Once upon a class…

Alan Levine joined EC&I 831 on Tuesday to chat with us about storytelling. True confession, I love stories. I grew up with bedtime stories and an impressive library. I would tell never-ending stories to my toys. Eventually I turned my hand to writing. Not well. But I kept coming back to telling stories. In fact, I did some studies of historiography – the study of the writing of history – the last time I was working on a masters degree.

And yet, in all of that, it never occurred to me to think of my papers, presentations, or teaching as stories I am telling.

"329 Balloons" by mortimer? from Flickr,  BYNCSA
Who knew balloons were a concern for children?
Photo Credit: mortimer? via Compfight cc

The demonstration of that, for me, really came through a quick improv with Alan, Jason Grayson, Ryan Josephson using Pecha Flickr (which Alan created!). Alan started us off with the beginning of a story. Sure, if it had been a planned presentation, it could easily have felt like a standard presentation but, in this case, we were working blind and coming up with it on the fly, with the intention of fitting into what one another was saying. It started to feel like a story.

Pixar's Rules of Storytelling
Photo Credit: Profound Whatever via Compfight cc

When we present material, we can make it interesting to our audience. We can structure it as a story, not solely with beginning, middle and end, but use tension. Use resolution. We can present things in a way that will engage our audience. Even if we have a required structure, we can still make it interesting.

Thsi actually makes me think of a webinar I attended about gamification with Katrin Becker. She talked about using language from games and using quests. What do quests do, at least in good games? Help players move through the story! If the “story” is the course, then quests help the students progress from their level at the beginning to their level at the end, helping them acquire the skills they need but also moving them through the narrative.

I’ll have to think more about this. As someone who plays games, especially ones with interesting stories, this makes sense to me. As someone who enjoys reading and writing stories, I feel connected to it on a visceral level. We humans make stories out of separate events all the time. Why not do it with something like a course that should feel like a story?

So what about you? How do you connect to storytelling?

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