Intangible Stokes

What are some quick ways to get immersed in ambiguity?

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash
Active Experiments
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Purpose for Students
Experience It
Date Added: 
June 2019

Relationship to Ambiguity

In classes we often use "stokes" (short warm-up type activities and games) to get learners in the right mindset.  They might be about boosting energy, strengthening collaboration, creating focus, or another purpose that relates to that day's class activities. Whatever the stoke, the value is as much in the activity itself as it is in the debrief. The debrief allows us to point out specific lessons, questions, or skills that prime students to more attuned and aware.

These cards represent a sampling of some new stoke ideas that relate to Navigating Ambiguity. They're a chance to let your students practice and experience ambiguity firsthand.




At one of our Teaching and Learning Summits, Mark and I asked our teaching network to brainstorm and prototype new stoke activities in small groups.  Our challenge to them was to make the focus of the new stoke activity around one or more of the four intangible design abilities:  Moving Between Concrete and Abstract, Communicating Deliberately, Designing Your Design Work, and Navigating Ambiguity.

The handful that we're sharing here have a focus on Navigating Ambiguity. You'll notice a theme of interpretation across most of these stoke activities... including how we deal with multiple interpretations of the same thing, feeling what it's like to not know the "correct" interpretation, etc. That's because a core aspect of navigating ambiguity is the ability to explore and hold multiple ideas or interpretations in parallel.




These stokes are brand-new and actively being tested!  We'd recommend test driving them with a small group to start with, and being open to what new modifications or ideas come to mind.  The first time we ran "Interpe-SHAPE-tion!" we definitely came up with some fun, new twists to the game.

We included a blank stoke card in the back of the deck so that you can capture your own ideas along the way!

Design Abilities Used

Some of the stokes also touch on Communicating Deliberately and Moving Between Concrete and Abstract -- there's definite overlap between these two and Navigating Ambiguity.


In the "Inspiration" section on the back of each card, you can see what sources might have inspired that group's stoke. Special thanks to the Teaching and Learning Community for generating these new ideas and prototyping them in teams.

Designed by:

Kelly Schmutte
Kelly Schmutte
Curriculum Designer and Lecturer, Stanford + Founder, PerfectFit Pointe
Mark Grundberg
Mark Grundberg
Learning Experience Designer, Stanford

Design Abilities Used

Communicate Deliberately
Move Between Concrete + Abstract
Learn More about Design Abilities 


This work is the original work of the Designer(s). It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit:

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