Introducing You to Keeping Safe

 

Every once in a while an eLearning project comes along that stops you in your tracks. It’s the kind of project that just gets to you. This happened to our instructional and design team about 6 months ago.

As well as being educationalists, designers, technologists, gurus, strategists or what job title you go by, we are all humans. We all have another role. We are also a mummy, daddy, sister, brother, auntie, uncle, cousin, grandparent, grandchild and of course a friend.

We knew from the very start that this wasn’t going to be a standard eLearning project. Rather than the dreaded January blues that a new year can bring, there was this incredible buzz in the office. Of course we LOVE all our eLearning projects, but this one was extra special. It was special because it affected each and every one of us. It’s was the stuff of design dreams. We were given an incredible opportunity to design and develop a project that would ACTUALLY changes lives.

Let me introduce you to this ground breaking project, Keeping Safe.NSPCC Keeping Safe eLearning Resource

Research carried out with 1,700 7-11-year-old children in Primary schools throughout Northern Ireland by NSPCC, highlighted that there are still gaps in children’s knowledge around what abuse is and who can pose a threat to them.

NSPCC NI decided to do something about that. It’s what they do, prevention. Effective early education can help children to disclose abuse earlier and get the help they need to recover sooner.

NSPCC NI commissioned Aurion Learning to create an engaging, accessible, age-appropriate and educationally sound suite of learning resources that would teach primary school children about keeping safe from abuse.

Working in collaboration with the educational team at NSPCC NI, we produced a fresh, exciting and interactive programme that applied a sensitive approach to this difficult area of education.

NSPCC Keeping Safe Home PageThe materials have been developed around three themes:

  1. Healthy Relationships
  2. My Body
  3. Being Safe

The programme includes:

  • Four interactive eLearning modules on a range of topics including bullying and abuse, including sexual and domestic abuse, incorporating best practice instructional techniques and focuses on a high illustrative approach. Each module contains a range of interactive features and includes knowledge checks, clickable diagrams, drag and drop activities, ranking/rating activities, sliders, vignettes, scenarios, and digital stories templates.Sample of interactivity from P3 lesson
  • Video clips of head to camera interviews and school footage for teachers, such as examples of good practice.
  • Classroom resources including; case studies, teaching aids and interactive animated interactions. To support the delivery of the programme, we designed four characters with two age variations, called Amy, Ziggy, Jack and Cara that reflect NSPCC brand guidelines.
  • Characters of Keeping Safe ResourceAssembly and age appropriate lesson plans that will be delivered three per term to each year group. Printable lesson plans and PowerPoint templates reuses iconography, photography and illustrations to ensure a consistent look and feel throughout the 12 assembly presentations.
  • Parent homework resources. We also weaved the technique of storytelling within the programme to reinforce the messages being taught and strengthen the learning impact of the resources. The resources have been purposely designed to be suitable for each primary year, helping to build knowledge and skills.

The initiative was commissioned by the Department of Education. Keeping Safe will be piloted across a select number of schools in Northern Ireland to assist teachers, support staff, parents and school children. It aims to finally reach every primary school pupil in Northern Ireland and hopes to save every child in Northern Ireland from abuse, neglect and bullying.

This initiative implemented by NSPCC NI is the first of its kind in Europe is a great step in educating our kids about the abuse.It has been an absolute privilege to lend our expertise to this eLearning programme and we hope that it achieves its aim of reaching every school child and to save children from abuse, neglect and bullying here in Northern Ireland and further afield.

8 Ideas for Exceptional E-Learning Interactivity

An image of a man's mind with a light bulb in the middle and ideas flowing from it, accompanied by the title, "8 Ideas for Exceptional E-Learning Interactivity"

Interactivity is what differentiates dull and drab E-Learning from learning that provokes questions, draws in learners and captures information in a memorable way. If you want to create E-Learning that strikes a chord with learners and transforms learning from being a chore into something enjoyable, we’ve gathered eight ideas for exceptional E-Learning interactivity:

1.    Gamify your learning content

The gamification of learning is a trend that is on the rise. By introducing game mechanics to your E-Learning content, you can increase learner engagement and motivation.

