This is a partner activity that gets learners to practice the skill of being resilient in the face of failure. We often hear the phrase “celebrate mistakes,” but we rarely give people the chance to practice that skill. This is also a great game to get people connected and having fun.
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Participants get a piece of paper with 30 circles on it. In one minute, they have to use as many of circles as they can to create different drawings. A stop sign, a planet, a smiley face, etc.
The goal of this exercise is to encourage spontaneity and remove judgement from ideas. The goal is to get participants to bring their idea to life right when they come up with it, which differs from our habit of judging our ideas as non-original or no-good before we even say them.
A Few of my Favorite Things is a game that challenges participants to say their favorite thing as fast as they can that fits in a prompted category. This activity is about spontaneity and speed, not about getting things perfect. It is about building energy, warming up the mind, getting to know one another, and casting aside the part of our brains that judge whether ideas are perfect.
This activity challenges participants to focus on carefully observing of a user's behavior. Students understand the power of observation and the time it takes to get right.
Use this activity when you are introducing empathy; having students practice their observational skills; or when you want to highlight that our presence has an impact when we are near someone.
Brainstorm Relay is a rapid yet structured way to brainstorm multiple categories of ideas or to build on clusters of ideas in a team. Starting with one category, each team member will silently generate as many ideas (one idea per post-it) as she can for just that category. After x minutes, she will move to the next category and repeat.
This improv classic is a great stoke for groups, and is often used in during the prototyping or ideation phase so participants can practice building on the ideas of others.
This is an activity about redefining leadership and teamwork. This activity provides perspective into how every member of a team engages with the group: silent doer, connector, proactive listener, organizer, etc. Throughout the debrief, participants begin to understand how they work on a team and how their team can work better together.
Build to Think and its corresponding worksheet are intended to help learners solve problems visually and tangibly. This tool can be utilized to prototype anything from life challenges to project challenges. It demonstrates the value of stepping back and gaining a new perspective as participants navigate their work/life's biggest challenges, and also, how asking helpful questions and paying attention to the right things will help them see more clearly and take next steps with greater confidence.
The Cocap Matrix is a structured way to brainstorm with your team that allows you to focus on multiple user needs that you have identified. This is a matrix with two axes, and based on your project, you can label these axes to your liking.
“How might we” (HMW) questions are short questions that launch brainstorms. HMWs are seeds for your ideation that fall out of your point-of-view statement, design principles, or insights. Create a seed that is broad enough that there are a wide range of solutions but narrow enough that the team is provoked to think of specific, unique ideas.
Recruit industry partners to bring real-world challenges to the class AND market these companies' involvement to students.
It provides an incentive for students to attend!
This improv activity primes students to be attentive listeners. It challenges them to listen, observe, and absorb everything from tone of voice, to hand gestures, to the plot of a story. Finally, it shows how personal stories are a powerful tool to establish a connection between individuals. This can be used to prime students before they head into the empathy phase of a design cycle.
Project a photo of a scenario in which there is some action, but it’s not entirely clear what’s happening. As a group, discuss several possibilities for what might be happening and why based on the specific details, or evidence, within the photo.
Validating with users creates evidence for and confidence in your students, that they’re building something users want.
In this activity partners hand each other imaginary gifts, open them, and justify why they are the perfect gifts. This improv activity gets teammates to practice sharing control, being generous, and building on each other’s ideas.
Many solutions that students propose are digital experiences. While a learner’s impulse might be to start coding the software, encourage them to prototype in a lower-fidelity way before letting them jump to code. The lowest fidelity prototype is a paper prototype, drawing out the interface, and putting these pieces of paper in front of users. There are also many, slightly higher fidelity, tools that allow users to interact with their interface on a phone/computer, without needing to build out the code.
This exercise takes a fundamental principle of improvisation — noticing and responding to one’s partner moment-to-moment — and adapts it to advance the social-emotional learning goals of a group. It involves observation and positive interpretation of others.
Collecting quick, written feedback from students on a daily basis helps provide guidance on how to improve the class performance. A space to sketch their feelings/feedback helps offer an alternative to written word. Works well in large classes and with large groups of introverts.
