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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

7 Tools for Hosting Online Brainstorming Sessions

After yesterday's post about Limnu there were a couple of similar tools suggested on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page. I also received a couple of requests for suggestions for other similar tools. Here are some of the other tools that you and your students can use to host online brainstorming sessions.

Simple Surface is a browser-based tool for collaboratively creating outlines and mind maps.To get started with Simple Surface just click on "use for free now," double click on the surface, and then start typing. To create an additional thought box just double click anywhere on your board. To make sibling and child thought boxes use the enter and tab keys. You can edit the color and size of fonts. Your boxes can be linked to URLs too. Right-click on your surface to open the full menu of editing options.

NoteBookCast is a free whiteboard tool that will work in the web browser on a laptop, iPad, Android tablet, and Windows tablet. NoteBookCast is a collaborative whiteboard tool. You can invite others to join your whiteboard by entering the code assigned to your whiteboard. You can chat while drawing on NoteBookCast whiteboards. While you can create an account on NoteBookCast, it is not a requirement for using the service. You can create a whiteboard by simply clicking "create a whiteboard" then entering a nickname for yourself to use on the whiteboard. If you do create a NoteBookCast account you can save your whiteboards and create whiteboard templates to re-use.

iBrainstorm is a free brainstorming application for the iPad and the iPhone. The app allows you to record brainstorming sessions using a combination of free hand drawings and sticky notes. You can share and collaborate with other users of iBrainstorm. Sharing notes and drawings between users in a local setting is a simple matter of "flicking" an item to another user.

Realtime Board is a platform for hosting online, collaborative brainstorming sessions. Realtime Board is built with HTML5 which means that it works equally well on your laptop and on your iPad or Android tablet. Realtime Board provides a blank canvas on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. The boards that you create on Realtime Board can be shared publicly or privately. To help you communicate with your collaborators Realtime Board has a chat function built into every board. Realtime Board grants teachers and students access to all premium features for free. In order to get the premium features for free you do need to complete the form here.

Stoodle is an online whiteboard service supported in part by the CK-12 Foundation. Through Stoodle you can quickly create a collaborative whiteboard space. On your whiteboard you can type, draw, and upload images. You can connect Stoodle to your computer's microphone and talk your collaborators while drawing, typing, or sharing images. Stoodle does not require you to create an account. Stoodle will work in the web browser on your iPad or Android tablet. Watch the video below to learn how to create a Stoodle room.



Padlet is an incredibly versatile tool with which you can do everything from sharing bookmarks to sharing sticky notes to running a microblog. To use Padlet for brainstorming open up a wall then invite students to join and share their ideas in sticky note format. Create a custom background for your Padlet wall and you can then sort the notes into categories. A complete playlist of tutorials on using Padlet can be watched here.

Last, but not least, Google Apps for Education provides a bunch of options for students to use to organize their thoughts. Students who prefer to illustrate their ideas can use Google Drawings to create a mind map then insert it into a Google Document. The commenting feature in Google Drawings and Documents makes it easy for team members to ask clarifying questions, make suggestions, and reply to questions and suggestions.

Applications for Education
Whether it is to solve a problem, plan a project, or develop new story ideas there are plenty of occasions in the course of a school year for students to brainstorm together. I still believe that nothing beats getting together in a room to swap ideas in person, but that's not always practical or possible. For those times when in-person brainstorming sessions are not possible, the tools featured above offer good ways to host brainstorming sessions online.