While preparing to write an overview of online brainstorming and mind mapping tools, I turned to Google Scholar to read some research on group brainstorming methodologies. It was there that I found a paper written by Clive Boddy that gave a name to the methodology that I’ve used for years without knowing what it was called.
Nominal Group Technique is a group brainstorming method in which participants first spend time working silently before coming together to share ideas and generate further ideas with the group. During the silent time participants try to generate and write down as many ideas as they can that are related to the prompt they’ve been given.
I’ve always used this technique in my classes for two reasons. First, to prevent extroverted and exceptionally chatty students from having undue influence on the session. Second, after the session, I could talk with students about their individual ideas even if they didn’t share them aloud during the group time.
It turns out that according to Boddy’s research my method of giving students time to write their ideas silently has more benefits than I thought. The silence helps to activate the right side of the brain. Additionally, people develop more creative ideas in silence than when constantly stimulated by verbalization and noise.
The idea of providing silent time to prevent extroverted students from dominating the brainstorming session has an additional benefit according to Boddy’s research. That benefit is the anonymity of developing ideas in silence.
After the time for individual, silent brainstorming has passed then it is time to start the group brainstorming session. The process of sharing ideas from individuals’ lists of ideas can generate further ideas that students should record. Some of those ideas may be generated from developing connections between two or more shared ideas.
Tools for Hosting Online NGT Brainstorming Sessions
Even if you host your NGT brainstorming sessions in person, you’ll want to create a record of the ideas shared by students. Here are some tools that you can use to have students share their ideas with the group and create a record of those ideas.
Post-it Mobile Apps
The Post-it mobile apps for Android and iOS let you take a picture of physical sticky notes and then sort them on a digital canvas. This is a great tool for those who want to use the traditional paper-based method of having students write notes on paper and then post them to a bulletin board for review by the whole class.
Padlet is a tool that I’ve been using for more than a decade. It enables you to create a digital bulletin board or cork board to which your students can add digital sticky notes. Their notes can include text, pictures, video, and audio files. If you enable the options for it, you can let your students indicate which notes are their favorites by using little stars and thumbs-up icons. Watch this video for an overview of hosting brainstorming sessions on Padlet.
The whiteboard templates in Canva are intended to be used collaboratively. They can be used for a variety of purposes including hosting brainstorming sessions, designing flowcharts, and making KWL charts. To help you and your collaborators focus on the task at hand, Canva has added a timer option to the whiteboard templates. The timer is found in the bottom, left corner of the templates. You can set the timer of any interval that works for your group. Watch the following video to learn how to use Canva’s whiteboard templates.