a different dynamic. This type of exercise requires strict time-keeping.
  • It is important that teachers are very specific and well structured with regard to time-keeping.