2.    Tell a story

Storytelling has been a learning style long before the introduction of technology. By sharing either illustrative or real life stories with learners, it’s possible to relate your E-Learning to everyday life as well as entertain learners. You can create and share your own digital story for free using our own storytelling tool storee.

3.    Pose questions that require more than yes or no answers

Although they make great tools for assessing knowledge and understanding, it can be tempting for learners to race through multiple choice questionnaires. By incorporating open ended questions learners will receive the opportunity to consider what they have learnt and put it into their own words.

4.    Create discussion spaces for learners to interact

The emergence and widespread adoption of social media means that people are generally more willing to connect and search for meaning using online communities. Social learning offers learners the opportunity to extend learning outside the walls of the classroom and your E-Learning module.

5.    Include beautiful multimedia

Modern, well designed pictures, videos, interactive charts and quizzes will suggest to learners that the content you’re teaching them is up-to-date and topical.

6.    Translate your E-Learning into real world exercises

To successfully motivate learners, it’s vital to link the new information you’re providing them with to their day-to-day life. Real world exercises will prompt learners to consider the legitimacy and relevancy of your E-Learning.

7.    Build problem based scenarios as part of your assessments

Problem based scenarios present a perfect opportunity to encourage learners to grapple with difficult issues and to raise questions about the application of their new knowledge.

8.    Personalise modules by including learners’ names

Small gestures can go a long way. By using learners’ names and other personalised information you can put learners at ease and make them feel like the content was created uniquely for them.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

3 Things Dragon from Shrek teaches us about storytelling

shrek blog

Everyone loves a good fairy tale and we couldn’t resist talking about one of our favourite fairy tales and sharing why we think it contains some great tips for creating original stories.

Although Disney are famous for their fairy tales; at Aurion, we are not all traditional Disney fans, we love doing things differently; just like the team at Dreamworks Animation. To celebrate and honour a fairy tale come true, we’ve shone the spotlight on the character of Dragon from the Dreamworks Animation production of Shrek.

We’ve compiled a list of three things that Dragon has taught us about creating great stories:

1. Don’t judge a book by its cover
There is more to Dragon than meets the eye. When we first encounter her, she is charged with the task of guarding the castle where Princess Fiona is imprisoned. She is fierce, she is scary, and she is after all a fire-breathing dragon. Dragon is the trial that Shrek and Donkey must overcome in order to complete their quest. When Donkey has only his powers of persuasion left between him and imminent death by Dragon, we see a different side of Dragon. She becomes soft, flirtatious and affectionate. This creates a hilarious scene. Any audience loves to see a different side of characters that moves far beyond the stereotypes and typecasts. The best storytellers add depth and originality to their characters by doing the unexpected. The audience then gets to go on a wild adventure and discover new things.

2. Plot twists are the best
Audiences love nothing more than being taken on a rollercoaster and the absurd becoming reality. As Kurt Vonnegut said about writing, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” Great storytelling is about creatively capturing the narrative and stories that have not yet been told. When Dragon becomes infatuated, heartbroken and then overjoyed as Donkey returns her affections, the audience are taken on an emotional trip where they become invested in Dragon and her story. In a remarkable change of events, Dragon, who originally was cast as an obstacle for Shrek and Donkey becomes the hero when he devours Farquaad in the wedding scene. Dragon teaches us that the unique, inventive and creative storylines are the best.

3. Everyone loves a good ‘happy ever after’
The allure of a ‘happy ever after’ is irresistible to almost any audience member. Dragon and Donkey’s ‘happy ever after’ fulfills all of the stereotypes; romance, family, their children growing up with Shrek and Fiona’s children. The end of every good story need not be as obvious as this children’s movie but must contain a degree of resolution for each of the characters. Great storytellers take care to tie up the loose ends and present a solution to the challenge faced by the characters in the plot.

