Unleash Subject Matter Fascination And Awe With Learning Tropes

Unleash Subject Matter Fascination And Awe With Learning Tropes
“Shakespeare Action Figure” by Better Than Bacon is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The timeless power of storytelling is not only tied to its entertaining value. The devices it provides bring understanding, meaning, and in its most compelling form, a sense of wonder at the bigger picture. Chances are the books or movies you are most fond of are those that stayed with you, by which I mean they gave you a new appreciation about something, perhaps about life itself, and so they will remain with you. Storytelling is also perfectly compatible with any field of knowledge. (I dare you show me one that isn’t!) As an educational content creator, would you not want to be able to bring your learners into this level? A new world that happens to be nothing more than a new way to see the world?

To accomplish this kind of narrative feat usually awards the creator a place in posterity. But this does not mean there are not clear ways to approach learning content development in a way that makes the most of storytelling’s devices, which also receive the name of tropes. Tropes are nothing more than fictional building bricks. Applying them does not guarantee literary mastery (nor does it mean you’re a hack). With the right incentives, though, they can unleash new perspectives and elicit curiosity upon pretty much any subject. And to study and practice its applications, subversions, and deconstructions, there is no better place than the exhaustive TV Tropes, an encyclopedia not only of devices but practical examples across all types of media.

Tropes are dutifully categorized. The “Information Desk” trope category, for instance, lists the techniques through which characters learn new things, either by themselves or with the help of others. It can be a way to get started with storytelling devices into your learning content. Here’s just a sample of them to give you a taste of the impact they can have on a lesson:

  • Akashic Records”: This trope, named after the fabled theosophical idea that all information stored about what has and will ever have existed is contained in one item secured in a higher plane of existence, is useful to highlight the importance of an information source, most often a seminal book. In economics, the role could go to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. In data visualization, probably Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. In your field, which work deserves to be presented to your students as if delivered from a higher dimensional race?
  • The Curious as a Monkey trope is useful to illustrate how certain forms of intellectual perseverance are highly rewarding, to the point of being the trademark of a hero. It is fairly obvious after whom this trope is named, but more mature audiences can find in certain overactive detectives –Batman might fit the bill– possible role models.
  • Tropes like Domino Revelation are focused on knowledge itself and on the mysteriously wonderful feeling of finding out new things, which only comes to those who’ve already learned something else first.
  • There are moments where knowledge is not easy to come across, and there are circumstances where it is good that learning something new is hard for the learner’s sake. This stance is best exemplified by the Figure It Out Yourself trope and it relates to the appreciation of knowing something because of the effort it took to learn it. It also alludes to how real comprehension may not be possible from a textual description alone, which should encourage the learner to take a more hands-on approach.

Now, how would you adapt these and other tropes into the creation of a Moodle course? ■

eThink LogoThis 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.