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.