Creativity Booster: An Ode to the Other Hand
The purpose of Creativity Booster activities is to offer a fun warm up with students at the beginning of each class. It acts as an ice breaker and helps get students’ brains in gear for class and it generally ties into the lesson or has a purpose beyond the obvious.
There are different creativity boosters: some invite students to think visually, see ‘16 squares‘, some invite students to quiet and focus their minds, see ‘5 Senses‘, some invite students to get silly and quiet their inner critics, see ‘Yes! Let’s‘.
Creativity Boosters are useful for setting the tone for a fun and engaging lesson. They can be used as a warm up in either highly visual creative courses (ex: design and/or visual arts-focused classes) or non-visual courses that require creative problem solving (ex: science, business management and social sciences).
For the ‘An Ode to the Other Hand’ Creativity Booster, there is no preparation required other than having the instructions to guide students through the activity (see below), as well as asking students to have a pen or pencil and piece of paper ready.
This activity is inspired by an article in The Atlantic by James Parker entitled ‘An Ode to the Left Hand’, where he helps readers understand what it felt like to practice drumming using his non-dominant hand.
This Creativity Booster asks students to tap into their inner beginner and, in doing so, develop a new level of awareness and empathy for anyone learning something new. This includes being gentle and forgiving to ourselves when we’re a novice at a new activity.
Anyone who has graduated from being a beginner at anything likely suffers from “the curse of knowledge”; a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual communicates with another individual in a way that assumes the other person has the background knowledge to understand. In other words, when we are no longer beginners, we forget what it feels like to be beginners, which is a dangerous trap for any and all communicators.
Begin by prefacing this activity by stating that students are going to be stepping into a preschoolers’ shoes today. While their dominant hand is an expert, their non-dominant hand is likely at the level of a beginner.
Next, ask students to place a pen or pencil in their non-dominant hand, taking time to try to grip it in a way that allows them to write. Acknowledge that it will likely feel awkward to grip the writing utensil correctly and something that seems second-nature to one hand is completely foreign to its identical twin.
Next, invite students to slowly print their first names on a piece of paper. Ask them to do this a few times (2-3 minutes) to get some practice. Is it challenging? If yes, how so?
Next, invite students to try to write their name in cursive writing, connecting each subsequent letter. Ask them to do this a few times (2-3 minutes) to get some practice. Is it challenging? If yes, how so?
Finally, end the exercise by engaging students in a short discussion about why many found this exercise to be challenging, specific emotions they felt as they were completing the tasks (ex: frustrated, impatient) and how this newfound ‘inner beginner’ can be helpful to their future selves. This end discussion works well as a conversation between instructor and students and/or added visualisation of creating a collaborative Google Doc, Google Jam board and/or Wordle to visually show students how their experience was similar or dissimilar to that of their peers.
Approximately 10 minutes.
No special technology is required beyond video conferencing software in a live, synchronous class. This activity works with either cameras turned on or cameras turned off.
Talk Paper Scissors podcast, Episode 058: Serious Fun. In this podcast episode, I explain the rationale behind the importance of having ‘Serious Fun’ in post-secondary education, including the incorporation of Creativity Boosters in my virtual classroom.
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