I'm not sure if these would classify as "the coolest" but these have worked well for me:
At the undergraduate level, I had a student group that designed a network presentation. They started by having the group (11 students) stand in a circle. Then they had a large ball of yarn and, holding onto one end, threw it to someone in the circle. They took turns throwing and throwing, with each person holding onto their yarn. After about 3 minutes, the students began to talk about network structure and used the existing yarn ties to demonstrate a variety of concepts.
In a master's class of teachers training to be principals (15 students), I did a network study in class by having them list which of they students they had known before they started the program and also list all the administrators in the state that they had worked in a school with. The students come from 5 different districts. Over the break, I entered the data into UCINet (I had to type pretty fast!) and showed it to them using Pajek. This generated a lively discussion as it shows clusters as well as brokers quite well. They especially enjoyed the 3-D rotations!
In the same master's group, I gave them a roster of the students and asked a couple of network relation questions (e.g. carpooling, worked with, etc.) Again, over the break I entered it and the network diagrams created a good visual to discuss structural concepts in a relevant way.
Julie M. Hite
Brigham Young University
Dept. of Educational Leadership & Foundations
Provo, UT 84602
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