Friday 7 November 2008

The 'Index Card' Creativity Lesson

I conducted a workshop at Singapore Polytechnic today on incorporating visuals into presentation and, as part of the workshop, I produced an activity to get the students to create visual representations of issues close to their hearts. As the activity was well received, I thought it would be useful to share the idea with everyone.

Basically, the concept was inspired by a blog I read fairly regularly entitled Indexed. Adapting that idea of reducing various issues onto index card visuals, I got the students to group together and come up with the visuals on index cards supplied to them. After a bit of hesitation, the students really got going and came up with the following visuals...

Group 1 (above) included students who were quite lateral thinking (front row is an indicator perhaps?) and they used rulers to draw their graphs. The Venn Diagram (Enjoy Life) was interesting and the second visual was quite straightforward (age/maturity) - which I suggested could be turned into a bell curve to suggest that after a certain age, you become less mature (senile). The first visual above (trouble/women) was indeed humorous but as we discussed, all of us realised that it could be interpreted as (a) more women would translate into more problems, and as (b) when there is more trouble, you'd need more women to solve it!

Group 2 (above) included 3 quiet male students and they came up with pretty straightforward visuals on the facts of life (hair mass, drug addicition, travelling time, saying the wrong things).

Group 3 (above) comprised good-natured students who were more extroverted and naturally, their visuals reflected their off-beat humour. Interestingly, the trouble/teacher visual was similar to the trouble/women visual of the earlier group. Likewise, the interpretation that more teachers would be required when there was more trouble was suggested as an alternative here as well.

Group 4 (above) obviously explored the depth of the task and produced some creative visuals that told stories. Although the first visual seems abstract and arbitrary, the student was able to justify his creation by suggesting that it represented himself exorcising the evil elements of society. As for the other 2 visuals, the level of frustration and meaning was evident in their detail.

Group 5 (above) was relatively enthusiastic about the exercise and asked a few questions before embarking on their preparation. Notably, the theme was to communicate to the teacher/tutor the difficulties in getting to class (first visual - crowded train, 8pm timing) and to preferably keep lessons short (second visual - attention span/length of lecture). The final visual was an interesting play of using equations to 'logically' suggest that studying would lead to failure!

All in all, the students enjoyed the exercise and watching one another's creations being showcased (a Visualiser was used to flash the index cards on-screen). At the same time, the overall class response as each visual was flashed showed the students how some of the visuals did not create the intended impact, others were open to interpretation, and a few were remarkably funny, poignant and meaningful.

After everyone had a hearty laugh at the series of index cards, I linked back the lesson to the fundamentals of selecting visuals which had been discussed before the activity was conducted. Thus, the students were able to appreciate how these points came into play through the process of the activity.

I find that this activity can also be used to elicit thoughts, frustrations, opinions and ideas as it forces students to think of the relationships involved in various issues. Although this exercise was conducted in relation to a topic involving the use of visuals in presentation, it can just as easily be used as a means to generate content for a specific issue or agenda.

A point to note though is that for lower level students who may not understand how to reduce issues into such visual relationships, there might be a need to do 2 iterations of this exercise - a first round where they will learn how to create this type of visuals (by making mistakes and learning the process), and then the second round proper where they can incorporate creativity and purpose into the exercise to produce meaningful visuals.

Well, have fun using this little exercise and do leave a note here to let me know how it went for you, cheers!

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