Absorb, Do, Connect

When learning new content and skills, it is important that learning activities are varied so that students are aided in recall of the information. One way to do this is by classifying your activities as Absorb, Do and Connect. As described by William Horton, Absorb, Do and Connect activities are different ways that students interact with content. In Absorb activities, students read, view or listen to something. Do activities ask students to practice doing something with the content, and Connect activities ask students to make meaning of the content by somehow connecting it with the real world or their prior knowledge. (Horton, 2012)

Best practices are guidelines to help online instructors develop high quality courses. While there are multiple rubrics and guidelines documents available, many of the criteria are the same from one rubric to another. Things like course navigation, learning activities and course content are all addressed by best practice standards. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a design strategy that helps instructors not only ensure that they meet the needs of learners who need special accommodations, but also aid all students by providing accommodation that may help many. Things like Alt tags for images and tables, closed captioning for videos, and transcripts of audio recordings are all things that could aid multiple learners. Providing lecture materials in various and varied formats and allowing students the opportunity to express their understanding in multiple ways also help meet the criteria for UDL.

It is important in Instructional Design to ensure that all activities are connected to the objectives of the course. Each module I have designed has a Terminal Objective, which has been articulated in my Alignment Guide. Each Terminal Objective also has many enabling objectives, which will appear with the activities themselves.
Below is an example of part of Module 2 - Topic Development, which ties my activities to my objectives. First, you will find a snippet of my alignment chart for Module 2. Below that, a chart containing the content of the module. On the left hand side of the chart are the activities and directions as student will see them. On the right, my comments about the type of activity each is, and how they address Best Practice for Online Teaching and Learning and Universal Design for Learning. Each activity will have its own page or block in the Learning Management System, so as not to run together. This also means that all discussion prompts will appear in the forum in which they should respond, and all assignments will have their own "dropbox" within the assignment itself.

For more information about the assessment tools used (rubrics, grading scales, etc), please visit my Assessment page.


Competency/Outcome/Objective 

Assessment Ideas

Absorb

Do

Connect

1 Gather ideas using a variety of brainstorming strategies

Private - submit practice brainstorms to dropbox; 

Quiz on types of brainstorming


Public - Discussion of preferred strategies

Read lecture materials and view examples of the different brainstorming strategies


Read The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss

Practice each brainstorming strategy (Freewrite, Cluster, List, Ask Questions) on topics connected to The Butter Battle Book: arms race, fall of the Berlin Wall, War as a means to address differences of opinion, retaliation, causes of war


Discuss with peers students’ preferred methods of brainstorming and reason for preference (connecting prior experience with new strategies learned)

Complete Quiz on types of brainstorming


Terminal Objective: Gather ideas using a variety of brainstorming strategies

Reading Assignment

Objective: Students will tie literature to history through exploration of various pieces of literature.

Please read The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss

Absorb - During this activity students are asked to read The Butter Battle Book, which addresses several history related ideas. It will later be used as a basis for students to begin brainstorming on the ideas presented

Best Practices and UDL - Each module will have at least 1 literary reading to complete to give them a historical topic to practice their research skills with. The reading will always be assigned at the end of the previous module. By assigning literature, I am providing a common background for students to explore new skills.

The Butter Battle Book Discussion

Objective: Students will tie literature to history through exploration of various pieces of literature.

Dr. Seuss attempted to address social issues in some of the books he wrote during his career. What social issue do you think The Butter Battle Book is meant to address? Please provide examples from the reading to support your argument. Then, return to this discussion and respond to at least two of your peers. 

Please remember to refer to Discussion Expectations and Response Techniques

Please refer to the Discussion Rubric for Grading information.
Connect - In this discussion, student will connect the ideas in The Butter Battle book with things that happened in history. In this manner, students are connecting new information with prior knowledge.

Best Practices - There are many different issues Seuss is thought to have been commenting on. The LMS we use allows for Student Completion Rules, which means they cannot see other's comments before they post their own. This allows students to compose their own thoughts before reading those of others.

UDL - By reminding students of Discussion Expectations and Response Techniques (which will be hyperlinked), I am working to foster community in the course.

Lesson 1 - Introduction to Brainstorming

Objective: Students will gather ideas using a variety of brainstorming strategies.

The first thing that you need to do when you start a research project is figure out what you want to learn more about. Normally, a teacher will give you either a very specific topic or a broader topic. If you are given a broad topic, there will be a number of things you can research, possibly even a list of ideas will be provided. For instance, your American History teacher may ask you to research the life of George Washington (specific), or the teacher may ask you to research the life of a figure in American History (broad). You can get ideas for research from a number of places. If you find yourself wondering as you read books and articles, if you've ever wondered about something you heard in a class, or if you've ever just wondered about anything at all, this is brainstorming. Wondering and keeping track of what you would like to know more about are great ways to develop a research idea.

