This is an excerpt from Team-Building Activities for the Digital Age by Brent Wolfe & Colbey Penton Sparkman.
In the age of the text message, the power of the thumb has outgrown the power of the tongue. In general, young adults text more than they talk on their phones, but the speed at which text messages are entered and sent frequently leads to miscommunications—some humorous and others potentially disturbing or offensive. Indeed, texting has become so second-nature to many people that they fail to think about the pitfalls involved in communicating this way. Yet if a team is to function and grow effectively, its members must be able to communicate clearly and sometimes quickly. Certainly, text messages are quick and convenient, and the activities presented in this chapter help users understand and meet the challenges that text messaging creates.
Gossip can destroy any group. When participants start talking about one another rather than with one another, difficult times lie ahead. This activity weds the well-known telephone game with texting as your group members both text and whisper a message around the circle. The processing questions challenge participants to consider the problems and difficulties that come with texting; they also ask your group members to identify messages that they don’t believe should be communicated via text message.
Prior to the activity, choose a phrase (with fewer than 300 characters) that has meaning to your group and translate it for text messaging (for help, visit http://transl8it.com/cgi-win/index.pl). Make sure that all participants have one another’s cell phone numbers stored in their own phone’s memory.
After arranging the group in a circle, text your message to the first person (it helps to have the message already loaded into your phone). The person who received the text then whispers the message to the next person in the circle. That person must then text the message to the next person. Continue in this fashion (i.e., alternating texts and whispers) until the last person receives the message via either text or whisper. The last person then verbally shares the message with the entire group.
Communication: Some messages simply should not be communicated by electronic means (“I’m sorry; I just don’t love you anymore”), yet people are increasingly doing so. This activity puts a 21st-century spin on an age-old favorite in order to demonstrate some of the difficulties inherent in communicating via text message. The difficulty will most likely begin in your own efforts to choose which messages to send; since many texts are limited to 300 characters, your choices are constrained right off the bat.
Cell phone with text messaging capability for half of the participants in each group
10 to 20
- What does the message mean?
- Why was the message chosen?
- Did the message break down? If so, where?
- How did you (personally) do in the activity?
- Did you use body language or facial expressions to help you communicate? How so?
- Were there any misinterpretations? If so, what led to them?
- Did breakdowns happen more often with whispers or with text messages? Why?
- How do we sometimes misinterpret messages we receive via text message?
- What can we take away from this exercise regarding communicating via text message?
Have participants form small groups of 8 to 10 members each and have each group stand in a straight line, with each person facing the back of another person. (This works best if the whole group can stand in line facing a chalkboard or whiteboard.) Provide a preselected picture to the last person in line (something simple, such as a stick figure drawing or simple drawing of a house). This person must then use his or her finger to sketch the image on the back of the person who is next in line. Then the person whose back was just drawn on draws the image on the back of the next person. This process continues until the image gets to the front of the line, whereupon the last person draws on the chalkboard or whiteboard what he or she felt so that the entire group can see the result.
To pose a greater challenge to your group, simply use a longer message or a more difficult drawing. For an additional upgrade, discuss the quotation the group used; in this case, of course, you should select the quotation purposefully with an eye toward topics that would be useful for your group to explore.
This is an excerpt from Team-Building Activities for the Digital Age.