Collaboration Exercise Instructions

Use these instructions with Collaboration Exercise PowerPoint Slides

 

This exercise is designed to be an excellent ice-breaker at the beginning of a class and/or semester. The exercise also gives the students some first-hand insight into different levels of collaboration when working in a group or with pair programming.

 

The exercise consists of three activities where the students will have to design: 1) a transportation device; 2) a movie script; and 3) a robotic classroom assistant. In each activity, the groups do their work in a different fashion, which will demonstrate various forms of collaboration.

 

Students work in groups of 4, ideally. You can modify the instructions slightly to accommodate a group of 5, but it is best if your groups are at least 4 due to the need for students to work in two's so a group of 3 would be difficult. You can form groups and have these same groups work together for all three activities. Or, you can form new groups of 4s for each exercise for more ice breaker-ability.

 

Preparation: Have approximately four sheets of blank white paper for each person in the class. Also, have one thin marker (such as Vis a Vis) for each student. Students share their drawings with the class -- and their drawings will not show up if they are drawn in pencil or regular pen.

 

Activity 1: Designing a Transportation Device

On slide 2, you ask each student to individually design and draw a transportation device that meets the specifications on the slide. In the first phase of the exercise, all students are to work alone without conversing with any other classmates. The students can get about 3-5 minutes to complete their design. Then, the integration phase starts. You ask the groups to start by telling each other what time they got up this morning and rank ordering themselves based on their wake up time. Go to slide 3, tell them the group needs to integrate their designs into one transportation device using the braking system from student 1, the restraint system from student 2 and so forth. Inevitably the students start to laugh and end up drawing some nonsensical transportation device. The integration takes about another 5 minutes.

When the integration is done, go around the room. Have each student present their own product. After each person in a group has presented their product, ask someone to present their integrated design.

Lessons to bring out: First, ask the students what they learned through the exercise. If they don't bring the following points out -- discuss them yourself. All students read the same specification yet each drew something totally different. As a result, the transportation devices are hard to integrate into a good product. The same thing can happen if they work in teams and don't talk to each other. Another aspect to bring out is that when they worked alone, the room was silent, and they didn't have much fun. Once they started working together, they started laughing and enjoying themselves much more.

Activity 2: Designing a Movie Script

You can either keep the same groups or switch them now. On slide 4, you can find the specifications for a movie script. Go over the specifications. Tell the students that they will work in pairs to come up with a script. If you have an odd number of students, have groups of three and no one works alone. Give the pairs about 5-7 minutes to come up with a script. They just write bullet notes down on their paper, not full paragraphs. Ask the students to then decide which pair is Pair 1 and which is Pair 2. Tell the students to share their stories with the other group (3-4 minutes to share the stories) and then integrate according to the instructions on slide 4 (3 minutes).

When the integration is done, go around the room. Have each pair present their own story. After each pair in a group has presented their story, ask someone to present their integrated story to the class.

Lessons to bring out: First, ask the students what they learned through the exercise. If they don't bring the following points out -- discuss them yourself. It should be been easier to integrate two parts rather than four parts in the first exercise. The integrated story MIGHT fit together better since there were only two parts to integrate. Finally, you can remark that the stories created by the pairs were probably more creative than the first designs done by individuals in Activity 1. Collaboration is good for creativity.

Activity 3: Designing a Robotic Classroom Assistant

You can either keep the same groups or switch them now. On slide 5, you can find the specifications for a robotic classroom assistant. Go over the specifications. If the students have switched groups since Activity 1, ask them to decide who is student 1, 2, 3, and 4. Each person has one aspect of the product they "own." They collaborate with their teammates to get their input on their aspect. Ultimately, the owner makes the decision on that aspect of the product. In this exercise, the students will rotate who they are working with every 2 minutes. During the first iteration, students 1 and 2 talk about how to monitor the number of people in the room and how to get student's attention, and students 3 and 4 talk about the other aspects. After 2 minutes, the pair switch and each student talks about what they own and what their collaborator owns. Finally the pairs switch again. After the final iteration, the room is quiet again and each student must draw the entire classroom assistant as they know it base upon their conversations with their team mates, taking about 2-3 minutes. Then, the team integrates into one product based upon the specification of each owner.

When the integration is done, go over the exercise with the class. At this point, it is too tedious for each student to present their product. Ask each group to present product and to comment on how different the integrated product is from that of the individual team members.

Lessons to bring out: First, ask the students what they learned through the exercise. If they don't bring the following points out -- discuss them yourself. Discuss the fact that when pairs rotate around, each team member has a better view of the product as a whole. If one person on the team dropped out, the rest of the team could more easily make up for the loss since several people at least partially understand the aspect of the system owned by the person who left. This is a good risk management strategy, particularly in industry. Also, each person got input from several other team members on their aspect of the product and was likely to have a better, more creative aspect based upon the input of several team members.

 

Activity designed by Laurie Williams and Lucas Layman, North Carolina State University.

Please send feedback and instructions to williams@csc.ncsu.edu

copyright: Laurie Williams and Lucas Layman, 2007