Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

21 August 2008

Stories and Tools

Clark @ 8:02 AM

BJSchone‘s tweet pointed me to Jay’s business assessment of web 2.0 tools, which somehow I’d missed.  A great little chart.  What got me going was his final entry, on stories.  He says:

memorable, natural way to spread values and goals; more sophisticated than text, oral tradition reinforces meaning

It started me thinking about the research (e.g. Schank, way back when) about our ‘scripts‘ (Schank’s equivalent to Minsky‘s Frames, and Rumelhart‘s Schemas, several co-emergent conceptualizations for thinking from cognitive science).  There’s been lots of recent interest in stories for business and organizations (e.g. Steven Denning), and there are sound reasons to do so.

The point that strikes me about why stories are such a compelling, memorable way to communicate is that our brains are hardwired to process them, they naturally contextualize the message, and (when well-done), help communicate both the solution and the underlying concept.  They can communicate messages about values, as Jay points out, as well as methods.  And they tap into human universals, as this article from Scientific American points out (sent to me after I’d written first draft of this; serendipity).

Which is why I’m a fan of stories in elearning.  They can be used up-front for what I call a motivating example, not a reference example but instead a visceral demonstration of why this knowledge is important.  And, of course, they can be used for reference examples where they link concept to context.  There are some nuances about how to do this that I talk about in my talks about Deeper eLearning (coming to DevLearn) and in my article on the 7 Step Program to better elearning (PDF).  Basically, worked steps, cognitive annotation, and backtracking & repair.  Solid research to back it up.

Of course, podcasts are a great way to use stories.  They are naturally an audio medium.  Then, you can augment stories with images, ala a narrated slideshow, or video. I remember we used to attend a series of travel movies at Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh; the filmmakers themselves would narrate the film live, and it was a very professional, entertaining, and enlightening experience. So vidcasts would also be useful.

And, as I’ve stated before, I think that comics/manga are a great and underexplored way to communicate, as they are stories, with the same ability to exaggerate.  They can take more time to produce but are more visceral (because they add visuals).  They also globalize easily (though may have trouble with accessibility?).  I can’t resist pointing again to Dan Pink’s new manga because it’s both good career advice and a good example!  I’d bet they’d work well on an iPhone, too.  Hmm…

So, look at the tool guide, think stories, and media.  Now, if we could only find a reliable and affordable way to get comics/manga done.


  1. Thanks for the link to that SciAm story. Fascinating. Thanks, too, for the mention of Johnny Bunko. As for cheaper ways to create manga and comics, there are actually a few software programs out there — none of them amazing — that represent steps in this direction. (Ex: Manga Studio 3.0, ComicLife, etc.)

    Dan Pink

    Comment by Dan Pink — 22 August 2008 @ 9:51 AM

  2. You’re welcome, and thanks for the pointers. ComicLife may be the way I have to go (blogged it a while ago), since I can’t draw to save my life (think: epileptic chimpanzee with crayons; can see it in my head but can’t get it out). If you can, agree that Manga Studio could be a great tool.

    BTW, saw you speak at an eLearning Guild conference based upon “A Whole New Mind”; great stuff, cite the concept quite a lot.

    Comment by Clark — 22 August 2008 @ 10:45 AM

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