Additionally, you can use a variety of brainstorming strategies to lead you toward a topic. There are a number of ways to begin brainstorming topics. They include, but are not limited to, free writing, clustering, listing and asking questions. The key, though, is that you actually conduct research for your final product. If you attempt to research something you already know a lot about, or have already researched for another class, that is unacceptable. Teachers do not want to hear, "But I didn't have to find sources because I already knew all of that." One major objective of researching is to learn something new! 

Pretend your teacher has given you the following assignment:
Please hand in a 5 page paper that discusses the effect of war on a society. 

This is both broad and narrow. The topic wants you to discuss a specific thing: the effects of war on a specific society. However, this topic is also broad because you can choose a society to research.

The first thing you have to do is brainstorm. You might want to start making a list of all of the societies you can think of that have been affected by war, or maybe you want to start free writing about all of the changes you think war might bring to a society. Either way, brainstorming is the activity that gets you thinking about the topic. 
Absorb - During this activity, students are passively receiving information to introduce them to brainstorming. 

Best Practices - All lecture materials will appear on a webpage within the LMS. Any links to outside information will open a in a new window to ensure students do not get lost in navigation. 

UDL - I am providing background information on brainstorming before leading students through a number of brainstorming techniques. I am also attempting to connect brainstorming to their current lives (even if it is in regard to school).

Lesson 2 - Free Writing

Objective: Students will gather ideas connected to The Butter Battle Book using Free Writing as a Brainstorming Strategy.

You may be one of those people who like to just put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be) and start writing. When doing this, you may not realize that you are actually engaging in a brainstorming activity called free writing. When you free write, you are essentially writing whatever ideas come to mind without stopping to monitor spelling and grammar. In a sense, free writing is like talking to yourself on paper. Sometimes when you free write, you have something particular in mind. Perhaps you have a minor idea that may turn into a big one. At other times you just have no idea what you are going to write about, and you write down whatever comes to mind. Free writing is a good strategy because it lets you empty your brain onto the page, and it gives you an idea of where you stand in terms of prior knowledge about a topic. Once you have finished, you can read what you have written, look for the more interesting ideas, and then free write again on one of those ideas.

Here is an example of free writing:

War is devastating. It's devastating for everyone. I am thinking now about the bombs that are being dropped on Gaza. How horrible must it be to live under those conditions? I can't imagine buying an apartment that has a room specifically reinforced as a bomb shelter, or having to remember to close my protective bomb blinds every time the sirens blow. I have friends in Israel and Gaza who know no other life, and friends who lived in America for many years who did not have to worry about such things. I can't imagine how they raise their small children, how they can live this type of lifestyle without wanting to run far and fast. The German holocaust comes to mind. As many times as I see documentaries, read accounts, and visit the Holocaust museum, I will never be able to fathom how so many people stood by and watched as millions of innocent men, women and children were slaughtered. What kind of person does it take to engage in the horrific acts? What kind of person would stand by and let these things happen? Why are we living in 2014, and war is still the answer? What, exactly does it solve? It's like a large scale playground fight. Whomever throws the hardest punch wins?

You will notice that my thoughts wandered as I wrote this brief paragraph. They didn't stay on one topic, but from my brief free writing, I can tell I'm interested in knowing more about war, specifically perhaps the psychological causes or effects of war. One way or another, I am emptying my mind of whatever is in there, and eventually, I may be able to link my ideas with a topic to research.

If you aren’t one of those people that can just put your fingers to the keyboard and get ideas out, there are other options available as well. The next technique we will look at is clustering.
Absorb - During this activity, students are passively receiving information about Free Writing.

Best Practices and UDL - All information in the module will be presented in a linear fashion to help guide students from one activity to another. This will help ensure that students do not get lost in the course trying to figure out where to go next. Although presented linearly, students will have the option of how to move through the materials, as they will not be restricted on which materials to explore first.

Free Writing Assignment

Objective: Students will gather ideas connected to The Butter Battle Book using Free Writing as a Brainstorming Strategy.

Please spend at least 5 minutes free writing on one of the following topics:
-Retaliation
-Causes of war
-The Arms Race
-The fall of the Berlin Wall
-War as an answer to differences of opinion

Do not worry about continuity or making sense. This is not a rough draft; it is simply an attempt to develop ideas.

