Tag: methods (Page 1 of 3)

Resources for Educational Storytelling

In my quest to equip an army of educational storytellers, I have come across some other revolutionaries and sources or great help. I wanted to share a few of my favorites.



Ten Elements of Educational Storytelling

This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master’s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

This is it. We have taken a long journey through educational stories and barely scratched the surface. In the best tradition of “memory episodes” from T.V. shows we love, I wanted to walk down memory lane. Here is the entire series boiled down into ten-ish bite sized bits 🙂

1. Why Educational Stories?

Stories are part of humanity, and have been ever since, and probably before, humankind took to speech. John Niles even went as far as to call humankind Homo Narrans, storytelling man. Cultures have developed myths, legends, and works of fiction core to identity, history, and moral behavior, and the transmission of knowledge. This is not a past society phenomenon. Narrative still shapes our daily lives, be it intentional or unintentional. It seems that stories can be a great deal more than fun.

Fables are specifically useful in character education and the passing along of traditions, mores, and cultural ethics. Stories are not just effective in teaching social-oriented principles (like fables). Process-oriented principles like math, the scientific method, problem solving, and even computer programming can all benefit from storytelling.

2. A Good Story, Well told

At its heart, and educational story must be a good story. We can all relate to some cheesy special (though I bet you learned some good stuff). But, its simple: the better the story, the more attached we get, and the more powerful the opportunity to learn.

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Interactivity and Educational Storytelling

This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master”™s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

We are nearing the end of our Basics of Educational Stories series. In total, we have looked at the basic elements of story, the value of educational storytelling, the Hero’s Journey and how it can be used in educational stories, and the first four of five principles: Hero Audience Bonding, Emotion and Learning, Presentation, and Learning Profiles.

Now we dive into the fifth principle: Interactivity.

In many ways, interactivity is a capstone of the other principles. When a story is interactive, it gives a more genuine bonding experience and increases emotional involvement, makes a much stronger presentation, and complements a variety of learning profiles. If interactivity is the capstone, it can also be called the bedrock. When a story is interactive in some way (even if just encouraging the audience to picture themselves in the protagonists place), it encourages the other principles by design. Interactivity holds it all together and shoots steroids into an educational story.

By designing stories that are interactive and allow the student the chance to participate, the repetition of processes can be made more interesting. Younger students, especially, have a great ability to learn as they interact. The hero may ask the audience for help, the storyteller may include exercises into the story, and the story will most
definitely include the hero working through the processes in order to reinforce the learning.

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Narrative Identity and Anime: Questions, Definitions, and Directions

This is part of a series that draws on ethnographic fieldwork with anime fans. The series creates a framework for exploring the relationship between narrative, performance, and identity. I explore a theory of narrative identity in which individuals incorporate elements from stories into their lives. I document how anime fans use anime-specific narrative resources such as archetypes, icons, and language to shape their personal identity narratives and perform those identities to both anime fans and non-anime fans.

Check out the rest of the series.

Stories are part of humanity, and have been ever since, and probably before, humankind took to speech. John Niles (Niles 2010) even went as far as to call humankind Homo Narrans, “storytelling man.” But let’s take that though a little further. To what extend do people use narrative to build their personal identities?

I first posit that the “narrative” as a “sense-making” structure that gives the “bones” allowed for people to “create and give meaning to our social reality (Hydén 1997:50).” Further, I suggest that narratives can be effectively and intentionally used to teach, to shape, and to guide behavior.

In a general sense, this is building off of work by Joseph Campbell (2008) and Carl Jung (1981), who had complimentary notions of archetypes as described in Christopher Vogler”™s book The Writer”™s Journey (2007) where mythic narrative elements (archetypes and journeys) act as guides for personal and social behavior. BronisÅ‚aw Malinowski also discussed the idea of a social charter (1971) where myths act as guides or a sort of playbook for behavior.

