A gesture drawing approach to learning and educational technology

I’m not an art teacher, but I recall learning about teaching Intermediate art at Nipissing University. In that class (which admittedly was only a few hours) we spent a little time on gesture drawing. We were told to draw a subject quickly – very quickly. Something like 30 seconds, start to finish, and no erasers were allowed.

I seem to remember the point being to look for overall shape and form, and not get hung up on trying to draw the person’s hair perfectly. I feel like it helped – we started to look at light and shadow and large shapes instead of fine details, and we produced some pretty sweet sketches in a hurry (and some pretty terrible ones, too).

In my mind, gesture drawing can be effective because

(1) the students already know how to use the tool (pencil/pen/etc.),

(2) it can be started and finished quickly, and

(3) it has a clear, big picture purpose and a product.

Applying gesture drawing to other learning/educational technology

What’s the equivalent of gesture drawing in a math class, or a history class, or a business class?

Let’s look at an example. Say one of the learning goals for your course is that students can explain how a strong password can help improve a user’s security. You’ve spent some time in class learning about this idea, talking about it, researching it… how do students distill it down to the key points?

Try asking them to create a product that shows they’ve met the learning goal. Okay, that sounds pretty normal so far. Try asking them to create that product in 10 minutes, tops. Very different, I think. If they’re comfortable with the use of technology as part of their learning, you can restrict their product to one they can produce using the technology. What will they create? A flyer? An audio clip? A chart? A webpage? A video skit? A pamphlet? Something you haven’t thought of?

I think this is analogous to gesture drawing: use a tool you’re familiar with (1 – technology) in a short time (2 – ten minutes) to meet a clear, big picture (pun!) purpose (3 – demonstrating having met a learning goal). Like gesture drawing there isn’t time for an exhaustive treatment of the topic, it doesn’t always look great, and that’s okay. But sometimes the product is great as-is, or is a good starting framework for a more polished work.

Anyone out there with a classroom want to give it a try?

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