googledocs and the collective mind


This is an activity that I have done several times this year with my students, and I recently tried it with a group of adults (my cohort at the University of Calgary, and here is the PDF (EducationalShiftsinThinking) of the document we created as a group).  Every time I try, it is a fascinating experience and some interesting learning and observations come out of it.  I will describe the activity and then reflect on some of the more interesting aspects of it.

  • Choose a question of concept that you wish to brainstorm and gather information on

  • Make a googledoc and set it to public, anyone can edit

  • Put your question up

  • Have all the participants access the doc at the same time and start editing at the same time (the more the better; I have done it with as low as 4, and as high as 23)

  • Ask that they edit in silence and from their own ideas and experiences

  • Discuss the content of the document when finished  (maybe a synthesizing activity)

  • Reflect on what the activity felt like, and how the group contributed to the whole

What I find the most interesting is how this a great conversation starter for an interesting question; where do ideas come from?  During the rush of editing the doc (and when there are about 20 people editing a document at the same time, it is a rush!), ideas are born from other ideas and adjust our thinking forward.  We become, as it were, assimilated into the mind of the group.  The final result of this is a set of ideas that no one individual could have ever come up with, but also that no other group could have created.  It is unique to each learner, but it also supersedes the individual and creates a dynamic group system that is learning, sharing, and growing together.  It really is one of the most fascinating activities I have ever done, and resulted in some great dialogue and discussion.

If you try this, please let me know how it goes.  I am very interested in this idea of collective mind, and this is the closest I have ever seen it in action.