Dr. Dan Liddle gains attention on Twitter for donut activity
- Madeline Kinser
- Friday, April 26th, 2019
On Wednesday, April 17th, Dr. Dan Liddle surprised his technical writing class with donuts, but not for the reason you may think. Of course these donuts were for eating, but they also served a much more educational purpose. He gave his students a challenge: they had to use their phones to take and edit the most attractive and the least attractive pictures of donuts that they possibly could. The result was a fun class activity, better knowledge of photography, and, of course, the reward of donuts. After the success of the activity, Dr. Liddle posted a thread about it on Twitter, which has now accumulated nearly 200 likes and 28 retweets.
Dr. Liddle has always incorporated creative approaches to learning into his teaching. He had noticed some of his students were struggling with taking good-quality pictures, so he drew from his own learning experiences at Purdue and from his own creativity to come up with this fun donut activity.
“I was thinking, ‘What can we take pictures of to play around with our phone cameras that could be our activity for the day and have a sort of pedagogical ethos,” says Dr. Liddle. “And, of course, we have the Great American Donut Shop! So having an important donut institution helps because it’s less like we’re taking pictures of Dunkin’ Donuts than we are taking pictures of something that we care about.”
The main purpose of this activity was to help students learn how to take effective photos. Dr. Liddle emphasizes how important it is for technical writers to be able to take effective photos. Taking good photos does not necessarily mean having the skills of a professional photographer; however, it does mean putting thought into the photo and making the most of the resources that are available.
“The goal is to think about using your phone and the affordances and limitations of that for instructional documents,” says Dr. Liddle. “So to learn how to take better pictures but in a very limited, simple way. Even though we may have limited tools and limited abilities, we can still make good choices.”
One of the most fun aspects of this activity was the different kinds of approaches that students took to their donut pictures. A lot of students took their donuts outside for better lighting and some made makeshift light boxes out of paper. The result is a collection of donut glamour shots that you can’t find anywhere else, and that is partly why this project has gotten so much attention on Twitter.
“The real value of the activity is in its goals and how it connects back to technical writing and its concision as a lesson. So I really tried to emphasize in the post the fun that we all had with it and the fact that it is something that is engaging,” says Dr. Liddle. “The fact that people saw that was really interesting.”
Dr. Liddle thinks that taking creative approaches to teaching, especially in English, is very important. Everyone learns differently, and Dr. Liddle thinks that it’s important to take that into account when coming up with lectures and activities for class.
“I think that creating room for those creative lessons is a way for us to connect to those different ways of learning. It’s connected to both the individual student,s but it’s also changing things up so that students don’t fall into the monotony of the lesson,” says Dr. Liddle. “Even if it’s effective and I’m a student that loves lectures, it may not be effective to do that for every single lesson on those things. That variance is going to help from an instructor’s side, but also from a student’s side.”
Check out Dr. Liddle’s Twitter thread here: https://twitter.com/danielliddle/status/1118599696824655873