In more recent years, Charlotte Linde, an anthropologist, theorizes about the use of narrative as a sense making structure and story as a resource for identity management during her ethnography of an American Insurance Company (2003; 2000). The definition of “narrative” will be discussed in detail later, but for now we will define story as a presentation of events, whether real or fictitious, involving three primary elements: plotting, character, and setting (Morrell 2006:51). Linde details how incoming employees use stories from training materials and social settings to mold their own identity and guide their behavior in the workplace.

James Wertsch, an anthropologist from Washington University in St. Louis, carries this further by postulating that narratives are the primary sense-making structure, and are carried collectively by groups as part of a narrative schema inside a social circle”™s collective memory (2008; 2000). Indeed, the study of illness narrative inside medical anthropology suggests that narratives can be used to, among other things: 1) to reconstruct one”™s life in line with a greater narrative, 2) as a form of strategic interaction in order to assert or project one’s identity, and 3) to transform illness from an individual into a collective phenomenon.

So, it can be asserted that narratives are instrumental in creating, shaping, and projecting (or performing) identity.

Narrative is the central sense-making structure that allows human beings to arrange, categorize and present symbolic ideas. Hydén (1997:50) said, it has only been recently that “social scientists began to consider narratives as one of the ways in which we create and give meaning to our social reality. To earlier generations of social scientists, the narrative was merely one of many forms of representation.” Therefore, narrative provides the schema or roadmap for symbolic ideas to be connected and interpreted. Narrative is built in the same way story is: with character, plot and setting.

Identity, according to Joel Charon is “the name we all call ourselves” and also “the name we announce to others that tells them who we are.” (2009:84) Identities are positional or relational. They are “perceived social locations of the individual where one has situated [themselves] in relation to others,”¦[and] the name one tries to communicate with others” (Stone 2011:93).

So our working definition of identity is the socially constructed, socially maintained, and socially transformed meanings a person attributes to himself or herself (Berger 2011; Burke 1980).

To further clarify definitions, I will call the internal “identity” the personal identity narrative, here meaning the story we tell ourselves, about ourselves. The external “identity” in the paragraph above, I shall refer to as the performative identity, meaning the “me” we attempt to show others.

These definitions come together in the theory of narrative identity which we described earlier as the interplay between narratives and social identity construction in which individuals incorporate elements from narratives (fictionalized, social, and others) into their personal identity narrative and attempt to project this identity narrative by way of a performative identity.

The triad of narrative identity is an analytical framework that is used to analyze narrative identity by describing the connectedness between the shaping and projecting of narrative identity using narrative resources.

Narrative resources are narrative elements that provide symbolic points of reference, context, and content for fashioning identity and for performing identity.

These three aspects work in concert together: personal identity narratives, performative identities, and narrative resources. This works in a procedural way:

  1. Narrative resources exist “out there” and are shared by both audience and performer. They do not have the exact same set, and both interpret these symbols differently.
  2. The actor uses these shared resources to cobble together a personal identity narrative. That is “Who do I say I am?”
  3. That personal identity feeds into the performative identity: Who do I want others to know I am?
  4. The performance is the observable interaction projected by the actor.
  5. The audience relies on the shared narrative resources for audience interpretation.
  6. This creates the perceived self, or perception of the actor. This is who the audience thinks the actor is.
  7. The audience provides feedback, both intentionally and unintentionally.
  8. That feedback influences the performance, which influences the performative identity, which can ultimately influence the personal identity narrative.

Consider this simple example: Jerry is a football fan. His personal identity narrative is, therefore, informed by narrative resources that may include sports narratives, sports jargon and personal experiences. Jerry also performs this identity in order to situate himself as an athlete among his circle of friends. In order to communicate this, he again draws on narrative resources. In this case, those resources may be a brand of clothing that carries symbolic weight and that the group understands to point towards athletes. He may also adopt (enact) certain gestures and language that have been made popular by celebrity athletes. The audience (individuals in his circle of friends) sees these performance features and associates Jerry with athletics, therefore perceiving him as an athlete.

