Taking a Picture

Engineering Area
Analysis & problem definition, Assessment & evaluation, Design & Prototyping, Ideation & Conceptual design
Group or Individual
Amount of People
Up to 15, 15-25, 25+
Type of Class
Duration of Activity
Half an hour or less
Type of Activity
Collaborative team setting, On-line Classroom activity, Self-work by students


What is this technique about

The “Taking a Picture” method is an individual activity that can be executed as an icebreaker or mind-freer in a workshop setting. As the name suggests, the method is about each student going outside to take one picture of their own choosing and show it to the rest of the group on the online learning platform. 

Where does it come from 

Using icebreaker activities and re-energizers in the classroom effectively help to “break the ice” in various ways: Adult learners get acquainted, start conversations, build trust, and relieve tensions. They encourage participation and help creating a sense of connection and shared common understanding. They help to clear the mind, vitalize, and create enthusiasm (Chlup & Collins, 2010). 

Outdoor recreation activity has many positive effects on human performance and is particularly helpful for freeing up the mind (UMR, 2015). This exercise Is based on the idea that going out and taking a picture of something beautiful or Interesting helps to refocus attention.

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

When facilitating a workshop where students are deeply focused on solving a problem or developing a future scenario, it is ideal to have an ice breaker or “mind freer” midway. The purpose of the ice breaker is to get the students to stop thinking for a moment and do a completely different activity so the brain can process all the information obtained so far. 

Making the students go outside and take a picture of their own choice can be used as a recreation exercise because it takes their minds off the topic for a moment and they are able to breath fresh air. Recreation is often an underrated session element but can affect the outcome of the workshop positively. 

How to use it

When reaching the middle of an online workshop or after having been engaged In a specific task for a long time, the teacher can use the “Taking a Picture” method and simply ask the students to grab their phone or camera and go outside of their homes to take a picture of something they choose for themselves. The teacher will then give them a specific time (e.g., 15 minutes) to take one photo, come back and upload it into a shared document. When everyone is by the screen again, all pictures will be shown and the students shall explain why they had chosen this motive.

How to implement this techniques online

Preparation, what do before the session

    1. Create a shared document that Is accessible to everybody where the students can paste their photo into.
    2. Ask the students to have their phone or camera ready. Tell them that they will need to upload the picture they take, and that they shall choose the device accordingly.

During application, i.e. while giving the session

    1. Introduce the students to the exercise and its purpose.
    2. Set a timer on (e.g., 15 minutes). Let them know when the time starts
    3. Tell them to be back in the online session and have their pictures posted In the shared document before the 15 minutes are over.
    4. Keep an eye on time.

Follow-up, about what to do after the session

    1. When the students are back, show their pictures, one at the time, and ask them for a comment.

Tools needed

You will need a platform to share screens and communicate with the participants, such as: MS Teams, Zoom or similar. As well as access to a shared document (e.g. Google doc, Word)

Furthermore, you will need a camera to take pictures at each student’s place (e.g., phone or camera) and a timer.



UMR “myUMRhealth” (United HealthCare Services, Inc.) (2015, March 5). The benefits of outdoor activity. [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPwZUL6Dd3Q


Chlup, D. T., & Collins, T. E. (2010). Breaking the ice: using ice-breakers and re-energizers with adult learners. Adult Learning, 21(3-4), 34-39.