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Posts Tagged ‘storytelling

This is an unplanned part 3 of my notes and reflection on a talk on gamification. [Part 1] [Part 2]

In the two previous parts, I noted and critiqued the narrative element. Narratives in games, game-based learning, and gamification are driven by stories. Good stories depend on skilled storytelling.

So what does such storytelling look like?

I have shared the work of brilliant storytellers on Vimeo and YouTube many times before. Earlier this week I found a story told by British Airways (BA).


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BA obviously wanted to sell its planes, service, and people. It did so with a story that focused on the relationship between the two main characters in the video.

Despite being a made up story, it was believable because the characters looked real. They were not movie stars and could pass for an actual flight attendant and passenger. The focus on the relationship between the two characters created an emotional link between the two.

The strong storytelling elements were believability and emotions. The same two elements could also be part of the narratives of qualitative reports, educational videos, or conference presentations.

A research study or lesson example could be contrived, but it must be real to the participants. To be effective, the intervention needs to elicit the emotions of the participants. Fail to do these and you succeed only in disconnecting with your learners.

The best video games are the ones that are driven by narrative. The stories are a product of the game designers, the players, or a combination of both.


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The latest games seem to take on another dimension, that of cinematic yet personal narratives. These reel in players emotionally, provide elements of control, and give players a stake in the story.

Video game-based learning needs to have these same design elements. Drill-and-practice games and games tacked over traditional instruction typically do not leverage on these strategies.

If modern instructors want to be learner-centred, they must leverage on learners’ emotion and control so that they tell their own stories.


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Jon Cozart, aka Paint, is a huge talent who started making videos when he was in 7th grade. That would mean he was about 13 when he started. He is 21 now so that means that he has been at it for eight years.

His YouTube videos exploded only relatively recently. People might talk about a meteoric rise if they are not aware of the time he took to hone his craft.

Cozart shared that his videos were not instantly popular. He attributed their newfound popularity to something he learnt over time. He learnt to tell stories.

Last week I tweeted:

Karl Kapp summarized research that revealed how narrative presentations were more memorable than expository ones.

Educators should be designing lessons more like stories and be telling meaningful stories. Stories are more engaging and they are more likely to remembered.

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I watched this Vimeo-hosted video and was impressed by how the storyteller was able to weave a tale forwards and backwards.

Based on what I have read about this video elsewhere, I gather that some folks think that is makes more sense backwards than forwards.

I agree. And as I sometimes do, I started to connect this with courses that I facilitate. The course is change management with ICT in this case.

Sometimes things do not seem to make sense moving forward with change. We might just be reacting to the reactions to change. There are new changes to respond to, fires to put out, and busy work.

Hindsight almost always seems clear. It is easy to look back and reflect on change efforts to see where we went right or wrong.

But I fear that hindsight is not always accurate. It can tell another story because our experience colours the story or we look at the past through rose-tinted glasses.

This reminds me of a saying I learnt when I was young: Life is like grammar. It makes the past perfect and the present tense.

So very true when change agents face resistance. This is something I might close my change management elective with a several weeks time.

I tweeted this a few days ago:

I had to tell the folks who asked me to give talks why I try not to lecture. I prefer to tell stories that the audience can relate to.

I am also serious about turning passive listening into more active commenting, questioning, and critiquing. I want a one-way talk to become many-way listens and chats. Twitter backchannels are key to doing this.

I am going to try this despite the talks being held in venues that I am not familiar with and have no control of. One of those sessions is not even in the same country!

Actually, it might be because the talks are held elsewhere that I do this. It will be a test of technical, mindset, and cultural readiness for “chats” and “listens”.

Other than that, I will be mindful of five things every presenter needs to know about people.


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It is possible to present with an iPad, but the device was not really made for presentations.


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But here is a pair of presenters who take iPad-based presentations to a whole new level!

The novelty and effectiveness of the presentation does not really lie with the iPad. It is the story that they tell that matters.

Lecturing with a board, overhead projector, computer, or iPad is not going to make much of a difference if the nature of the lecture does not change. It is the storyteller that matters.


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I love the way Joe Sabia combines traditional storytelling with digital storytelling.

Some might consider what he did gimmicky. But I think he used the videos, music, the flicking of photos and even his iPad’s camera to make his point. The story is at the core. The medium helps tell it.

The same could be said with integrating technology into education. The learning (not the teaching) should be at the core. The technology should enable it.


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