Going forward, I will attempt to walk a three-sided line. First and foremost, I will strive to enable anime fans to share their own voices through their own interviews, interpretations, and performances.

The second line is an attempt to create an analytical framework for investigating the theory of narrative identity. This framework will help us draw conclusions about the form and substance of narrative identity in social contexts. This is a test, and it may be that the framework is insufficient or plain faulty.

The third line is to fit this work in with the larger question of stories for education, identity management, and transformation. I will discuss some applied approaches and further directions for research of this type.

The next post in this series is a brief introduction to anime.

Stay tuned!

Series: The Triad Narrative Identity and Anime Fandom

This blog and my research, is devoted to transformational storytelling. At the core transformational storytelling research is the simple question, “why people respond so strongly to stories?” If we can find these answers, we can create stories that teach, heal, call to social action, and transform lives.

One great way to explore the connection between humans and stories is to explore groups who have observable, passionate, and strong connections to a specific cannon of stories. Many such groups come to mind: novelists, folklorists, storytellers, and fans. Fans pose an especially interesting case because they so often adopt elements from stories and integrate them into daily life, in effect living out the stories they love. Is that not exactly what we are looking to investigate?

As I have discussed in another mini-series about storyworlds, there are many different ways we integrate elements of story into our personal identity narrative. This series is an in depth exploration of one small group of anime fans and a general look at the larger world of anime fandom.

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Educational Storytelling: Presentation, Craft, and Learning Profile

This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master”™s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

I’m going to attack two guiding principles of educational storytelling in this post, since they are so related.


It is not enough, simply to tell a story with a good message. Even if all the steps are perfectly executed in a captivating tale where the lesson is wonderfully presented, students do not learn by listening. Students learn by doing. It is important, after the story has concluded, to include segments of practical discussion. Not theoretical analysis of the literature, but truly pragmatic discussion of the lesson. Students must be encouraged to
act on the lessons learned and explore the topic with greater depth.

Learning Profile

A Note on Learning Styles

All people do not learn in the same fashion. This is something that has been known to mankind since the beginning of time. However, in recent years, some more scientific study has been completed that has helped educators understand how different students process information. Theories of multiple intelligences abound. Robert Sternberg broke intelligence into three separate categories: academic, creative, and practical (Berger, 2006).

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Using Digital Storytelling in e-Learning

In an attempt to gather some of the foremost research in transformational storytelling and innovative curriculum design, I offer this article from eLearn Magazine. This article discusses how creativity and innovation can enhance e-learning systems based on digital storytelling. It goes as far as to propose a story creation model called “movement-oriented design” (MOD)  for systematically developing effective digital stories, in conjunction with story creation principles articulated by Robert McKee, a Hollywood guru of script writing.

Read the original here.

Some Highlights:

Digital Storytelling
With advancements in digital audio and video capture technology and editing software, digital storytelling is becoming a part of modern life, making it easier to create innovative e-learning content presented as digital stories. Such innovative content can not only make courses more attractive, but can also lead to deep learning.

Some of the new pedagogical models based on storytelling include: story-centred curriculum, proposed by Roger Schank (2007), and scenario-based curriculum development, suggested by Ray Bareiss & Sukhjit Singh (2007). The common theme that permeates these pedagogical models is: “learning through stories.”

Stories have been used as educational medium since prehistoric times as they encapsulate four crucial aspects of human communication: information, knowledge, context, and emotions (Norman, 1993). Embedding stories as digital media, i.e., digital storytelling, is therefore not only desirable, but almost essential for producing engaging e-learning content . . .

e-Learning and Digital Storytelling
E-learning systems that just transform the traditional educational content (for example, books or lecture notes) into digital media are not successful; because, e-learning content that presents only facts and figures can loose the learners attention more easily than a good lecturer, who can capture the learners’ attention with personal charisma. With e-learning content, the lack of personal connection (with a real teacher) can be overcome by creating “educational stories” that embody good storytelling principles.

