“Collective drawing” vs. “Collaborative drawing”

Inspired by the “Rich Pictures” technique that Simon Bell (Open University) used to facilitate the “Infinite bandwidth, Zero latency” workshop I attended in May this year, I start to experiment various visual thinking techniques in teaching.

When Marianne Patera showed me some “collective drawings” on the wall of her office, I thought it would be a good idea to turn this into a team-building game to teach “teamwork and collaboration”, a difficult and profound subject to transmit formal knowledge to students.

Here’s the instructions of this team-building game:

1. Find 3 in a group.
2. Take a flip chart paper sheet and fold it lengthwise into three to form a long rectangle. Then, repeat the same process to fold this long rectangle piece into three.
3. Display the paper and lay it vertically in front of the team. Take a pen, draw a 2-centimetre short vertical lines at each of the four intersection points where the two folds meet.
4. One member starts drawing the head of a creature in the top 1/3 of the paper (without being seen by the other two group members). The head must be connected with the two short vertical lines, which are the reference points for the neck of the creature. Fold the work away at completion.
5. Without seeing what has been drawn, the 2nd member of the team draws the body of a creature on the 2nd 1/3 of the paper (again, without being seen by the other two members). The body must be connected with the four short lines. Fold the work away again at completion.
6. Again, without seeing what has been drawn, the 3rd member draws the bottom part of a creature. The part must be connected with the 2 short lines which show the width of the middle part of the creature being created.
7. Display the complete work and name the creature the team creates.

Here were some creatures created by my students.

Created by BA students in Animation (on 26 October 2010)

Created by Dave, Matt, and Tom, BA students in Animation

With the CVG students, we tried this game twice. The first time, the team members were not allowed to peep when one person were painting. And here were the results from the first “teamwork” (created by BSc students in CVG on 28 October 2010)

Ziga Zigha, Created by Ryan, Mark, Liam, BSc students in CVG, on 28 Oct 2010
Squidface created by Lucy, Nick and James, BSc students in CVG, on 28 Oct 2010

And the second time, the team could view and draw at the same time, talk, discuss, and plan what they were going to co-create together. And the team who drew the last image “Squidface” produced this creature at their second attempt (see below):

The Varicose Destroyer, created by Lucy, Nick and James, BSc students in CVG, on 28 Oct 2010

The above creature, The Varicose Destroyer, is arguably a more consistent, cuter, and a less shocking creature.

After the exercise, students were asked to reflect why they thought the creature they created was odd, strange and unusual, and would the image be different if they were able to see and participate when the others were drawing. Students did very well in answering these questions (almost straight away) – they understood that everyone in the team was different (hence the weird drawings) and the importance of communication. Because of the diversity within the team, understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses and good communication is key to good teamwork. The 4 short lines that served as reference points to connect the head, the body and the leg were crucial in teamwork also – a team needs to get as many reference points (information) as possible in order to perform well.

The images produced through the first process was what I’d consider as “collective drawing” – individual drawings were collated, aggregated and put together into one. And the latter was what I’d consider as “collaborative drawing” – students plan, act and produce together by utilising all resources available (the 5 senses – hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste).

As I told students, there is no better way of learning teamwork and collaboration apart from actually doing it. Through doing this exercise together, I was quite pleased how easy and fun it was to get the message of good teamwork and collaboration across to them. Learning can never be better when it is fun and creative.

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