Verbal questions, Visual answers | An apptivity

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At TEDx Gateway 2014, there was a surprise speaker named K.K. Raghavan under the business maverick category. He spoke about all sorts of things but the crux of his talk was on how new technology has zombiefied us to a certain extent and leeched us of our humanity. Among his solutions is an app called Flipsicle – a combination of Twitter and Screenshot_2014-11-30-08-26-13Instagram-like features, whose goal is to evoke empathy. I’m not so sure about the empathy bit but I quite like the app’s main function. Any user can post a question just as people often do on Twitter such as “What motivates you?”. Other users respond by posting an image either from the image libraries on their phones or by taking a fresh photo. The creators of the app have already raised $2 million in seed capital. The app was designed “as a reaction to the two knowledge systems most prevalent in the world today — expert knowledge, which Raghava says is too biased to one person’s understanding, and crowd-sourced knowledge, where the truth that prevails is the one that “survives the edit war”, essentially, “the lowest common accepted bias survives.” This got me thinking and I managed to suss out a language activity.

In lessons on functions, we focus a lot on language for sharing one’s own opinions. However, in the modern, collaborative workplace, you are frequently required to talk about your colleagues’ opinions.  For example, “Jenny feels that we should go ahead with our initial plan however Rob’s take on this is that we ought to wait for leadership approval.”  Although I like Flipsicle, I chose not to use it because it’s got a couple of bugs. The main screen scrolls really slowly and asking questions of a private group is a feature that’s available but not activated. Additionally, some of the questions that have been posted make no sense.

Preparation 

Come up with a list of questions that your Ss will find interesting and write them up on a slide or a flipchart. Bear in mind that you will need to set the task as homework.

Materials

Your Ss will need phones with cameras.

Procedure

Pre-task

  • Display the slide/flipchart with the questions and ask Ss to take a picture of it/or write down the questions.
  • Tell Ss that you would like them to answer these questions for homework. As the inevitable groans start coming in, inform them that the answers must be visual. They will need to take pictures with their phone as responses to each of the questions either at work (if that’s allowed), or on their commute home or back to work the next morning.
  • Encourage them to take lots of pictures but select only one as a response for each question. Ask them to keep these identified images together in a single folder, deleting the others or shifting them into another folder. (This is to ensure that they don’t get distracted showing each other extraneous images).
  • Sample questions:
    • What motivates people to come to work?
    • What is power dressing?
    • What is the colour of success?
    • Why is it important to have friends at work?
    • What sort of a person should a mentor be?
    • What leads to a demotivated workplace?
  • NB: Ss seem to respond much more energetically to negative questions like their nightmare boss than positive ones but it’s really up to the T based on what kind of discussion she wants to facilitate.

Task

  • Ss merrily click pictures on their phones, hopefully not causing offence to anyone.

Post-task 

  • You may want to start your lesson with this activity.
  • Ask Ss to navigate to the folder where they have their visual answers. Bring up the questions on the slide or flipchart. Ask Ss to spend a minute thinking about why or how each of their images answers a question i.e., what does it represent? You may need to demonstrate with one.
  • Get Ss to stand up. Announce the first question. Have Ss mingle, showing each other their visual responses and explaining what it means. After a couple of minutes, move on to the next question. Ss keep mingling, trying to talk to someone new for each of the questions. They should attempt to pair up with at least two people for each question so they hear two different perspectives in addition to their own.

Language focus

  • Divide Ss into groups of four and ask them to share what they heard from their peers for each question.
  • Monitor for language used to share opinions expressed by others. It might also be worthwhile to observe how Ss use discourse markers to contrast differences in opinions.
  • Board some examples of phrases such as “Jaya is of the opinion that”, “Dev feels that”, “Samir’s perspective is that” and ask Ss to think back to the expressions they used to and work as a group to add to the list. Ask groups to compare their lists, adding from each other until each group has a long list of phrases.
  • Identify patterns and move the phrases into frames and slots and ask Ss to write these down individually.
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