Conceptual Speed Dating
Since every time we do this, people seem to like it (well mostly), and since it’s simple, I thought I would post some instructions.
This was “invented” (I’m sure other people did something like it in the past, and I know lots do it now) at the Dancing the Virtual event in 2006. We wanted to foster less hierarchical and distributed discussion.
How it works:
1. make sure people know if they are “movers” or “stayers”.
2. Stayers form a kind of rough circle of some kind (crucial here .. make sure that people have enough space to get close enough to talk .. eg someone behind a corner of two desks can be hard to hear)
3. Keep it to pairs .. people often want to just drift in, or form three, or move with their friends etc. All of these mean that the whole thing breaks down, and more than two means that at least one often ends up out of the discussion.
4. Tell everyone that when you say “freeze” or whatever, everyone has to stop talking immediately and freeze (like “chasings”).
5. Give simple instructions. People have to talk to each other—and they must talk about the concept (it could be a question etc). They can’t talk about what they were doing on the weekend, what star sign that are, etc etc. If you’re in a class or the like, and (some) people haven’t done the readings etc, they have to make it up, but they must talk about the concept.
6. Usually I go for around 3 minutes before moving people on. Better to stop each conversation at its peak (that is, interrupt it) than let it run too long. This maintains the energy of ongoing conversation.
7. When you begin, obviously announce that “The concept is ….” whatever you’ve chosen (or some people put together several concepts and get someone to draw the concept out of a hat, so to speak—this is the fancy version), and then “start!” (keep a sense of ritual about it). The concepts can be anything, but I usually of course try to make sure they are in the reading/relevant to the day etc. .. So people can look them up etc. And often we choose the less obvious (“minor”) concepts.
7. After 3 minutes say “freeze” (this will at least in part stop you going a little crazy trying to make people cease talking otherwise)
8. Get them to move around one to the next person.
10. People should develop the concept during repetition, and often they might report on the previous conversation. If you go round and just listen in (and listen in, don’t join in as facilitator) … make sure they’re on topic. If not, gently remind them.
11. Often with undergraduates, I let a few repetitions occur, even one or two only, then I start developing strings of concepts through the process. So for example, a string of concepts from the one reading, or a string of related issues, maybe from example out to larger questions (or vice versa).
12. Finally (obviously) it is useful to get feedback in the larger class. I just ask what they talked about and space it out on the whiteboard. But here again I try to make them the centre of attention. There’s no doubt I make comments etc .. but I tend to write down all the things they say on the whiteboard. Where I intervene is in “diagramming” and sometimes developing what they’re saying … as in literally drawing arrows between related concepts/things they’ve been discussing etc, expanding this etc… it’s a kind of group mind I guess.