Fun Summer Reading Assignment–With Learning Implications

Summer seems to be 1/2 over but there is still plenty of time to do some reading, here are a couple of choices I recommend:

First, check out author Lee Child. Child writes about a character called “Jack Reacher” who is kind of a one-man A-Team. The main character is a former military person with a mysterious paste who solves mysteries and exposes bad guys and who never looses. The stories are mystery/thriller type novels. A good place to start is with his first novel Killing Floor (Jack Reacher)

However, not only does Lee Child write great stories but he is open and up front about the approach he takes when writing and many of the concepts he applies to fiction should be applied to crafting great learning.

For example, in the forward to his first book, which I recently purchased, Lee Child takes some time to describe how he got started and his approach to creating his character, Jack Reacher.

First: Character is king. There are probably fewer than six books every century remembered specifically for their plots. People remember characters. Same with television. Who remembers the Lone Ranger? Everybody. Who remembers any actual Lone Ranger storylines? Nobody.

So, my lead character had to carry the whole weight…and there was a lot of weight to carry. Remember, I was broke and out of work.

So, consider you own elearning or classroom instruction, does it have any memorable characters to guide the learner? Could you create a character memorable enough to so that when a learner is considering a course of action or a certain behavior, he or she thinks…what would the character do? What was the character’s view of compliance or leadership. Could the character carry the learning? It is a challenge but one that makes a great deal of sense from a learning perspective. Could you create a character that is a model of how you want the learner to act and then have that character demonstrate the right actions and decision making?

The concept fits well with Bandura’s social learning theory.

Lee Child also discusses the use of questions to engage the reader.

Here is an article Lee Child wrote called “A Simple Way to Create Suspense.”

In the article he states:

How do you create suspense? I’m asked that question often, and it seems that every writers’ symposium has a class with that title. It’s an important technical issue, and not just for so-called suspense novels. Every novel needs a narrative engine, a reason for people to keep reading to the end, whatever the subject, style, genre or approach…

…As novelists, we should ask or imply a question at the beginning of the story, and then we should delay the answer…

…Readers are human, and humans seem programmed to wait for answers to questions they witness being asked…

I would argue that learners are also human and as instructional designers and people who create eLearning we also need to ask or imply a question at the beginning of our instruction and then we need to delay the answer. Let the learners wait for the answer. It is far more intriguing and interesting than starting a lesson which a bunch of answers which we commonly call “learning objectives.”

So, next time you sit down to write a course, think more like a novelist and less like an instructional designer. To help you get started here are half-a-dozen Lee Child books to read as “homework.” And, there great stories as well.

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