This assignment is assessed using the Effort Based Grading Scale.
Do/Connect - This activity is both a Do and Connect, because they are creating something new by practicing applying the information. They are using the themes of The Butter Battle Book to practice Free Writing. 

Best Practices - Students will be reminded in each assignment how the work will be assessed.

Lesson 3 - Clustering

Objective: Students will gather ideas connected to The Butter Battle Book using Clustering as a Brainstorming Strategy.

Some people are more visual when it comes to organizing their thoughts and ideas. For those individuals, the process of Clustering may be the most effective method of brainstorming. Clustering is much like it sounds. It is when you take a bunch of ideas and sort them into groups or clusters. The ideas may come from a reflection journal, your notebook, or a bunch of random things you wrote down on a piece of paper over a period of time. When you cluster, you are actually drawing a pictorial representation of what is in your mind. Clustering allows you to spit ideas out without using complete sentences, or sometimes, without complete thoughts. As you group, you can add arrows to point between similar concepts, change your ink color to represent different groups of ideas, and even add sketches to help you visualize a topic. Clustering works best for people who have a hard time thinking linearly. Clustering starts with one main idea in the center of the page with a circle around it. You then start adding other thoughts and ideas. Connect these added ideas to the main idea and other sub ideas using lines and arrows.


Here is an example of clustering:

We’ve looked at free writing and clustering as brainstorming techniques, but perhaps neither of these spoke to you. Maybe you are more of a list person? Let’s take a look at listing as a brainstorming technique.
Absorb - During this activity, students are passively receiving information about Clustering.

Best Practices and UDL - Whenever possible, outside resources such as videos and images will be embedded directly on the webpage in the LMS. Every image, video, table or other embedded file will have an Alt tag which carefully describes what is on the screen. Every video or audio file will have a detailed transcript as well.

Clustering Assignment

Objective: Students will gather ideas connected to The Butter Battle Book using Clustering as a Brainstorming Strategy.

Using one of the topics listed below, create a cluster using MindMeister, Cacoo or Lucid Chart (all three can be connected to your Google Drive See instructions here). Don't forget to group ideas, use different shapes and colors, and use arrows. Do not spend too much time making it pretty, be sure you focus on developing ideas. You MAY NOT choose a topic you have used before.
-Retaliation
-Causes of war
-The Arms Race
-The fall of the Berlin Wall
-War as an answer to differences of opinion

This assignment is assessed using the Effort Based Grading Scale.

Do/Connect - This activity is both a Do and Connect, because they are creating something new by practicing applying the information. They are using the themes of The Butter Battle Book to practice Clustering. 


Best Practices and UDL - This assignment will link to a document that reminds them how to connect Apps to their Google Drive, ensuring they have access to everything they need to successfully meet the objective.

Lesson 4 - Brainstorming/Listing

Objective: Students will gather ideas connected to The Butter Battle Book using Brainstorming/Listing as a Brainstorming Strategy.

Listing is what most people envision when they hear the term brainstorm. It literally involves making lists of ideas, possible topics, people, places, and things. Listing usually does not use complete sentences. It is more of record of thoughts that pop into your head as you try to think about a topic. Listing is a way to generate a ton of ideas in a very short amount of time. Once you have your list, you can then revisit it, group common ideas or themes together, and then compose potential thesis statements.

Here is an example of the listing strategy:
conflicts
altercations
fighting
arguments
war
disagreements
resolution
blood
tears
hurt
accusations

We’ve now looked at three methods of brainstorming: Free Writing, Clustering and Listing. The final brainstorming technique we will look at is Asking Questions.

Absorb - During this activity, students are passively receiving information about Brainstorming/Listing.

Listing Assignment

Objective: Students will gather ideas connected to The Butter Battle Book using Brainstorming/Listing as a Brainstorming Strategy.

Choose one of the topics below and start listing whatever comes to mind as you think about it. Do this as quickly as possible. Do not worry if some ideas are off topic. This is just an exercise in getting your thoughts out. You MAY NOT choose a topic you have used before.
-Retaliation
-Causes of war
-The Arms Race
-The fall of the Berlin Wall
-War as an answer to differences of opinion

This assignment is assessed using the Effort Based Grading Scale.

Do/Connect - This activity is both a Do and Connect, because they are creating something new by practicing applying the information. They are using the themes of The Butter Battle Book to practice Listing. 

Lesson 5 - Asking Questions

Objective: Students will gather ideas connected to The Butter Battle Book using Asking Questions as a Brainstorming Strategy.

