Digital Beards


This article was written on 01 May 2013, and is filled under Uncategorized.

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Storytelling is Innovation in Jad Abumrad’s Story of Radiolab

While my interest lay most directly in education technology, underneath that is a more foundational obsession with storytelling. Working at eLearning has reframed this obsession as an evolving perspective of academia, informing the way I teach and the advice I give other teachers. Basically: Stories are the fundamental units of human knowledge. This is absolutely my own bias – I went to graduate school to study storytelling, after all – but it also seems to be a spreading perspective  among many educators. There are several feeds devoted to tracking the technological evolution of storytelling and its impact on education. There is also UAF’s own Skip Via, who teaches ED 677 as a course in Digital Storytelling.

More and more the dialogue becomes: storytelling isn’t just of aesthetic importance, but of practical concern as well. The curriculum vitae of the future is Google, and people are learning quick how to harness the power of their own narratives. Government agencies too, and businesses. Success is dependent, largely, on how ably one can spin a compelling story. In many more cases than may be immediately apparent, the product is the story.

And so, in lieu of a podcast this week, I thought I would share a video from one of my favorite storytelling podcasters. Jad Abumrad, of Radiolab fame, gave this talk at the 99% Conference earlier this year, on the story of his hit show.

I like Jad’s presentation because it reframes the act of storytelling as a process of continual innovation, within which the only path is that of the attentive, the patient, the playful, the driven, the contrary. These are the qualities we should be teaching our students, as well as the willingness to trust those lighted arrows which we only occasionally find illuminating our way. Flannery O’Connor wrote “Good Country People” with no idea the role that her protagonist’s wooden leg would play at the end (I’m not giving it away here), but she knew the arrow when she came upon it. Could we say that the instincts for telling good stories are the same as those for solving problems, innovating, and finding success?

I think so.

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