Tag Archives: Engaging the Digital Learner Series

What is your story?

The Digital Learner

“Great stories happen to those that tell them.”
Dean Shareski

We are all story.  Story happens. We are in the center of it. We are also the co-creators. We can design our story. It is about choosing to see the story, choosing to frame the story, choosing to direct the story and choosing to share the story. My story will be what I make it. So will yours. And I choose to dream it big. Do you? What is the story you choose to tell of your learning, of your student’s learning, and of the organization’s learning? “The truth about stories is…that’s all we are,” declares Richard Axelrod. It is through the stories that we find our purpose and meaning.

At a recent session with Dean Shareski (@shareski), he shared the power of story—told both through words and visual images. He also stressed the importance of story for understanding ourselves, our learning and creating connections with others. Relationships are knit together through our stories. “Universities comes to know about things through studies, organizations come to know about things through reports and people come to know about things through stories,” underscores Richard Axelrod. The human experience is story. The organizational experience is story too. We create it.

The notion of our data-driven existence in public education was just touched on briefly by Shareski. He did not elaborate nor was it necessary. When we fall victim to pursuing the data we can lose the story. In education, we work with people and the story is about relationships of learning. Data in a human context, grounded in the experience of people, is what gives the inspiration for change. In the information age we are flooded with data. The data, however, is powerful only when embedded in the story. “When data is ubiquitously accessible, facts are increasingly less important than the ability to place these facts in a context and deliver them with emotional impact,” explains Daniel Pink. We are human. We respond with both our minds and our hearts.

The power of image is real for me. I see differently when words are embellished with visual power.  The ability to understand and communicate through pictures is a key piece of literacy. Shareski challenged us to think about, “How are you and your students using images to tell your story?” Images create a sensory connection that touches our emotions. We hear words and understand; we see pictures and we feel. The power to find, create, or manipulate images creates a rich story.

A story doesn’t exist until it is told. The story becomes real when it is shared. We have stories about our students, stories about ourselves, stories about our schools and stories about our organizations. We are all creating new, half-spun, incomplete, and messy stories of our learning. They are inspiring by virtue of being unfinished. We are human. We are learning. We all fail. The humanness of the story gives it meaning for others. We identify with the struggling challenge we all face in our becoming, as educators, as humans. “It is no longer good enough to do powerful work if no one sees it, “ challenges Chris Lehmann. Our story needs to be shared. We are on the learning journey together.

How do we share that learning? We share in pairs. We share in schools. We share in organizations. We can also share with the world. When we share with a global audience the learning is amplified, both for others and ourselves. Shareski questioned us, “Can I find your best work online?” The age of squirrelling away to create lessons plans, units, books, or projects and emerge six months later to grandly share a finished published product is gone. The Internet allows immediate publication. We are half-finished, in progress and we share—and others chime in to add their learning.  The product changes and grows. We grow. We learn together.  Our biography is not a post-mortem publication but a present-day lived experience shared globally on the web.

This post is my story. It is my learning now, my first attempts at struggling to understand story, the power of image and its place in my work. I hit the send button knowing the writing is imperfect. My thinking is only beginning.  My application of it is still messy. Yet, this is my story. My story of where I am on this learning journey. This post is my story. Where is yours?

This post is based on the presentation of Dean Shareski (@shareski) at the Engaging the Digital Learners Series: Going Deeper. The quotations are from his slideshare and can be found here. Thank you to Dean for sharing his learning and his story.