In running the tournament of awesomeness with my groups, I’ve struggled at times with finding ways to get people to really jump into the debate and talk about the pairings (Atom bomb vs. Cincinnati: Discuss!) rather than just vote and move onto the next thing. I’ve tried just discussing it and trying to egg on the conversation, but I end up doing way too much work for the level of discussion I get in return. As soon as most people figure out which way the voting is going to go, they start giving me the “OK, we get it. Can we move on now?” thing. You know the thing.
To combat that, I pulled out our mini-whiteboards, asking them to write down their answers as well as an explanation for them. That worked a bit better, but people would usually just show me their answers, show it to a friend, but then just doodle on the whiteboard and kick it with said friend when I wasn’t directly talking to them.
Yesterday, however, I was in the middle of the whiteboard thing and decided to just collect the whiteboards and place them all on the marker tray of my main whiteboard, with the answers facing the board. This time as we went, I only turned around one at a time and we discussed them. (Why is it that my best innovations are usually those that come up in the middle of doing something ?).
This made for a HUGE difference in participation. People matched up the author with the writing; people started fishing for new words that we could then circle for awhile; people were creating much more lively responses to play to the entire crowd, comparisons and contrasts between the objects finally worked. (Snow days vs. Weekends: do you prefer surprises or regularity; Monkeys vs. A Basketball trick shot video made by class members: talent or fuzziness? Would it help if the basketballers were fuzzy?)
One student who had submitted his own name as being the most awesome thing in the world (A German I student enrolled in my German II class because of scheduling problems), learned the word “to vote” and then couched all of his voting explanations in terms of how the voting would affect his own chances (even declining to vote for himself so as to take the high ground). By the end of the class, I was the one who had to limit the discussions and keep us moving along.
And, in case you are curious, the winners were Atom bombs, Weekends, and the trick shot video. And yes, I think my German I student is going to win this tourney; he’s just that awesome.