It’s black and white: gloss and substance in learning stories.

We used to have a black and white television. It was small and, for some years, you had to hit it on the side periodically to make it work. In today’s world of Blue Ray and HD, this seems a long way away, but at the time, i didn’t think twice about it. The limited bandwidth and monochrome display seemed more than adequate for the task in hand. Sure, nature documentaries look better in colour and the snooker is easier to follow, but it’s not like it was impossible before.

More is sometimes better, but how much better? How much of the quality comes through the technology and how much through the storytelling and narrative? What’s the difference between the gloss and the substance? How much do the clothes matter?

A good story can be told in many ways: through the oral storytelling tradition gathered around the fire, captured in the pages of a book or, latterly, through the television, radio or your MP3 player. The technology can facilitate, but it won’t contain the soul of the story. Better recording, more special effects, deeper colours and a louder soundtrack can all enhance the experience, but it’s nothing without the script being right.

The gloss is great, but the substance essential. I believe that learning is routed in stories, stories that we share, they are how we build commonality, build empathy and understanding, how we share experience and build bonds. The substance of this is the story: how it is told is nice, but it’s still gloss.

I saw a guide at Kensington Palace earlier this year: she was sat at the bottom of a curved staircase, with half a dozen young children enthralled by her storytelling. They literally crowded in and jumped back with every twist and turn. Then she sent them scurrying off in search of treasures. It was immersive and three dimensional in every real sense of the word, entirely down to her passion and ability as a storyteller.

And somewhere in the rush of technology and modernisation, we shouldn’t dismiss the black and white as primitive and old fashioned. It may just be a fad that a black and white film stormed the Oscars this year, but there is an elegant strength in simplicity sometimes. The stripped back acoustic version of a song, maybe the black and white version of a film? Being able to step around the distractions and get to the heart, the substance of the matter.

So when you build e-learning, are you going for style or substance? How much are we doing just because we can do it, how much because it’s adding value? How are we telling our stories?

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Clarity, E-Learning, Experience, Social Learning, Stories, Storytelling, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to It’s black and white: gloss and substance in learning stories.

  1. Pingback: How do stories work? | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  2. Pingback: Unearthing Organisational Stories: finding the narrative | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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