Good storytelling principles have been articulated by the masters of storytelling since Aristotle. These principles can also be applied to develop good educational stories. To capture and maintain the learner’s interest, a story’s narrative must connect with the learner’s emotions and create emotional movement. Any learning that happens with a story, especially one that provides an emotionally moving experience, is much more persistent, and therefore, easy to recall.

McKee Principles
Robert McKee, the Hollywood guru of film script writing has articulated principles for creating effective stories (McKee, 1998). A subset of these “McKee Principles” can be applied for creating good educational stories as well. To achieve emotional movement, McKee proposes five stages for designing the “spine” of a story: 1) inciting incident, 2) progressive complications, 3) crisis, 4) climax, and 5) resolution.

Movement Oriented Design
Movement Oriented Design (MOD) is a framework proposed by the author for creating contextualized stories, that is, stories that work in a given context, for example e-learning (Sharda(2), 2007). MOD views every temporal presentation as a story. From a MOD perspective, even this article is a story. Every good story should have three clearly identifiable components: a beginning, a middle, and an end; called Begin (B), Middle (M), and End (E) in the MOD terminology.

The most fundamental element of the MOD methodology is a Movement, which is defined as a micro story with clearly identifiable begin, middle, and end components. A good beginning should entice the user, wanting to find out more. The middle should be used to deliver the essential educational content, and the end should conclude the story unit. Wherever possible, the end of one story unit should build a link to the next. A story unit that does not have all three components (B, M, E) will most likely be ineffective. When creating e-learning content, often the authors overload it with useful information without linking these with an effective narrative; consequently the learners’ interest wanes.

Read the rest here.

(Five-ish) Steps to a Creative, Mixed Media, Interactive Story

I talk a lot about different ideas for mixed-media, interactive stories, but how do we actually create something. What are the steps? What does the  process look like? Is this really something I can do?

Yes. Let me show you.

From step one.

1. Inspiration

The most common question at any book signing is “where do you get your ideas?” That is a subject for about a thousand books on its own, and to begin this walk through of telling mixed-media, interactive stories, it may be a bit beyond our scope. We will start with one of the most time-honored launching pads: the writing prompt.

I have a copy of The Amazing Story Generator which I have used to concoct the following three scenes.

  • Penniless after a failed business venture, an old lady with twenty cats solves a ten-year-old murder
  • After a monthlong fast, a North Korean scientist forgets to mail an important letter
  • While on a second honeymoon, a small town mayor is initiated into a secret cult

And from here, we construct a story.

2. Story

I chose those three, bizarrely disconnected plot lines on purpose. My stories always begin with scenes, characters, or emotional moments. Interesting bits of news or questions that I connect to personally. Then, I ask question to connect these bits into a functioning story. The above prompts are not really connected at all, but we can create connections and birth a beautiful story.

Story Fundamentals

Let’s begin by understanding what a story is and has, at least for our purposes. At its most basic level, a hero’s life is at balance in their world, ordinary as it is for them. Something happens to knock that balance out of whack and sends that hero on some sort of quest to set the world to rights again. Along the way, lots of things try to stop the hero, and a few things (like mentors) will be the hero’s aid. Even more important, our hero grows. They begin with a want (to set the world right again), a wound (something bad that keeps them from growing), and a need (to be get past the wound). The story takes the hero through the growth. They are not the same at the end, and neither is the world, but this new world is in balance, at least for the hero.

Yes, that’s all from my treatment on the Hero’s Journey, and (to me) the simplest structure to create powerful stories. I’m using it here as a sort-of-formula. Normally, I’m not that rigid, but this is a blog post, after all.

Questions to Construct Stories

Now that we know what we’re aiming for, how can we connect those above prompts? Well, in a virtually infinite number of ways. Here is how my questioning path led to a story outline.