Later this year, Aurion Learning will beta release a new bespoke toolkit for creating short digital stories. The online toolkit; storee, will allow anyone to create and share stories for free using their own narrative, video clips and photos, quickly and easily.

If you are interested in taking part in storee beta can register at holder.tellmystoree.com

So why not embrace your inner Dragon, get creative and tell your story. For the latest storytelling updates, tips and guides, follow @tellmystoree on Twitter.

3 Tips on how to slay writer’s block

Today marks World Storytelling Day, an international celebration of the traditional art of storytelling. The theme for 2014 is “Monsters and Dragons.”

Not all of us are however experienced storytellers and have been lucky enough to bestowed the gift of the gab or the penmanship of the great writers. We’d like to think that at some point or another that even those practised and well versed storytellers have contended writers block.

In keeping with the theme of World Storytelling Day, here are three tips on how to overcome a monster (ahem!) writer’s block.

3 Tips to overcome writer's block

1. Change your surroundings

It is common for writers and storytellers to have their favourite writing spot, a place of sanctuary and familiarity to focus on task at hand, whether it’s in the library, kitchen table or like the fabulous Roald Dahl, a shed! As the saying goes; a change can do you good.  Many writers find that by simply changing their surroundings, it can work wonders and get the creative juices flowing.

2. Limit distractions and disconnect

Slaying writer’s block necessitates disconnection from disruption. If you’re intention is to get a good piece of writing done and are easily distracted, you need to limit the things that divert you away from the main task at hand.

As much as it provides a source of inspiration and entertainment, the internet can a big disturbance. Turn off your phone, close Facebook, Twitter and turn off any alerts. By doing so you’ll be much more productive as you’ll leave the distractions and be well on your way to that elusive best seller!

3. Stop thinking about it and just do it!

As acclaimed write Stephen King said: “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Sometimes the first sentence is the hardest one to write, but the best thing to go is not to think about it too much and just start writing. The good thing about modern day technology is the back button and our ability to edit. The more you get down, the easier it is to continue, and of course, edit later!

Later this year, Aurion Learning will beta release a new bespoke toolkit for creating short digital stories. The online toolkit; storee, will allow anyone to create and share stories for free using their own narrative, video clips and photos, quickly and easily.

If you are interested in taking part in storee beta, register at holder.tellmystoree.com

So why not join in on the World Storytelling Day celebrations, get creative and tell your story. For the latest storytelling updates, follow @tellmystoree on Twitter.

The Winter Olympics: A Russian Doll of Stories

Five Russian Dolls pegged up to a piece of string with the title, 'The Winter Olympics: A Russian Doll of Stories'Yesterday marked the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Since the beginning of February, the attention of the world has been firmly focused on Sochi.

Viewers were glued to their TV screens, not because they’ve been hiding their love of the luge and curling until this moment but because the Winter Games aren’t so much about sport as they are about storytelling.

Adopting the storytelling techniques used in the Winter Olympics will mean that you can achieve E-Learning gold every time.

Each of the sport events in the Winter Games is presented like a Russian doll of stories: a story inside a story inside a story:

