Humor is the best medicine

If humor is the best medicine, what does it cure?  If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a cartoon worth?  Last week at the 2019 Association for Educational Communications and Technology annual conference,, a.k.a. Dr. Thomas Royce Wilson, had us laughing for an hour with his visual and humorous approach to many higher ed common concerns and stresses about teaching and learning with technology.  Below is one cartoon Dr. Wilson presented conveying humor for a discussion mechanism on controversial topics.  Research also shows a positive correlation between organizations valuing creativity and successful innovations for economic success (Sokola, Gozdeka, Figurskab, & Blaskovac, 2014).  3.-equality-1080x1080

If the idea you struggle with isn’t already one of his cartoons, Dr. Wilson encourages everyone to contact him and he will design a cartoon to fit.  I don’t know about you, but I can think of many academic topics a humorous approach might benefit.

It’s no joke humor engages students in any modality–students respond better and achieve more when their instructor uses humor (Lei, Cohen, & Russler, 2010).  Glasser’s Control Theory (1986), well-known and loved in the k-12 realm, posits fun is one of the essential human needs.

1.-easierOn the teaching with technology aspect, I was fascinated when Dr. Wilson explained using PowerPoint to design all of his cartoons.  Designing a one-slide cartoon to illustrate a critical idea sounds like an easy-to-implement critical thinking exercise for students in any subject area and a rich discussion board prompt. 

PowerPoint school on YouTube shares step bstep directions for cartoon drawing if you’re not sure where to start.  Start small, using bitmojis on your smart phone, or go bigger, using free cartoon animations such as Powtoon.  

If you took this approach to a challenging section of your discipline, what would it change about your teaching?  What might happen with student engagement?


Glasser, W. (1986). Control theory in the classroom. New York, NY, US: Perennial Library/Harper & Row Publishers.

Lei, S. A., Cohen, J. L., & Russler, K. M. (2010). Humor on learning in the college classroom: evaluating benefits and drawbacks from instructors’ perspectives. Journal of Instructional Psychology37(4), 326–331. Retrieved from

Sokola, A., Gozdeka, A., Figurskab, I., & Blaskovac, M. (2014).  Organizational climate of higher education institutions and its implications for the development of creativity, 4th World Conference on Educational Technology Researches,  Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 182 ( 2015 ) 279 – 288, doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.04.767.

Teaching with cartoons: Details & examples, The University of Iowa, Office of Teaching, Learning, & Technology, accessed 10/30/2019 at

Walsh, K. (2015).  Dozens of ways to use comics and cartoons in the classroom, accessed on 10/30/2019 at


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