Humour can be an effective pedagogical tool. This is borne out by a study that I undertook, five years ago, of about a thousand comments that were posted by students to RateMyProfessors.com: a good sense of humour turned out to be among the top five characteristics that undergraduates appreciated in an instructor (the other attributes in the top five were being approachable; having good lectures; being helpful outside class; and having a passion for the discipline). In my own teaching experience, I’ve found that a humorous or witty comment — whether it’s made by myself or by a student — can reinvigorate a class. After all, the simple act of laughing gets more oxygen into the blood and to the brain. And by its very nature, humour elicits higher order thinking: it usually demands that we intellectually appreciate some sort of incongruity.
Of course, humour can also be a means of conveying an observation that might otherwise raise hackles. For example, I might antagonize some of Waterloo’s undergraduates if I claimed that a reliance on technology has diminished their ability to process information. But the same notion, conveyed in a cartoon such as the one I created above (using bitstrips.com), might be more readily accepted.
As the spirit moves me, I might create more cartoons using the bitstrips tool. Stay “tooned”!