  1. To begin, the presenter introduces the sport, giving a short explanation of its history and explaining why it is unique. The presenters have been picked for the role because they are passionate and well informed. Their enthusiasm is infectious. They are responsible for providing the information listeners need to navigate their way through the rest of the event. The presenter at this point is akin to a well-versed subject matter expert. Learners recognise authenticity so it is important that you utilise the people and passion around you to deliver real, meaningful wisdom and advice to learners.
  2. In a typical Winter Olympics event, the viewer then gets to learn about each of the competitors and is lent a lens with which to look into their world. This is both compelling and enlightening. Personal stories bring a depth and connection to the event for viewers. In the same way, personal stories will help learners to connect with learning content and remember important information much longer than they would have retained knowledge presented to them in the traditional ways.
  3. Stories should be enjoyable. This is achieved in the Winter Games with a combination of witty conversation from the commentator and through the use of music that helps to keep the pace of the event. The possibilities are endless when it comes to adopting these techniques for E-Learning. By combining aesthetically pleasing design, up-beat music and videos it’s possible to make your stories and therefore your E-Learning programme interactive and memorable.
  4. When the sports event is complete and the winners are announced, the presenter explains why winning is such a big milestone for the competitor, how much work has went in to this achievement and reaffirms how worthwhile their effort has been. On the same note, at the conclusion of a good E-Learning programme, it should be clear to the learner what new skills or knowledge they now possess and how this will impact their lives. By making each of your learners feel like a winner and helping them to recognise their achievements you will make them want to return for more.
  5. The Winter Games inspire and move their audience. We are reminded that seemingly impossible goals and dreams are indeed possible. This is a message that is relevant to every person at every stage in life. Stories that appeal to wide audiences and have the ability to evoke powerful emotions create an experience for viewers that is unforgettable. Learning is the same. When learners engage with not just their brains but their emotions and belief system too, they will not just store information away but wrestle with it and apply it to their lives. It was Aristotle who said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

At Aurion HQ, we are firm believers in Philip Pullman when he said, ‘After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.’

Stories can make learning fun, memorable and easy to understand. By harnessing the power of stories and the storytelling techniques used in the Winter Games, you can entertain your learners and keep them coming back for more.

We are putting the final touches to our new digital storytelling tool, storee. Why not get in on the beta launch and join the storytelling revolution by signing up for free to create your own digital story.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Visit us at www.aurionlearning.com or follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

Tips for using stories in E-Learning

Illustration of six people connecting through stories in various digital interactionsIn keeping with the storytelling theme from our previous blog post; using storytelling for learning, we discussed how stories can be used for learning and what makes a good story. Often overlooked, stories are a great resource for learning. They are authentic, easy to remember and are a great way to describe an experience.

Storytelling itself is the oldest form of communication and for the majority it is the medium through which we can communicate meaningfully with one another. At Aurion HQ, we are avid fans of storytelling and in particular using stories for learning (not that you could tell!) We will soon be launching a new online tool called Storee that will change the way we tell and share stories.

It’s been proven that our brain organises information in story form, allowing us to connect and make sense of things. One of the first things we do upon meeting others is to share a story; indeed as humans, much of our communication is made up of stories.

What better way to ignite the learning spark than through storytelling?

5 Tips for using stories in E-Learning.

  1. Bin the lists and facts and transform them into stories. Many case study examples in learning, particularly those in the workplace often involve lists of do’s and don’ts. A better way of presenting this is to merge the learning content around a story. Be sure to include and utilise your subject matter experts as they are dab hands at creating stories from content due to their experience and expertise. The key to the success of stories in learning is to ensure that they are relevant and that the learner listening or watching the story can relate to it. In this way the lessons from the stories are more easily depicted.
  2. Dump the jargon. Within a storytelling context, ‘business-speak’ can sound a little trite. When we recall stories that we have heard, we remember stories that were told in a conversational tone, easy to understand and listen to.
    Studies have shown that the part of the brain that experiences emotions (known as the frontal cortex) does not react to overused phrases or figures of speech. Be sure to tell your story in a natural dialogue and one that doesn’t sound robotic.
  3. Introduce multimedia. With so many online applications available at our finger tips, it is easy to integrate your own videos, great images and audio into your story.  As the saying goes, a picture can be worth a 1000 words. The use of multimedia can really enhance learning and the story. If you don’t have a bank of your own images and would like to get creative and use free images, you can use the Creative Commons area on Flickr or stock.xchng. You can also use Compfight to help you search for photos that you can use. Remember to read the guidelines on proper attribution!
  4. Stimulate the brainResearch discovered by monitoring the brain activity of monkeys that whenever a researcher picked up a banana whilst being observed by a monkey, it had the same effect on the activation of neurons as when the monkey itself picked up a banana. Stories that are vivid and appeal to the various sensory cortices in the brain will increase neuro-engagement. This will have the knock on effect of making the story and the message behind it more memorable. Stories can be made more stimulating by creating dramatic plots, the use of music, expressive language and graphics.
  5. Appeal to universal feelings. Although the actual content and characters of a story may be from another universe all together, listeners get wrapped up in stories that appeal to basic social motivations and feelings.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the use of stories in learning or would like to be part of Storee Beta, please sign up.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

