Back in 2013 we released a software tool on our website called Clock Buddies. Clock Buddies refers to a traditional tool used to pair people up in a classroom setting. Each person was given a blank sheet resembling the face of a clock. Students then filled this in with their names. The clocks would then allow the teacher to group the students quickly by simply calling out a given hour; for example, the teacher would say, “pair up with your buddy at 3 o’clock”. Students would then look at their clock faces, find the name of the person written at 3 o’clock and pair up with him.
Teachers Love the Idea
This has proved to become a useful tool for teachers because they know very well that moving students and kids around in a classroom can tremendously help with learning as it increases engagement and variety.
When we first came across this idea, we quickly saw its power and significance. However, upon further examination, creating a series of these clocks with pen and paper proved to be quite tedious, error prone and potentially confusing. Many guides we found online that were suggesting how to make them were actually wrong! On top of that, as the number of students went up, the whole thing fell apart.
We shared our view with teachers who used this tool in the field and our concern was confirmed. Everyone agreed that the idea was very useful, but execution was quite hard. This was the case whether the teachers prepared the clocks themselves or got the students to fill out the names on their cards while following their instructions. Filling out the cards required an elaborate step-by-step procedure that simply took a long time to do.
Some teachers reported that the tool was usable only when teaching younger students as the students in the class stayed exactly the same. However, it was impossible to use with older students. All you needed was a person dropping out of the class or one joining in and the whole set of cards became unusable. You then had to redo the entire set from scratch. Ouch! Hence, they simply put the tool aside and forgot about it altogether.
We Decided to Provide it as a Software Solution
To address this issue, we at Skills Converged decided to write software to automate the whole process so you could generate the entire set of clock cards based on a simple list of names. Just enter the names, choose a set of symbols for group names to call, press generate and print the cards. You could then do it again as often as you required by simply updating the list of names and reprinting the set.
We developed and released the clock buddies tool for free. Our clock buddies tool is now the most used and referenced tool on the net for this purpose and can be easily found by a simple search. We have site visitors using it every day which makes us happy. Hopefully we have eliminated a lot of agony.
Interestingly, the clock buddies tool is a generic tool that can be used for a variety of applications beyond a classroom. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of the existence and benefits of such a tool for different applications. We have put together a series of use cases to help explain the capability of the tool and to inspire you to use it in your own specific field.
You can use the tool after delegates learn each other's names (such as with the Name Game), or even as part of the name learning process. You can pair them up using clock buddies. They may need to shout names to find each other in the group (which can get loud), and then get together and proceed to learn more about each other. You can then repeat the exercise by calling out the next symbol in the clock buddies disc.
Much like in a classroom, you can use the clock buddies tool to divide the delegates into a series of pairs by calling out a symbol. You can then call out a different symbol and re-group them in a new configuration. Aim to use it throughout the course so that everyone gets to participate in exercises with everyone else. You can also use it for specific exercises such as practicing communication skills, customer service and so on so that again everyone can pair up with everyone else and go through an exercise. You can also use this for hard skills courses and get pairs to practice software commands, tax calculations or whatever it is you are teaching.
This helps avoiding pairing the same people over and over again. Sometimes people don’t get on that well with each other, for whatever reason, and it’s good to shake up the groups by mixing them systematically.
A great application of clock buddies is to use it for business networking. Here, you often have people who want to be put in contact with others. Many chambers of commerce organise speed networking events. As it is customary in these events, each person spends a short time with another person exchanging ideas and contact details. Clock buddies can be used to quickly move people around and get them to find a new partner. It is also a much more fun way to organise the pairs. It can make the event more memorable and subsequently highly rated. An organiser can simply enter the list of names of participants into the tool and then give each person their corresponding clock card on arrival. Then all he has to do is to call a symbol and watch them pair up. Ideally, each person should have a name tag to make finding others easier. Beware that if the group is very large, this can become unproductive unless you divide them into smaller groups and run clock buddies within each group separately.
Clock buddies can be used to systematically get everyone in a group to talk to everyone else. It can therefore be a great icebreaker.
Conferences, Workshop and Seminars
Sometimes in certain gatherings, where some people know some others already, the tendency is to simply hang around those you already know. People would need to put conscious effort to meet strangers. This does not come naturally to everyone. On top of that, approaching celebrity types or famous people by newbies or students can be a daunting task and only a brave few attempt it. An organiser armed with the clock buddies tool can quickly get anyone to get into pairs and talk to each other. The pairing can take place over coffee breaks or alternatively there can be a dedicated networking session to get people talk to each other. This can create synergy and lead to a strong cross-fertilisation of ideas. A fresh idea presented by a student, combined with the experience and networking ability of an established professor can lead to great many innovations.
A good application for clock buddies is when you need to pair up people in games or sports and you need to do it in a way so that all combinations are covered. For example, suppose you are in charge of a chess or backgammon group and you want everyone to play once against everyone else. You would then score people based on their total wins and declare the ultimate winner. Use the clock buddies tool to pair them systematically and easily go through all possible pairing combinations.
Hope this list has inspired you of other possible applications for the clock buddies tool. If you have a great idea, why not share it below and let other visitors benefit from it. We are eager to know how you use the tool and the reactions you get from the people when you use it for them.
Update Nov 2022
We now have a dedicated page for a list of applications and case studies for the Clock Buddies Generator. The tool now makes clock partners with many customisations. You can divide your class into breakout group sizes of 2, 3, 4 and 5. Review examples and customisations of discs to see how you can use the tool for face-to-face or online training environments as well as outside of training, such as sports, competitions and business meetings.