Crowdsourcing the Cluster

While personally I loathe prewriting graphic organizers like webs and clusters and mind maps, I get that they are a valuable instructional tool and really useful for many students to organize their thoughts, research, and writing.

With that in mind, I added Google Drawings to my eMedia course to expose pre-service teacher candidates, as well as future reporters and politicians, to the possibility of having multiple people work on something besides a document or presentation file. So far, I’m pretty tickled by the results.

Students could choose from two Google Drawings. One asked for suggestions to improve their major department — a variation on a typical “how are we serving you?” questionnaire that disappears into the electronic ether:

Week 4 Drawing, Option 1

Would people respond more to a cluster of actual comments vs. a computer-generated pie chart of forced responses? It’s one thing to know that 57% of students are “relatively happy” with their department. It’s another to see their words (and grammar) in one place.

The other option drew from the popular six words story format, challenging students to describe their best teacher in no more than six words in more of a collage:

Week 4 Drawing, Option 2

This easily could become an “All About Me” project where students share their drawing with friends and relatives, who add their own memories and pictures for a really interesting result. It could be the end point of a KWL exercise, with each student adding what s/he has learned; the result can be exported as a PDF or image (easily reproduced for the whole class to examine and for records purposes).

We often talk about the need for more resources for visual learners. “Visual learner” does not mean “I have the fine motor control and general skill to draw something that I’m proud of.” Perfectionist students might appreciate the ability to erase, move, and tweak their cluster / web / mind map.

I’ll have to see what my students think about the potential of Google Drawings…




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