Madara Mason

Madara Mason's hats include painter, graphic designer, Instructional Designer, faculty educator, English Instructor, food blogger, and Oxford Comma Aficionado. If she's not in front of an easel, she's in front of a screen, or in front of a classroom. Her motto is "If you're not having fun, you're probably doing it wrong."

Last Fall, during our inaugural launch of the CITE Fellows program, our Instructional Design Team was faced with a difficult challenge: how can we pair CITE faculty with Designers to work on innovative projects that have never been seen before? We came up with a few ideas for a full-day workshop meant to facilitate both of those goals, and looking at the fascinating projects that are now in the works, I think our methods must have been successful.

We planned a full-day “Innovation Lab” meant to get a number of balls rolling: partnerships, a large number of possible project ideas, a small bit of education, and a set of common goals for everyone involved. I won’t go into detail about all of the activities we did, but one stands out more than the others and it’s an activity we’ve also used at the statewide level to generate collaborative, project-based activities between campuses.

“Speed Dating” is an activity that’s meant to do 2 things at once –

1. Generate ideas at a rapid pace so that the critical thinking portion of the participants brains don’t have time to shoot possible ideas down before they’ve had time to breathe. There is a followup portion to the activity where the critical thinking can take place, but during the initial phases, participants should just be idea generating machines.

2.  Rotate the participants through each of their potential partners during the idea generation phase. The theory behind this piece is that we can learn quite a bit about others in short, structured activities where we’re problem solving under the gun.

Keeping these things in mind, we did the following. (I’m rephrasing this as a set of directions should anyone want to try this technique with faculty, staff, or students)

1. Create a set of slides (mine are below) equal to the number of potential partnerships. We have 8 CITE Fellows and needed to pair them with 8 eCampus Instructional Designers, so I created 8 slides. Each slide should contain an unusual scenario to which the participants must respond.  It’s a good idea to look through my examples here to see the kinds of questions I’m suggesting. Some of them are silly and meant more to create an atmosphere of congeniality and help participants learn about potential partners, but others are serious and meant to stimulate real possibilities.

2. Create an online space (closed or open, it’s up to you) where participants can post all of the ideas, solutions, and possibilities they come up with. This will create a documented repository from which the participants can draw later. Some will be silly, but many will be interesting. Participants can see how others responded to the same problem and possibly use the ideas that another person has disregarded. We used a Google+ Community as our online repository. The CITE Fellows can go back and comb through the responses if they want to.

2. On the day of the activity, sit everyone in pairs and instruct them to “Look at the first slide and in 5 minutes, answer the questions posed to you and post your answer to the online community.”

3. Designate one team as the stationary team (ours was the Design Team) and one mobile team (the CITE Fellows were mobile in this activity). Provide this instruction: “After the first 5 minute round, the mobile team will move in a clockwise fashion to the next table to solve a problem with a different team member.”

4. Begin the Speed Dating rounds, making sure that people are moving when and where they should and that someone is keeping time.

Follow Up Activity: In order for this to be effective, there must be discussion afterward, both in the face-to-face setting and after a reflective period. Our CITE Fellows were asked some of the following questions:

  • Did you learn something about your potential partners?
  • Were any of the ideas you came up with exciting to you?
  • Some of your ideas are probably bad. What’s the value of allowing bad ideas to surface and even circulate for a while?
  • Why do you think we timed the slides and asked you to rotate?
  • Did you notice anything change about your mental processes after a few slides?
  • Read through some of the other participants’ responses and let’s talk about how others approached the questions differently.

This Speed Dating round was followed by a session we titled “How to Keep People from Killing Your Ideas”. We know that all too often a faculty member or a staff member thinks of something brilliant and the idea is shot down by those who are afraid of change, threatened by novelty, or believe falsely in a set of guidelines they believe are set in stone.

Overall we believe this Speed Dating activity was vital to the development of the projects the CITE Fellows are now working on. You can see those projects by going here.