Good questions are the heart of an interview. Prepare for an interview by creating an interview guide and practice how the interview might flow. Learners should think of this as a guide, and not a script. The goal is to create a scaffolding to have an authentic conversation, not check off questions. Novices will likely stick to the script, while more advanced learners will figure out their own style.
Unawareness of expected outcomes
Especially in terms of real world project assignments, some students are still unaware of expected outcomes in spite of descriptive rubrics. Hence, it’s important to give examples of previous year projects to let them know the expectations from TAs. Give not only good but also bad examples of projects.
Evaluating design work can be a challenge. Often, when students leave our classroom we don’t know if they are committing to their projects as they should. Because so much of a student’s progress happens outside of class, it’s important to understand how to evaluate what you are teaching. Human centered design is an iterative experience and takes time to get right, which is why it’s important to test students on their commitment to the design process.
The goal is for professors to handle wait-listed students and dropouts (who are 'course shopping') without affecting the project groups in the class.
Interviewing kids is different than interviewing adults. It might take longer for them to warm-up to sharing with you, and when they do start talking, it can be hard to direct the conversation in a linear way, as is the norm with adults. Further, kids have trouble thinking abstractly, so the questions you ask will need to be more straightforward and tangible.
A real-world challenge is essential for a design-doing projects. However finding clients and real-world projects is hard. There is a gap between companies and educators.
RealTimeCases.com (RTC) bridges the gap between the professional work environment and higher education through the format of experiential learning cases. Students will confront real issues and assess real scenarios using current information from executives of real companies with real job opportunities. All cases are professionally produced with videos directly from the executives and in-depth information on the challenge. RTC encourages students to incorporate their own personal experiences, critical thinking skills, unique creative potential, and research capabilities into assignments like never before. The best solutions even get to pitch to the client in their headquarters !
Minimize student group conflicts during project courses and help improve group dynamics.
After any activity/class, it’s important to debrief the experience, to better understand what participants learned, and to help them understand the big take-aways from the activity/class. As a facilitator of a debrief, you should have in mind the points you’d like to hit and have a sense of the direction you’d like to take it in, while still allowing for new and surprising insights to be uncovered.
Generate a checklist for expected deliverables out of each assignment and communicate the importance of each segment in the rubric
This checklist should be presented along with the assignment guidelines.
The goal is for students to be grouped with varied skill levels but still have the option of choosing their desired preferences based on interests and other factors.
This activity requires participants to step out in the middle of a circle in front of the entire group and simply say the words, “I am [their name], and I am here.” Sounds simple, but it actually takes a lot of courage.
Participants walk away with a more refined perspective on who they are and how their their background can contribute to the design process.
Introduce a series of constraints into your brainstorm, rotating quickly between different out-of-the-box scenarios for your learners to consider in their design process.
I’m A Tree is a classic improv activity that teaches individuals how to build on the ideas of others to create a scene with three images. It is also useful as a way of connecting a group and warming up not only the mind but the body as well.
Teaching participants the value and the motions for partnering with new people. This activity highlights why we don’t naturally seek new partners and the reasons we should. Use this activity when you are introducing a new activity or about to get your participants into partners.
Debriefing will help your students create a common understanding of the user’s needs after interviews.
Participants will grow both their personal storytelling and their listening skills; experience the power of hyperactive listening; and recognize the importance body language when conducting an empathy interview.
Making a physical rapid prototype is great way to quickly create a lo-fi object that can be experienced by a potential user in testing. This can be a really fun step, as you get to tap into your creativity and originality to convert a written idea into something that is three-dimensional. What you will build will depend on your budget, how much time you have, and your goals for testing the product with your user.
The Mood Board is a physical space where a team can tape up printed images that offer design inspiration. Moodboards are usually used by creatives — designers, photographers, architects and they stem from the need to visualize a concept or gather inspiration and are often used to tell a story behind the project. If someone sees a website with a great layout, sees a beautiful color combination while walking downtown, or loves the font on their ice cream cup, they can take a picture, print it out, and post it on the board. This guides prototyping and building.