“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” - An old Native American proverb
Human beings are made up of stories. Stories and humans co-exist together to live, understand, learn, interpret, argue, accept, experience, and transform. Stories have been there from the time communication was discovered. Inside a story there resides the past, the present, and the future. This is the reason why stories are so close to each one of us and we make a connection with stories.
If we may ask you that ‘Who is the most powerful person in the world?’, you may find it out of context but this question reveals to us the power of a storyteller. Let’s see what Steve Jobs the CEO and Cofounder of the Apple Company had to say about the question asked:
“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come…”
It was in 2001 that Jobs’ new storytelling skills really shined. Leading up to the iPod launch, he personally managed the process of deciding on both the name and the message of the product. What’s most interesting about the launch is that Steve decided on the story he wanted to tell before Apple had even named the product.
“1,000 songs in your pocket”
This 5-word story made connections with each individual as individuals have tastes/interests for various kinds of music and music is an integral part of everyone’s lives. This 5-Word Story was a story that became a case study for all of us to reflect on the power of storytelling.
At the time it was launched people were using bulky devices and they used to carry a sleeve full of CDs. This simple message resonated with them and millions of others because of a few simple reasons.
It focused 100% on the customer - YOUR pocket
It addressed the problems that the customer faced - instead of carrying around bulky items and CDs, it was 1000 songs in your pocket
It allowed the customer to tell their own story - wherever you are, you have 1000 songs - it didn’t matter if you were commuting, jogging, laying on your couch, or simply sitting.
Without the success of the iPod, it is difficult to see how the iPhone and iPad would be as prevalent as they are today, and how Apple would be the most valuable tech company in the world.
Yes, Steve Jobs was a genius. Yes, the idea of ‘1000 songs in your pocket’ was genius. But this wasn’t because Steve Jobs had an inherent ability no one else had - it was because he set the goal to be a great storyteller and kept working to become one.
This story of Steve Jobs also answers many myths related to adopting storytelling as the pedagogy of learning in education.
# Myth 1- What I teach is too technical. Storytelling wouldn’t apply.
The truth is if what we teach is technical, storytelling is even more critical to humanize the process of technical learning because if we can’t make technical learning accessible and explain how our students can learn it better by humanizing the technical concept using the power of storytelling, we are limiting their accessibility for knowledge of technical learning. We need to remember that technical people are people too and what better than iPod’s example can address this myth.
# Myth 2- I’m not a natural storyteller. I think it’s something you’re just born with.
First of all, storytelling is a skill and all skills can be learned. But we are natural storytellers. This statement might amaze us but this is a fact. Our day-to-day conversations with our peers, colleagues, and family members are the stories of our experience that we narrate and they connect to it because they are able to engage with what we say emotionally. So, this notion that we aren’t telling stories is simply not true. Simply talking about our day at work or describing the birth of your child as an event on a timeline, are examples of storytelling. Steve Jobs’ example is a live example of this.
Immersive storytelling experience is a powerful way to hook learners’ attention. Weaving learning points into emotive stories is one way of holding the audience’s attention. Stories involve emotions and connections with life experiences. Storytelling builds empathy, enabling us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, creating the foundation of social-emotional intelligence which is the need of the hour. Developing learning experiences using storytelling as a tool not only makes classrooms engaging and interesting but also brings joy in learning to the learners and addresses to enhance their social-emotional skills.
Connelly and Clandinin (1990) were the first who used the term narrative inquiry in educational research. Their starting point was:
“Humans are storytelling organisms who, individually and socially, lead storied lives” (Connelly & Clandinin 1990, p. 2).
Therefore, the study of narrative is the study of the ways humans experience the world. Narratives are variously described as a method, as the result of a method, as a way of making sense of life, and as a phenomenon (Connelly and Clandinin, 1990; Gudmundsdottir, 1995).
Why should we adopt Storytelling as Pedagogy-
Stories and storytelling are useful to attach meaning to new learning, thus making new information more comprehensible, relatable, and relevant, consequently increasing retention.
When lessons are communicated through stories that students identify with, and through meaningful and rich language that is within the vocabulary of the students and relevant to them, learning becomes more attainable for students. Therefore, it is not surprising that educators have, unwittingly or not, long utilized storytelling to enhance their pedagogical toolbox to make learning more interesting and engaging for students.
Here are some of the examples to address concepts in various disciplines using Storytelling as pedagogy.
Chef for a Week—Groups will plan a week of lunches for the (or to bring to school as a brown bag). Daily menus must include all food groups and a designated healthy choice. Submit menu, the cost for 100 students, and prices to be charged. (Cost adapted if bringing own lunches.) The menu can show calories. The poll can be conducted to identify popular choices before planning. Be prepared to present the plan to the cafeteria head or cooks. Remember to make the presentation of the proposal in an interesting and engaging way supported with appropriate justifications. You need to polish your storytelling skills for this. The healthy choice must be explained nutritionally.
Soccer Field Development—Designing a soccer (or other playing) field could involve-
Math: Construction and design of the field, how much grass seed; survey and leveling of land, drainage, irrigation, and seating arrangements.
Science: Soil testing, pick test for drainage, fertility of land and amount; use of chemicals, turf growing season, and research on correct types.
Social studies: Civic organization – cooperative fund-raising and economics of the use of the field.
Communication arts: Press releases and justification to the school board, community, etc. Explanations of the what, why, and how of the project.
Grant development: Communication with other agencies that have completed this project, research on the size, etc. for the field.
Biography of a cell- From your understanding of Cells in Biology write a biography of the cell by including the format of biography done in English and following the guidelines of the content to be included in the biography related to the cell. You can choose to enact or create a comic strip of the same. You are free to showcase your biography in any medium of your choice. Checklist and rubrics of biography and cell content need to be included.
Effective teaching-learning relies mainly on empathy. If we want to improve our education system we should not forget about the human component. Educators need to interact with students to build trust and create connections. This can be done by bringing the art of storytelling to make learning a movie-like experience. Just like any movie plot structure, each chapter can be divided into six stages:
Exposition (providing the background information needed to properly understand the chapter.
Inciting Incident (building the new concepts based on the old concepts learned)
Rising Action (creating a dramatic climax by adding activities like drama, songs, games, etc. aligned to curriculum)
Climax (giving a real-life problem to students and asking to find the solution to it collaboratively based on the concepts learned)
Falling Action (students presenting their own solution to the problem)
Denouement (assessing students by peers, teacher and by themselves)
This will definitely create a fun, safe, and effective learning environment which not only gives voice and choice to students but also make it more equitable, fostering 21st-century skills and making students future-ready.
(15) Steve Jobs'? lesson about Storytelling | LinkedIn
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