One of the easiest things to get accustomed to in fiction is the physical constraint from which we are free. Your suitcase can carry all kinds of weaponry and lab equipment. How great would it be if we could translate this fantastic weightlessness to EdTech? To have every tool and dashboard, every Analytics stream, ready and at our fingertips. On to fight the big boss!
In our non-fictional world, not even taking advantage of the best technology out there will set you free from trade-offs, but this does not mean you have to completely remove all fantasy from your practice. Narratives can be a powerful way to frame the stakes and actors involved in any given situation. Evidence continues to support this idea in business scenarios and scientific literature. Healthcare practitioners increase their quality of care by considering a patient’s life story. Scripting techniques are improving crime prevention models and enhancing the paths of professional development for educators. Moodle itself is embracing human-centered design, where case scenarios get the front seat. These are only some of the latest examples.
When it comes to learning, narratives can serve many roles. They can help “humanize” an academic problem by replacing blame with understanding. Later on, a narrative can make it easier for a community to rally around a solution, which in turn might encourage you to face bigger challenges and take definitive action. Finally, framing yourself as a “detective” in charge, rather than an analytics “prophet” or “salesperson” can keep you focused on solving the mystery. It can make you quicker to get rid of a tool that’s not effective but merely weighing down your digital backpack or wallet; all while increasing your skills in the ones you use ever-sharp.
Your own academic ‘whodunit’
If you are interested in taking advantage of storytelling to increase the power of your analytics, it is hard to find a better way to start than by taking on a simple writing exercise, very much like those used in coaching and design thinking sessions today. First, identify the elements listed below. Then, use them in to write a simple story with a beginning, a conflict, and a resolution.
A crime committed: Low scores, participation rates, dropping out. Find the shortfall that is most critical or threatening to your community.
A “villain”: Who could be this somber character with no business coming into your learning organization?
A victim: What is the villain’s pattern? Who is being targeted in your community?
Weapon, place, and time: For the victim, it was like any other day until the villain struck. When, where, and how did the villain deal the fatal blow?
Trial, sentencing, and punishment: Your mission is to put the pieces together and present them to an impartial party. Only when they are convinced can your organization take proper measures to ensure justice is served.
If you think about it, analytics are embedded throughout these elements. Only a rigorous use of data lets you identify the problem and guarantees that the measures taken to banish them from your community are working properly. This also stresses the value of empowering communities through Analytics literacy. As some established educational success cases show, when it comes to learning outcomes, it does take a village. Of course, you can always get a helping hand from a quantitative storyteller.
An unsuspecting benefit of using analytics to profile a villain is the ability to fight discrimination. Before, if a general-purpose chart shows significant differences in academic performance between social groups, it’s too easy to conclude that these groups are the problem. Or worse, that they “bring” problems to your institution. But if you create an enemy to attribute these shortfalls, then these vulnerable groups are now victims of wrongdoing. The word ‘victim’ deserves great care: it should be defined solely by evidence and not by anyone’s perceptions, otherwise, it could create more harm than good. Using the right tools and data becomes a forensic exercise, whose success not only redeems the affected party but reaffirms a sense of justice and trust for the community as a whole.
A storytelling layer in the planning stage of an intervention can give you control of the ways in which the events unfold. If your project is underway, narratives can still be helpful in helping you understand your students. The point is, managing the story as soon as possible will give you greater benefits. In cases of inconsistently tracked behavior, such as self-paced learning, the right frame makes all the difference, as the Analytics team at Moodle HQ discusses in this Moodle Forum thread.
This Moodle Practice related post is made possible by: eThink Education, a Certified Moodle Partner that provides a fully-managed Moodle experience including implementation, integration, cloud-hosting, and management services. To learn more about eThink, click here.