Educate the Whole Human

Oct 24
I delivered the keynote at a recent forum on design and technology to an audience of educators, mostly from smaller universities and colleges. I was so impressed by their commitment to educating students and faculty in some of the most creative ways I've seen yet. They're using blended learning approaches, inverted learning and virtual reality more aggressively than I've seen in many corporations. 
But what impressed me the most was their dedication to educating, what they called, the whole human. 
Most of us have heard a version of that phrase somewhere along the way, but what does it mean to educate the whole human? I took part of the time from my keynote and asked them. Here are some of their answers (straight from the chat): 
  • Considering all of their needs
  • Whole human = mind, heart, spirit.
  • Connecting knowledge to personal experiences
  • Understanding the student's life outside the classroom. 
  • Beyond intellectual...emotional, spiritual, etc.
  • Taking into account that people are all coming from different places, perspectives, and experiences.
The entire day's activities and discussions--from human behavior conversations to technology--were centered around how to make the learning experience more than transactional. I was so intrigued, that I ended up staying for most of the sessions after my keynote. So, where do stories fit into this picture? When I was asked by the hosts of the forum to speak, they wanted me to share the principles from my book, Instructional Story Design. It was a bit of a conundrum for me. Story Design, like instructional design, necessitates action on the part of the learner. I wasn't sure how educators, who, in my mind, didn't necessarily expect their students to take action on the knowledge they gained from their teaching (outside of using that knowledge to pass an exam or write a paper), would react. Boy, was I surprised. 
First, the Story Design model, which puts relatable characters in strong conflict, to produce a desire for resolution, sparked conversations about how to create empathy with their students. 
I challenged them to create a short audience profile by answering five questions.
Take a look at these five questions and see if you can answer them for an audience that you are teaching/training/speaking to in the near future. 

How does it change your perception of them? 

Would you alter the content of your training/message to meet an otherwise overlooked need?

It was clear, after we returned from the breakout rooms, that attendees were excited to create audience profiles for themselves and share this empathy-driving practice with faculty. 
My next challenge for them was to create an action list. 
  • Now I see why case studies are so important! They are stories!
  • I can think of ways this could be applied to my math class to make it practical.
  • I want our whole faculty to hear this and develop an action list.
Story Design for education brings up the deeper question: If no action is required of students, why are we teaching it? Is knowledge-for-knowledge-sake worth the tuition? Obviously, there are arguments for and against, but no matter what the answer to that question is, humanized learning, including stories that are designed to instruct, will always win the day. Clearly, the participants in this forum were up for the task and are actively seeking to up their humanized learning game. 

A special thanks to Anderson University for hosting the forum and inviting me to speak. An absolute pleasure to see so many in education seeking to know their students. 

"I want to humanize my training."

You are in the right place! Register for the Instructional Story Design course and get up on your storytelling feet quickly. Your learners will love you for it!
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