Consensus-building tools help participants narrow and refine proposed solutions of a project. They are also useful in facilitating the two key requirements for reaching agreements in a work group setting by identifying and understanding issues and resolving conflicts. Teachers and students can facilitate consensus building through group discussions and polling.
Many of the ideation tools also can be used to build consensus. Once the initial ideas are presented then through a process of discussion and elimination, ideas can be narrowed down and agreed upon. Oftentimes students need time and opportunity to leave their comments so everyone can be heard before a decision can be made. Ideation and consensus often happen at the same time but separating them gives introverts time to process the ideas and comment.
Diagrams: Many of the collaborative technology tools have the ability to create graphic organizers to scaffold decision-making – like a Venn Diagram or flowchart. Google Docs or Google Drawings has built in templates of some common diagrams or you can create your own. Students can edit drawings online or invite others to view edits in real time. Students can chat with others who are editing a drawing right within the drawings editor to build consensus. The drawings can then be published online or embedded in other Google programs so all can see the results.
Padlet (formally known as Wallwisher) is another brainstorming tool that can be used for ideation but also for consensus making. The ability to leave notes with messages and then move and organize them is very easy for younger students to understand and use and perfect for quick brainstorming & decision making in the classroom. You do not need a Wallwisher account to create or post on a wall but if you create a wall without logging in or signing up, you may be unable to edit the wall after 24 hours but it will still be available to view. Wallwisher does have some other interesting features like the ability to use RSS to follow the posts being made, add Multimedia within the notes, moderate the comments being made, or share by an unique QR code created just for your page.
Another interesting tool for older students is Debategraph. DebateGraph is a cloud-based service that offers individuals and communities a powerful way to learn about and deliberate and decide on complex issues. These graphs allow users to visualize, question, and evaluate all of the considerations that any member thinks may be relevant to the topic at hand – and facilitate intelligent, constructive dialogue within the community around those issues.
Google Moderator allows you to create a series about anything that you are interested in discussing with your class or school and open it up for people to submit questions, ideas, or suggestions.
Polling: Using technology tools to poll audiences is easy and efficient and polling can be used to facilitate consensus or gather information. You don’t need specialized audience response hardware to get feedback. Poll Everywhere conducts surveys using the web, texting, or Twitter and can be used with a cellphone (SMS), smartphone, laptop, desktop, or tablet. These polls can be made by teachers or students. Poll Everywhere is free for audiences of 40 people or less and they offer paid plans for larger audiences and K-12 semester-long plans. Survey Monkey is a popular online survey tool because it’s easy to send free surveys, polls or questionnaires.
Socrative is another student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Socrative is better for teacher-directed consensus building. Teachers login through their device and select an activity which controls the flow of questions and games. Students simply login with their device or online, and interact real time with the content.
For schools using iPads, Nearpod allows teachers to create enriched multimedia presentations with interactive features using their cloud-based content tool and then share the content with the students and control the activity with the Nearpod app. Students submit responses on their mobile devices while the teacher monitors classroom activity and measure student results on an individual and aggregate basis.
Celly is a mobile social network that works with any mobile phone or device. Members can join instantly with one text and exchange group messages, polls, reminders, and web alerts. Celly can enhances school communication such as: study groups, announcement for clubs, field trips, clickers & polling, reminders and alerts, notes, and interactive walls. Learn more at http://cel.ly/school and Celly for School Start Up Guide.
Another simple solution for polling is by using Google Forms and Sheets. Students or teachers can create a customized form to gather feedback, vote on a result, or brainstorm solutions and then the responses are collected in a spreadsheet. Form creators can choose whether to require users to login with their Google accounts or be anonymous. Creators can use a variety of questions types like checkboxes, grid, drop-down lists with options, multiple choice, paragraph text (which allow for long answers) or scale. You can add section headers to divide your form in sections to make it easier to read and complete and/or you can split the questions into multiple pages
Here are six examples of different ways to collect data using a Google Form:
- Have students conduct experiment in classroom and one member goes to teacher’s computer to enter data for that group
- Have students create surveys using Google forms and display on own computer; students travel from machine to machine to fill out the survey
- Email the form to participants to collect data (can embed the form in the email); must know all members email addresses
- Email the form by using a distribution list from your contacts (very easy if using Google Apps since all domain names are the same)
- Share the URL of the published form; consider using a URL shortener for easy access like: http://goo.gl/, http://bit.ly/ or http://tinyurl.com/
- Embed the form in a Google Site, Google+, wiki, blog or Moodle.
Finally, a favorite tool of mine is Doodle for deciding on meeting times when there are multiple options and several attendees. Doodle will also automatically sync appointments to your calendar.