Brainstorming Sessions with Google Documents

Brainstorming, the act of writing down ideas quickly without judging their appropriateness is a common tool for beginning a lesson.  It is traditionally done with a class by having the teacher write ideas on a whiteboard or easel paper as the class calls out suggestions. With Google Docs, members of the class can skip the "middle man" and put their ideas directly into a document.* This lets everyone contribute, not just the loudest or most persistent students.

Imagine Mrs. App's Biology class is beginning a lesson on the ethics of cloning technology.  She is going to use a shared Google Document as both a warm-up activity and a brainstorming session.
  1. Before class, Mrs. App creates a Google Document and shares it with her students.  In the document, she makes two phrases:  "Reasons why cloning technology may be beneficial" and "Reasons why cloning technology may be a bad idea."
  2. As a warm-up activity, Mrs. App's students open the shared document on their devices.  Students have 5 minutes to enter their responses: one good reason and one bad reason.  Since this is a brainstorming activity, all answers are accepted.
    [How does this work?  When students open the document and begin typing, their names appear as special cursors. Changes that the students make appear in the document real-time for everyone to see.]
  3. After the warm-up, Mrs. App can project the document on the board and review each of the student's ideas in a whole class discussion.
*There are a few apps and online websites that are better for this than Google Apps.  However, if your students are already familiar with sharing Google Documents, this is an easy activity to do with no "new software learning curve."


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