Monday, September 21, 2015

Role of Stories in Learning - A Map - Tip #82

Thanks to Clark Quinn  for allowing me to use this chart. It summarizes what Roger Schank presented at the LearnTechAsia, where according to him, "Roger gave his passioned, opinionated, irreverent, and spot-on talk to kick off LearnTechAsia. He covered the promise (or not) of AI, learning, stories, and the implications for education."

The idea map summarizes much of what Roger Schank has been a proponent of. Known the world over as the leading visionary in virtual learning environments, artificial intelligence, learning theory and cognitive science, he is the CEO of Socratic Arts, a company that specializes in the design, and implementation of story-centered and learning-by-doing curricula both in the academic and corporate worlds.

I am an ardent follower of Schank and other thought leaders who use narratives and stories in learning. Hence, this tip is about my reflections on the Map and an interpretation on how this affects what we do in learning design and implementation of platforms.

Theory, Practice and Application

AI and Story Memories. A dominant theory of Schank is based on using stories in learning design. He describes this using other terms: scenarios, diagnostics, discovery, experience sharing, and others. In his research on Artificial Intelligence, he postulated that memories are indexed by stories (Tell me a Story, 1995). 

Stories fuel conversations, discoveries and formulation of self-learning. Schank believes that it is in the exchange of stories through conversations that people learn and unlearn. Without conversations there is no way the learner can reorganize the patterns in his/her mind on ideas. 

Decision making is facilitated by stories and real-life experiences. In many situations, decisions are hampered with a reference point provided by experienced sources like experts (The Future of Decision Making, 2010).  

Diagnostic is key to learning. He proposes that if learners have to learn, they need to diagnose problems and get into the gut of it. The diagnostic approach helps learners come to grips with the real-life essence of the content.  (Teaching Minds, 2011)

Testing and Memorization is Counter-Learning. Schank opposes the trend in education and training where learning design relies heavily on rote learning and memorization. He prefers discovery by allowing learners to "act" the content in their own real-life situations. If you want to train for math, let them do math and discover the better ways to apply it in actual professions like being an engineer or to tasks needing mathematical calculations. He observes that most training design are geared towards academic goals rather than personal goals. 


Roger Schank departs from the traditional method of teaching which is characterized by rote learning and testing without context. His preference for discovery learning turns the steering wheel of learning over to the learners rather than the designers. Now, learners are free to learn what they want and how they want to achieve that goal.


Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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