  • Is the important letter connected to the murder? Yes, the letter was an last minute cancellation of a contract assassination.
  • Why was the scientist wanting to assassinate someone in the first place? Obviously because they were rivals in some secret government research.  He changed his mind when, after his fast, he believed his god spoke to him in a vision. Now, I’m changing my prompt from “forgets to mail” to “fails to mail”.
  • So, what stops the scientist from mailing the letter? The secret cult also wants the rival dead, so they dispose of the scientist and let the hit man take care of the rival.
  • Why does the secret cult care? They are an old order that believes they must protect the world from abomination of medicine. Both scientists were working on advanced genetics.
  • The secret cult uses mind control serum to indoctrinate their members.
  • That means that the small town-mayor is going to be the villian of our story. He is recruited by the cult to dispatch of the cat lady, because the cat-lady is stumbling upon the truth.
  • What is the cat-lady’s wound and growth? She is scared of being independent and has been relying on others to get her through. She learns that she can take care of herself — and others. The wound, her son passed away from an infection years ago. She couldn’t save him. She isn’t capable. Not great, but it’ll work.

And I can keep going. Suffice it to say, that works out enough plot for this post.

The Treatment

Now that I have the connections, lets fashion it into a short description of the story for our purposes. Remember the story fundamentals. Our hero will be the cat lady and our villain will be the secret cult that is manipulating the small-town mayor.

Beth spends her days at home, dreaming of ways to become independent. Of ways to stop needing to rely on others. Of taking care of herself as she once had. But, she is too afraid. What if she can’t? What if others rely on her? What if she lets them down? Her latest hopes were dashed when a business venture — that she invested everything she had into — fell through. Not just fell through: the CEO of the company died suddenly and the headquarters were destroyed, taking all of the research with it and bankrupting the entire process. The genetics lab was promising to enhance vision, reflexes, and memory. Now, it’s all gone.

Normally Beth would just wallow in her misery. But she’s through wallowing. She does some more digging and finds that there have been lots of similar incidents from around the world. Then she remembers the story her father told her. Of when he was a boy and his father (a North Korean Scientist) was murdered. She still has the last letter her grandfather meant to send. It’s never been opened. Now is the time.

The letter describes a secret cult that will stop at nothing to “preserve the human race from medicine.” Fascinated, Beth digs some more. The cult, every watching for those who may know its secrets, discovers her and recruits a small-town mayor who is sympathetic to their cause and on a second honeymoon nearby. They drug him and brainwash him to go after Beth.

A lot of stuff happens in the middle. You know: mystery, intrigue, blah, blah, blah.

In the end, Beth and the Mayor (who we will call Roger) must rely on each other to defeat and expose the cult. Beth’s growth is complete when (in the final climax) she surrenders any control and relies totally on Roger. That doesn’t make her weak, or helpless, or a loser. And, she realizes that she is capable.

Of course, they save the world.

Wow, what a weird story, right? In any case, its enough to start splitting it into mixed-media and interactive bits.

3-4. Mixed-Media, Interactive Awesomeness

Our mantra is “don’t do anything for novelty sake.” That said, what parts of this story would best be told in which mediums? Well, you could definitely have a journal from the North Korean scientist with all his clues and suspicions. Images, sketches, very visual. For that matter, a few audio recordings would be great two.

Beth’s story would best be done in narrative prose so we can get inside her mind and really grow with her. Ditto with Roger’s storyline, but maybe a touch less.

What about the person Roger is on a second-honeymoon with? If Roger is sneaking away to get at Beth, that would make Roger’s wife pretty suspicious. Let’s give her a smartphone and have her do her own investigation, snapping pictures and taking videos to tell that part of the story. That isn’t just a gimmick. Images in that way produce great suspense as the audience must decide what in the image is important and what is not. The author can do amazing things with misdirection

As far as interactivity goes, I like the idea of making the journal interactive. Let’s give the audience the ability to explore the journal and piece the mystery together herself.

That leaves us with a novel that alternates between photographs, novel prose, and printed journal entries alongside an interactive journal. And, for the fun of it, a hidden track where one of Beth’s cats narrate the story through a feline POV.