Asking questions is another familiar brainstorming strategy for most people. When you want to find out about things, you ask questions about them. Reporters and investigators use the 5 W's: who, what, where, when and why. In addition to the 5 w's, they use the big H: how. This tactic allows you to narrow the focus of your paper, and it also gives you a great jumping off point for your research. As you think about a topic, ask yourself questions like: Who was involved? What was the issue? Why was it important? Also, ask questions that you are interested in finding the answers to. 

Example:

I often wonder about our economics times. Who created this economic mess? Is there one person to blame? Is the economic situation due to greed? What are economic issues doing to the general public? Who is being affected by them? Is the economy hurting the rich? The poor? Is there any way to get us back to the strong economic country we once were? Or are we doomed be in this recession/depression nonsense forever? When did the trouble begin? When might we begin to bounce back? What about this housing market? Is there ever going to be a good time to sell? What about all of those people who counted on their real estate purchases for retirement? Why did this mess occur in the first place? Is there less money now? More people to share it? How could this have happened if there is still the same amount of money in the country? Are we going to rely on foreign countries more or less because of this? 

You may wish to ask your questions in a bulleted list format as well. Whichever strategy works best for you is the one you should use.

Now that you have seen four different methods of brainstorming, which do you prefer? Don’t forget to take the Brainstorming Quiz and be sure to participate in the discussion forum about your preferred method before moving on to another getting started technique called Pre-Searching.

Absorb - During this activity, students are passively receiving information about Asking Questions.


UDL - Throughout the module, students are exploring a number of ways to brainstorm ideas. Providing them with multiple ways to brainstorm allows them to explore which method works best for them.

Asking Questions Assignment

Objective: Students will gather ideas connected to The Butter Battle Book using Asking Questions as a Brainstorming Strategy.

Choose one of the topic below and generate a list of questions you might use to focus your research. Remember, think about what you want to know. What might be interesting to learn? You MAY NOT choose a topic you have used before.
-Retaliation
-Causes of war
-The Arms Race
-The fall of the Berlin Wall
-War as an answer to differences of opinion

This assignment is assessed using the Effort Based Grading Scale.

Do/Connect - This activity is both a Do and Connect, because they are creating something new by practicing applying the information. They are using the themes of The Butter Battle Book to practice Asking Questions. 

Brainstorming Strategies Discussion Forum

Objective: Students will identify their preferred brainstorming strategy with justification.

Which of the brainstorming strategies did you like best? Why? Which of the brainstorming strategies did you like least? Why? Is there some other way you brainstorm that you would like to share with the class? Please explain.

Don't forget to come back and respond to at least 2 of your peers.

Please remember to refer to Discussion Expectations and Response Techniques

Please refer to the Discussion Rubric for Grading information.
Connect - Students are connecting what they have just learned about the 4 different brainstorming strategies with their personal learning preferences. They are comparing the options, and then choosing one as their favorite and explaining why they chose it.

Best Practices - For each discussion in the course, students will have two deadlines, one for the initial post, one for the response posts. This helps to ensure that all students will have an opportunity to respond to others, and those that respond to them, generating actual discussion.

Brainstorming Quiz

Objective: Students will recall information about brainstorming strategies with 95% accuracy.

Take this quiz after completing all of the activities in Unit 2 Chapter 1.

Question 1
All of the following are examples of different types of brainstorming except
a  asking questions
b outlining
c free writing
d clustering

Question 2 
If a student wants to group similar pieces of information together while brainstorming, he or she should choose
a clustering
b asking questions
c free writing
d listing

Question 3 
After brainstorming, a student is ready to start writing his or her final draft.
True
False

Question 4 
A teacher wants you to research the effects of humans on any aspect of the environment. The environment makes this topic a ________ topic. 
Broad
Narrow

Question 5 
You've been assigned a research paper that asks you to identify a dictatorship and to explain how the dictatorship impacted the life of a common citizen on a daily basis. Identify a type of brainstorming that you would use, explain why you chose it, and how you would use it.
Do - After reading all lecture materials, students are attempting to recall information and choose the most appropriate answers based on what they now know about brainstorming.

Best Practices - All quizzes will be worth 5 points, no matter how many questions they contain. This ensures consistency throughout the course.

Gutierrez, K. (2013, January 24). The Ultimate eLearning Workout – Absorb, Do, Connect! Retrieved June 30, 2014, from http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/312149/The-Ultimate-eLearning-Workout-Absorb-Do-Connect 

Horton, W. K. (2012). Designing eLearning. In E-learning by design (pp. 38-44). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. 

National Center On Universal Design for Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2014, from http://www.udlcenter.org/

Smith, R. M. (2008). Conquering the content: A step-by-step guide to online course design. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.