A Brainstorming Tool

A few years ago, I did an evaluation of mind mapping/brain storming tools.  There weren’t too many products on the market at the time.  If you’ve been a computer user for a while, I’m sure that you could even name them.  We actually had a committee chosen to do the task – there were some members who were language arts teachers and had been using graphic organizers for years and then a couple of computery types like me who knew the value of mind mapping because we had used these.

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Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary via Compfight cc

We had a great deal of fun evaluating the products although it was a challenge at times.  Essentially, they all did the same thing, the same way.  But, we did finally get one that we liked and went forward with it.

Now, that was a few years ago.

Fast forward to today.

If you head into your favourite app store, you’ll see that there are all kinds of products available to download.  Some are standalone applications and others run inside your browser.  Attempts to distinguish one from the other have been made largely in the graphic design of the product and the documents that they create.  But if you, as a friend of mine once said, peel back the skin of the onion, they all pretty much work the same way.  Essentially, not much has changed over the years.

Recently, there were a number of references to a new product that filled my reading.  The product was called Stormboard and it claimed to be different.  That was enough to get me to take an in depth look at.  I like what I see.

The thinking and design was a little different from what I’d used in the past.  I was encumbered by a knowledge of flowcharting templates where one box leads to another and there are lines connecting items.  Instead, I had to start thinking of how communication central works around here.  Walk into our kitchen and there will be sticky notes everywhere.  My wife is the queen of the sticky note.  Look around and there are reminders, instructions, orders, phone numbers, etc. everywhere.

Stormboard works like that…and more.

Storm

To kick the tires, I thought that I’d pull together some of the planning for the BringITTogether conference, November 5-7.

From the top left corner, I have a choice of things to drag out to the work area.  They all look like sticky notes so I was right at home!  Each note could be just a sticky or I could include an image, a video, document, or sketch my own.  As you drag them around the board, it’s hypnotic to watch them wiggle.  Each note has properties where you can change the colour or even a feature that I think would be very helpful – you can take sticky from one brainstorm and plop it into another.  Now, why would you want to do that?

Stormboards are multi-user.  The free version allows you to have up to five collaborators on any document.  So, a teacher, for example could divide a class into a number of small groups and then drop instructions into each of the groups without too much effort.  In face, the multi-user features really separate Stormboard from what I’ve been currently using.  Yes, you can have multiple users but there’s more.  Add the users and put your ideas on the board.  Users can then vote in favour or against a concept.  Each sticky also allows for team members to comment rather than change the original sticky.  Who’s doing the work?  Check out the activity button on the top right for a history of activity.  And, of course, what would a multi-user document creator be without a chat feature.  Think beyond the traditional classroom – think online learning or students collaborating on a project from home.  Chat and monitoring activity keeps everyone up to date.

Not every Stormboard needs to start as a blank canvas.

A group of starter templates come with the product.

Templates

 

Templates

So, there’s no need to start from scratch!

When you’re done…a nice feature is the ability to repurpose or summarize your efforts.

reports

Check out the different ways to use your or your group’s efforts.

This certainly takes the concept of a report or summary to the next level.

If you’re looking for a web based brain storming solution, make sure that you give this one a long look.  It may just change your whole mindset about how brainstorming works.

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12 thoughts on “A Brainstorming Tool

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  4. I’m so glad you took the time to dive into this, and appreciate the note from Stormboard to tell us that there’s not a limit on the number of users. I think this is one I’m going to take a closer look at…first, of course, checking to see whether my at-school version of Explorer supports it. Thanks for putting it into a practical context for me. It’s that willingness to dig into a new tool, put it through its paces, and then document and share that exploration that consistently makes you someone I turn to for new knowledge. Thanks for being my leading edge.

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