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Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.



Team building with digital photos

By Brent D. Wolfe and Colbey Penton Sparkman

The ability to take a picture and view it instantly through digital photography has changed the way we communicate and see the world around us. No longer does a person have to take a picture, go to the store, drop off the film, and wait an hour (at best) before picking up the developed pictures. Today, people take pictures on their digital cameras, post them on a social networking site, e-mail them to friends and family, print the images on paper, or upload them to a service that will print them for a fee. As is the case with textual information, pictures are now available immediately. If we don’t like an image, we simply delete it or take another one, and we can also receive instant feedback about our images from others. This chapter harnesses the power to view images instantaneously in order to help group members learn more about themselves and how they interact with each other.

The activities presented in this chapter cover a range of focuses that include exploring different perspectives; becoming more self-aware; identifying cultural values; solving problems; identifying roles within a group; exploring methods of self-expression and self-reflection; understanding the importance of diversity and the negative effects of stereotypes; identifying emotions; paying attention to detail; interpreting facts; exploring interconnectedness; and establishing community.

Who’s in Your Phone?



This activity’s purpose is to allow your group to see how information can be interpreted differently from one group to another. Too often, people fall into interpreting information the same way they always have. While this may be acceptable in some situations (e.g., the gas light is on in my car and I interpret that to mean I need gas), in other situations it may be important to have our thinking be flexible to consider alternative interpretations of information. This activity encourages participants to be flexible as they interpret images, thus helping them improve their creative thinking skills. When group members are willing to challenge traditional thought patterns and think “outside the box,” the group can be greatly strengthened as they discover new techniques for tackling problems.


Prior to the activity, remind participants to bring pictures on their phone or digital camera. To begin the activity itself, have participants form groups of three or four members each, then use an LCD projector to post a list of 15 to 20 picture categories for each group to match with images stored on its members’ phones or other electronic devices. For example:

  • Athlete
  • Baby
  • Two people kissing
  • Person and pet
  • Grandparents
  • Something in nature
  • Senior school portrait
  • Person at the beach
  • Person doing something dangerous

Give the groups about 20 minutes to find as many of the requested pictures as possible. Group members can be creative in searching for photos (e.g., search online for a picture), and it is acceptable for a group to take pictures on the spot to fit into a given category. However, do not suggest this idea to the groups; they should be allowed to make interpretations on their own. At the end of the 20 minutes (or earlier, if all groups have finished), state the name of a picture category and ask each group to show its image for that category. Images can be uploaded to a computer and viewed through an LCD projector or simply viewed from each phone or electronic device. For each appropriate image, give the group 1 point.


Interpreting facts: We tend to interpret what we hear in the manner that is most favorable to ourselves or in the most traditional manner (i.e., the way we’ve always thought about something). In this activity, participants are asked to interpret a series of facts in a fun and enjoyable way, but a given group’s interpretation of those facts may well differ from other groups’ interpretations, and the activity’s emphasis focuses on the differing standards that the groups use to interpret the facts. For example, if you ask groups to locate a picture of grandparents, many people will automatically try to find a picture of their parents’ parents, but the term (as heard rather than as written) can be interpreted in other ways. A group might, for example, locate a picture of parents who are grand (i.e., very good); another option would be to take a picture on the spot of a group member acting as either a grandparent or a grand parent (i.e., a parent who is grand). Such diverse ways of interpreting a seemingly clear-cut term enable the groups to practice thinking creatively.


Camera or camera phone for each group, computer, LCD projector


Groups of 3 or 4


  • Which photos were most interesting to you? Why?
  • Which pictures were you most surprised to find in a person’s phone? Why?
  • Which picture would you say was most creatively chosen or created? Why?
  • Which picture would you say most accurately fit its category? Why?
  • How did your group interpret each of the picture categories? Were there any differences of interpretation within your group on a particular photo?
  • Did you bend a picture category or the apparent rules? Did other groups do so?
  • How do we interpret information in real life?
  • How should we interpret information?
  • How do you view people who interpret information differently than you do?

How should we view people who interpret information differently than we do?

Go Wireless!

Follow the rules for the original version but ask participants to use photos from their wallets or purses. (Again, it is important to advise them to bring pictures with them to the session.)


Have participants produce images for the specified categories by taking pictures of people who are not in their group. While this approach directs the groups in a certain way, it still allows for interpretation of the rules (e.g., what qualifies as an athlete) and it adds an extra level of difficulty as participants must now interact with strangers and creatively interpret the instructions. When using this upgrade, you may want to provide additional time and allow the teams to leave the meeting location as they work to produce the requested images.


Caption Action



This activity gives participants the chance to explore different perspectives as they attempt to create images to fit a provided caption that is intentionally ambiguous; thus this activity is the inverse of A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words. The ultimate goal here is to help group members see how people can interpret the same prompt (in this case, a caption) very differently—a useful exercise to help groups learn to celebrate differences among one another in the group.


In preparation for this activity, create 8 to 10 captions for hypothetical pictures. For example: “Man eating plant,” “The incredible shrinking team,” “A dime a dozen,” “Surf’s up, dude!” To begin the activity, have participants form groups of three or four members each and provide each group with the list of captions. The task for each group is to take a picture to fit each caption. Images should not be offensive and should creatively fit the substance of the provided caption. When all groups have created their images, have them upload their images to a computer from which they can be shown to the full group via an LCD projector. Each group should present its image for each caption.


Different perspectives: Even when reading the same words, people can interpret them very differently. This activity encourages participants to express their creativity and interpret language in a way that makes sense to them. Even if some images are the same or very similar, each group’s perspective (e.g., interpretation of the caption or the image selected) will be different. These different perspectives should be discussed and embraced.


Camera or camera phone for each group, computer, LCD projector


Groups of 3 or 4


Processing for this activity begins with having each group share its pictures; along the way, the other groups guess which caption a given picture represents.

  • Which picture fit its caption best?
  • Which picture was the most original?
  • Which picture did you need to have explained to you in order for you to understand the caption? Why?
  • Did any of the groups create the same pictures? If so, what was it about the relevant image(s) that made this happen?
  • What went into the development of your group’s pictures?
  • How did your identity and your personal history influence your creation of pictures for the captions?
  • How do different perspectives create growth within groups?
  • How do different perspectives create difficulties within groups? How can these difficulties be resolved productively?

Go Wireless!

Using your list of created captions, ask the small groups to create a still image using only the members of the group. This can be done in a variety of ways: groups can pose themselves, draw the scene, and so on. When all groups have completed the activity, have them present their images for each caption. During these presentations, each group should guess which caption matches a given still image.


Have participants form groups of three or four members each, then have each group create five or six captions that could describe a hypothetical image (start by providing an example or two). Next, the members of each group should create a picture to fit each caption, either by taking a picture or by creating their own image using any medium except any form of drawing (which they would then take a picture of). For instance, a group might find several objects and create a sculpture that represents the caption; members of another group might use their bodies to create an image. The images should be inoffensive and should fit the substance of the associated caption. When all groups have completed the activity, have them upload their images to a computer from which they can be projected via an LCD projector. Each group should present its image for each caption.

This is an excerpt from Team-Building Activities for the Digital Age.

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Team-Building Activities for the Digital Age

Team-Building Activities for the Digital Age

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Team-Building Activities for the Digital Age

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