Here’s another positive attribute of storytelling: It prevents commoditization. Unless people do not find an emotional connection with whatever you are offering, they will not see a reason not to replace it with something similar that’s cheaper and more convenient. And let’s face it: In the digital technologies marketplace, a more efficient product is just around the corner.
So when it comes to make a name for yourself in the Open EdTech space, you have a significant challenge, and at the same time you have two powerful weapons: A global community of interweaved stories, and your own.
Better than fiction
One of the positive elements gamification has brought to learning is not just the new language it has made available to educators struggling with students eager for instant gratification. It has also allowed us to see how advances in one path —namely, gaming— nourishes the other —learning—. After breathtaking CGI becomes the new normal, it has become clear that the craft of storytelling wins over technical grandeur every time.
Going the extra mile with flashy or shocking elements not only can be ineffectual, but counterproductive. Not only technology-based salience in the learning experience shows no contribution to long-term retention; over time it might give credit to the idea that the subjects that matter are those that excite the most. Or in better words: Technology will never replace great teaching.
How, in the highly engaging virtual (as in, not real) world today’s learners live in, can we ever aspire to meaningfully connect with them, and build a rewarding association with subject matter knowledge and mastery?
There is no simple answer, but there is a clear path: Honesty. Those who deserve the status of experts have, without exception, overcome a series of obstacles, be it mental, physical, socioeconomic, or all of the above. Through perseverance and ingenuity, they were able to overcome the obstacles and earn the place and respect they get today. And isn’t that the only kind of story worth being told?
For great Open EdTech, open yourself
So when it is time to justify a customer why you are the right person for the job, it might help to have a clear perspective, of how your life story has brought you up to this point. No gimmicks, no “hacks.” Just you.
This lesson can transcend the marketplace and seep into the problem of subject matter teaching. The principle is at play here just as flagrantly. Every week a new app adds some sparkle and pop to, say, mathematical formulas, hoping this will change students’ heart and minds.
Assuming you have some leverage over your student, you might want to pay less attention to “engagement,” as it is measured today; and instead focus on building evidence of progress for students, hopefully in a way that helps them built a narrative of themselves that is based on reality. Of course, the longer you can be a part of their journey, the easier it gets.■