User Generated Education

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Team and Community Building Using Mobile Devices

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Cell phones today allow users to do so much more than just a few years ago. Students can use their cell phones to write and send text messages, take and send digital photos, and even take and send short digital video clips, in addition to making phone calls.

As such, mobile devices provide great opportunities for learning.  One such use is for team and community building.  What follows is a list of smartphone-based, community-building activities.

About Me

  • Ask participants to locate a photo, song, or video from their mobile device that best represents them.
  • Each person then shares his or her media and the reason it was selected.
  • Bringing portable speakers can assist with the sharing of songs so others can hear them.
  • Source: Jackie Gerstein


  • Prior to the activity, create a list of at least 10 categories of playlists. Possible categories include pop music, boy band music, country music, holiday music, bits of TV or movie dialogue, classical music, college fight songs, love songs, TV or movie theme music, and cartoon character voices.
  • For the activity itself, have participants form teams of about 10 members each, then ask all participants to make sure that their cell phones are turned on. Next, tell them that you are going to call out a playlist category. If they have this style of ringtone in their phone, they have to find it, hold up their phone, and play the appropriate ringtone (or music) for everyone.
  • Points awarded to groups based on how many in group can “play” the sound.
  • Example List
    • Boy band
    • Girl band
    • Love song
    • TV or Movie tune
    • Cartoon or movie Voice
    • Voice of significant other
    • A phone ring
    • Your own voice
  • Source:

Categories – Do you have?

  • Alternative – ask each small group to assign one person to take digital photos during some of the small group activities (e.g., team-building activities).  This person should be told nothing but to get a visual record of the group during the activities.  After the a number of group activities, this activity can be conducted.
  • Call out the following.  If the the photographer for that small group has that image, then they get a point.
    • Picture of someone with the GPS
    • A Group Shot
    • A close up of someone concentrating
    • A close up of someone smiling
    • Someone helping another person
    • A picture with hands
  • Source  – Jackie Gerstein

Spot the Eyes

  • In small groups, ask group members to take close ups of one another’s eyes.
  • Show the entire group the pics using the LCD  – other group members guess whose eyes they are. This is a good name game.
  • Alternative – group members can send the facilitator full face shots and eyes-only shots of themselves.  The facilitator can post these randomly on Flickr, a Wiki, 0r Facebook. Group members then attempt to match the faces with the eyes.
  • Safety – only first names should be used.  Pictures should only be head and eye shots.
  • Source:
  • Alternative: Jackie Gerstein

Community Puzzle

  • Separate group into smaller groups.
  • Explain – Your group is to use images from you cell phones to create a group story.  The story can be sequential where one cell phone picture leads logically to the next.  Cell phones and the pictures can only be used once to tell the story.  The logic and connection to be obvious to the viewer with little or no need for verbal explanation.
  • Source: Jackie Gerstein

Values Photos

  • Ask participants to choose their three top values.  They can be given a list of values.
  • Give participants the task to locate objects in their environment that symbolize these values and take a photo using their mobile devices.
  • Photos with directions are directly emailed to a Flickr page set up for this purpose.  Lisa Nielson describes this process in her blog entry, Using Flickr to Collect Images Captured on Cell Phones.

Texting Gossip – Telephone

  • 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 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 receives 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.
  • Example:
    • Fear stops you in your tracks. Self confidence propels you forward. to Fear stops U n yor tracks. Self confidNc propels U 4ward.
  • Discuss problems with texted gossip
  • Source:

Human Machine

  • Separate group into smaller groups – 4 to 8 per group.
  • The group’s task is the create a human machine that has the following attributes
    • Two cell phones that are to be “synchronized” in some manner to make a sound
    • One or two cell phones that create some type of visual effect for the machine
    • All group members need to be connected in some way.
    • At least half the arms and half the legs of the group need to be moving in some way.
    • A group spokesperson needs to be able to explain the purpose and function of the machine.
  • Source: Jackie Gerstein

Two Truths and a Lie

  • Each group members takes or locates (copyright free or creative commons) three images  – two that represent “facts” about them; one that is plausible but really a “lie”.  These should be symbols rather than portrait type shots . . . a favorite dog, a flower if likes gardening, a country’s flag is from or visited that country.
  • These are uploaded on a “public” site such as Facebook, a Wiki, or Flickr only with a brief caption.  Remember that the goal is to fool others so the third picture, the lie, needs to seem like a truth.
  • Other members guess which one is the lie by leaving their guess in the comment section.
  • Safety:  Only first names are used.  No pictures of self, family member, or friends
  • Source: Jackie Gerstein