5. Collaboration and Awesomeness

That’s a lot. More than I could do myself, admittedly. I would start, as I have, with a fleshed out draft all in text. In it, I would break the scenes into photos, prose, or journal and describe what the photos show and the journal says. Once I have my story more-less perfect, I can approach others to help flesh it out. Working together, we are stronger.

I will talk more about my format experiments in a later post.

For now, I hope you were able to follow this and see that, even from bizarre beginnings, a mixed-media, interactive story is possible. Think what you could do with an actually good idea.

Comments, please. What’s your process?

Narrative Identity: An Ethnographic Example

This mini-series looks at how we integrate elements of stories into our personal identities, literally letting stories transform who we are. We look at the storyworlds that grow up around stories, narrative identity, and create a basic framework to analyze further.

The research is pulled from my Master’s Thesis in Cultural Anthropology where I did an ethnographic study with a group of anime fans, but don’t get bogged down in the anime of it. A football game is a story. A band has a story. Televisions shows. All these things develop storyworlds through which we shape our personal identities and interact with others.

Check out the Rest of the Series

In the first post of this mini-series, we defined “storytworlds” as the culture that grows up around stories, filled with all the trappings of culture like language, artifacts, and social convention. We talked about how individual identities can be seen as narratives, and hypothesized that storytworlds and stories influence the composition of those personal identity narratives. In the second post, I proposed a framework called the Triad of Narrative Identity that broke this narrative identity process into 3 parts: cultural resources, personal identity narrative, and performative identity.

This is the last post of this mini-series, and the simplest. Let’s see an example from real life ethnography:

Taylor, one of the informants from my ethnographic fieldwork, is a self-identified anime fan. She is in her mid-twenties, a college graduate, and a small business owner who says she watches anime, usually with her husband, at least fifteen hours a week. She frequents conventions, online social networks, and has begun learning Japanese. By way of her personal identity narrative, Taylor identifies with both anime fan culture and certain common character types that are commonplace in anime storylines.

“I always liked the creative, free girls that are in a lot of anime and manga. They always have great ideas and make beautiful things. They are fun to be around, but also can be really deep ““ have great ideas and solve problems and stuff like that. I guess if I was an anime character, I would want to be that one. A creative free spirit kind.”

The character type described by Taylor is typical in anime, an archetype. This archetype is common in anime and Japanese literature; I have dubbed her the “Creative Free Spirit Girl.” In both casual conversation and her non-directed interviews, Taylor talked about herself in these same terms. She expressed herself as creative, fun, free-spirited, but also deep and able to solve problems. When describing her life story, she drew parallels with this archetype and her own identity narrative, using this narrative resource to inform this aspect of her identity.

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Series: Narrative Identity Introduction

This mini-series looks at how we integrate elements of stories into our personal identities, literally letting stories transform who we are. We look at the storyworlds that grow up around stories, narrative identity, and create a basic framework to analyze further.

If the goal of this blog is to explore research into transformational storytelling, then we must look a more than just the stories themselves. Human beings are social, and we interact with stories in social ways. We also incorporate elements of stories into our own identities. This mini-series introduces these ideas and lays out a bare-bones method for analyzing the social context by which we engage with stories and integrate bits of them into our identity.

I propose an analytic framework that lets us look at how people integrate pieces of stories and storyworlds into their personal identities. This is an important step if we want to understand why this works and how we can create transformational stories.

Let’s move past the scholar-speak and make it really simple for a moment.

A person (the actor) loves a story (any story). They take bits of that story (narrative resources) like a character’s trait, a turn of phrase, or a fashion choice and integrates the bits into their own performance (they use the phrase in everyday life). Someone else (the audience) see the actor performing this, connects it to the story and understands what the actor is trying to convey.

The research is pulled from my Master’s Thesis in Cultural Anthropology where I did an ethnographic study with a group of anime fans, but don’t get bogged down in the anime of it. A football game is a story. A band has a story. Televisions shows. All these things develop storyworlds through which we shape our personal identities and interact with others.

Series Contents

  1. Storyworlds
  2. Triad of Narrative Identity
  3. An Ethnographic Example

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