 

Using Storytelling for Learning

ipad-typewriterWe all love a story; it’s part of what we are as human beings. Although storytelling has been around for an age, stories are often not connected to learning activities. In fact, it’s been said that the original learning technologies were the story and the art of conversation.

In recent years, the art of storytelling has made resurgence as people realise the ability that storytelling has in connecting, engaging and informing us.

Storytelling is a powerful means of communication that is relevant across different cultures and communities. Stories have the ability to pull us into the storytellers’ journey, allowing us to bathe in their experiences and emotions.

When was the last time you couldn’t sleep at night because you couldn’t wait to read the next page of your company’s compliance training? Or you got goosebumps as the result of a particularly good training presentation about health and safety in the workplace? No…? We can’t remember the last time either. Research is showing that stories stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.

When used in the right context, stories are amongst the simplest tools that learning and development experts can use to encapsulate a piece of learning. We feel so engaged when we hear or read a story that the areas of our brain we would use when actually experiencing the events in the story are activated (as opposed to only some areas of our brain if we were listening to a PowerPoint presentation).

As learning and development professionals, we are attuned to stories and at Aurion HQ; we love nothing better than sharing! As part of the storytelling revolution, we are developing a new online tool called Storee that will change the way we tell, create and share stories. Launching in beta soon, the tool will provide a platform for users to share their stories online.

So what makes a good story then?

  • Realism and structure,
  • Authentic connection to the content or storyteller,
  • Reusability,
  • Measurability,
  • Connection to the organisational narrative,
  • Surprise (cognitive dissonance),
  • Hope (open loops) and
  • Correct focus or length.

Old-fashioned typewriter that has just printed the text, "What's your story?"Less is more.

When we think of stories, it is very often the simplest stories that are the most successful and resonate with us the most. When it comes to writing and structuring stories, not all of us have the natural gift of the gab, or the penmanship of the great authors such as Dickens. However, it is important to note that many proclaimed authors use simple vocabulary and their way of expression is what makes their writing style simple.

A combination of simple language and low complexity is the best way to activate the brain regions that make us truly relate to the happenings of a story. It is for similar reasons that multitasking is so hard for us. To increase the success of your storytelling, try for example to reduce the number of adjectives or complicated nouns in a presentation or article. If you come to a “bigger” word, try to think of a simpler one that can replace it.

Three reasons for using stories in learning:

  1. People are inundated with information. We are bombarded with information every time we leave the house, go on the internet or switch on the television. We try to digest so much information that it feels as if there is simply no more space. However, the same individuals who don’t have the time to read a one-sided compliance document will happily set aside half an hour of their busy day to listen to an interesting story.
  2. People love both telling and listening to stories. From your elderly relatives who share stories from their childhoods, to the prehistoric artists who have etched stories of animal hunts and tales of survival onto cave walls right through to teenage girls gossiping about celebrities in the corner of the school canteen.
  3. Stories are not just another method of knowledge transfer but contain the reasoning for learning. Great storytelling makes the learner feel like a discoverer. When used in an appropriate context, a good story creates the motivation to complete learning.

Whilst the power of storytelling is highly recognised in the business and marketing fields, we are only beginning to tap into the potential of stories in the learning and development field. Whilst we have incorporated personal stories into some of our recent E-Learning projects, we are incredibly excited about the potential of using more storytelling in learning at Aurion; indeed the possibilities are endless!

In our next blog article we will provide advice and tips on using stories in E-Learning programmes.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.