Building Communications

  • The facilitator builds a prototype model using Legos or another building kit.
  • Two or three volunteers act as the communicators.  They have the prototype in their location. The rest of the group is in a remote location.  They have all the parts of the prototype but it needs to be built as an exact replication of the prototype.  The communicators either text or voice chats with the group who must build the prototype based on these directions.
  • Two or three times during the building process – a “runner” from the building time can run over and view the original prototype.
  • If the group struggles with the task, they can send an image to the receiver.
  • Pictures of “results” can uploaded onto Facebook or a Website – and placed side-by-side for comparison.
  • Source: Jackie Gerstein

Text a Group Story

  • One person starts a story – either a word, phrase, or sentence (can be negotiated with the group or predetermined by the leader), and texts this to the next group member who adds a word, phrase, or sentence.  When it gets to the last person, s/he reads the story aloud.
  • If done virtually, the last person can post the story onto a wiki, website, or Facebook.
  • Source: Jackie Gerstein


  • Form smaller groups – 6 to 8 people per group.
  • Group members choose an image or single word to display on each of their cell phones.
  • The phones are laid out on a table.
  • The other groups are give a minute to memorize the images-words.
  • The group that collectively remembers the most cell phone displays wins.
  • Each group is given a chance to display their cell phones.
  • Source: Jackie Gerstein

Pass the Task
  • Smaller groups of 6 to 8 members are formed with equal number of members per group.
  • Give members some time to get the phone number of the person who is “next in line”.
  • Group members are given slips of paper with tasks.  Each smaller group gets the same slips.
  • The first person looks at his/her slip and texts the task to the next person.  The next person does the task, then looks at his/her slip, and finally, texts this task to the next person.
  • The first group to complete
  • Tasks:
    • Hop 10 times on one foot
    • Hum or whistle your favorite song.
    • Shake hands or high five the next person in line.
    • Do Head, Shoulder, Knees, Toes three times.
    • Pat your head and rub your tummy
    • Say Sally Sells Seashells at the Seashore three times
  • Clarity in communication??
  • Source:

Spot the Difference

  • This activity is like the Find the Eight (or so) Differences between the two pictures.
  • Group members take an original-first group picture.  They then make subtle changes – eight to ten of them – to the group.  It could be change of clothing, hair, background, etc.
  • Each set of pictures is displayed via some sort of LCD.  The other groups are to identify the differences.
  • Virtual – individuals can do this using their home setting – making the eight alterations in the scene.  The two images could then be uploaded to Facebook or a wiki.
  • Source: Jackie Gerstein


  • As a debrief for the day’s team building activities, ask participants to go a take picture of something that represents that day’s events.
  • Ask participants to use a song or ringtone to go with that image.
  • Source: Jackie Gerstein

Texting or Facebook Feedback –

Students send their classmates via textbook or Facebook three adjectives that describe their classmates’ performance during the class activities.

Using Mobile Devices to Create a Personalized Feeling Chart

Students are introduced to the feelings cards by selecting the cards that matched their feelings at that moment . . .

In small groups, students select 10-15 feelings cards and set up scenarios that represented each of feelings selected. They used their own mobile device to take photos of these images . . .

The photos are directly uploaded to Flickr via an email. The full process is described by Lisa Nielson in Using Flickr to Collect Images Captured on Cell Phones.

The uploaded images create a personalized feelings poster. Students are provided with scenarios and asked to locate on the Interactive White Board which of these displayed images that they created best represented how they would feel in that situation.

Texting Communications Activity

This activity is an adaptation of the Back-to-Back Communications Exercise. Students pair up. One volunteered to give the directions, the other to be the drawer. They exchange phone numbers and the drawers go to another room. The direction givers are provided with the following drawing and told to text in words (one student asked if he could send a picture) the description of the drawing. The goal was for the drawer to reproduce the drawing to scale.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 22, 2011 at 1:05 am

2 Responses

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  1. Jackie Gerstein, please let’s talk. I want to use your mobile community games. Are they copyrighted? Great work!

    Stephanie Tansey

    Stephanie Tansey

    September 24, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    • Thanks Stephanie – as long as you just “use” them – not publish them somewhere, all is good!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      September 25, 2016 at 2:44 pm

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