Tell Me A Story

When I arrived at my brother’s house in Hawaii, we received the news that a dear family friend had passed away in southern California. She was my brother’s godmother, and I had spent every Monday afternoon cleaning her house as a way to earn extra money in high school. We both learned our grammar in her fifth grade class, but most of all, she was a friend who had entertained us at family gatherings as a supreme storyteller; truly a master at weaving the threads of her experiences into hilarious fabrics, or sometimes fabrications, that kept us laughing into the night.  So I think it is fitting, that the direction of my research this week, ended up focusing on learning and the importance of storytelling.

This week our Learning Theories and Instruction class has been researching how the human brain functions as we learn. We know that the learner needs to pay attention; the information needs to be meaningful, organized in such a way that the information can be stored in long-term memory and retrieved when needed.  Dr. Ormrod  (Laureate, Education, Inc.) describes the development of cognitivism and how our understanding of how the brain works has developed. “When cognitivism as a perspective arose, largely in the ’60s and in the ’70s, the thinking was initially that we probably think a lot like computers think, and we developed a computer metaphor for thinking”. However, as she notes later, people don’t necessarily think in a point A to point B way, they can branch out in different directions all at once. Most importantly she notes, “people are different from computers, and that is that we have feelings as well as thoughts. And a lot of our thinking and learning has emotional overtones”. (Laureate, Education, Inc.)

As I participated in blogging this week, I found Leo Widrich’s blog on the science of storytelling. He explains  how our brains become more active when listening to or telling stories. The implications of narratives for learning are important. He explains how our brains are wired for this. We want to relate what we hear to our prior experiences. He gives practical tips to educators to use simple stories instead of giving advice. Your learners will remember more and enjoy their training experience.

Along this same theme, the article, “The Secrets of Storytelling: Our Love for Telling Tales Reveals the Workings of the Mind”, the author, Jeremy Hsu, (2008), discusses how our brains are wired for storytelling. By the time we are four or five, we develop a trait defined as “theory of mind” or the ability to empathize. He says, “Perhaps because theory of mind is so vital to social living, once we possess it we tend to imagine minds everywhere, making stories out of everything.” (Hsu, 2008). Storytelling is how we learn, how we pass on knowledge. Our varying cultural heritages are steeped in narratives and stories, how we came to be, why we moved to where we are, even why we study what we choose to study.

For another example of what a powerful tool storytelling is, check out Paul Zak’s video on the  All Kinds of Minds blog. The blog’s topic is “Storytelling’s Impact on Empathy (and the Architecture of the Brain)” (All Kinds of Minds, (2013). The point is that putting people at the center of learning instead of skills, would be better for the learners in any situation. The video isn’t long and exemplifies how deeply our instincts for stories are.



Hsu, J. (2008). The secrets of storytelling: Our love for telling tales reveals the workings of the mind. Scientific American Mind, 19(4), 46–51. Retrieved from

Ormrod, J. Information Processing & the Brain. Laureate Education, Inc. [Video Webcast.]. Retrieved from 

Storytelling’s impact on empathy (and the architecture of the brain). (2013, April). All Kinds of Minds (AKOM). [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Widrich, L. (2012 12–5). The science of storytelling: Why telling a story is the most powerful way to activate our brains. Lifehacker. [Blog post]. Retrieved from


Top Three Menu Items:

Train Like a Champion: Brian Washburn:

Our opening entrée is the “Train Like a Champion” blog, written by Brian Washburn, (2013) who focuses on the theory of training and practical tips which I found insightful and helpful. Brian writes from experience and is passionate about his field. I also found the blogs entertaining and when he gives examples, he uses ones that are to the point and memorable. On his “I Don’t Do Touchy Feely” blog, he used a video of a blended iPhone to illustrate the point that the company selling the blender doesn’t bore you with their mission statement; they demonstrate the capabilities of the blender. Brian comments, “Does the following video illustrate, in a memorable way, their core belief?  Is this video, which illustrates their tagline, boring?” (Washburn, 2013). His focus in this blog entry is you don’t have to be touchy, feely to be deliberate and organized about your approach to training. In other words, he didn’t just talk the talk, his own examples of his main points were engaging and informative.

Brian’s other recent blogs covered topics on design and PowerPoint tips. He also offered suggestions on where to find good fonts, and other inexpensive tools. His most recent post, as I am writing this review, was on a presentation technique he called “speed dating”. Now, doesn’t that title pique you’re your interest? Each blog entry is just long enough, and the readers walk away with something to chew on.

I chose Brian’s site because I was looking for good methodology and insights into how good instructional design looks. I appreciated the passion for the field packaged in practical and useful suggestions for success in instructional design. This site will be a go-to for hints and insights.

Mel’s Learning Lab: Melissa Milloway:

Our next sparkling entrée comes from Melissa Milloway who presents her blog under the name of “Mel’s Learning Lab”. I was looking for a blog that differed from my other choices.  What attracted me to this site is that Mel is an instructional technologist and instructional designer. She serves up a healthy dose of technology along with insights for good instructional design techniques. This blog certainly hit the spot with a description of tools that are new or a must have for the ID’s toolbox. She posted a blog on why understanding technology is here to stay. “Technology is evolving at a fast pace.  There is more software being developed, and updated for creating training deliverables.  With a diversity of software to create learning, there is the opportunity to design innovative ways to teach learning objectives” (Milloway, 2013).  As part of the blog, she demonstrates a “wideo” she made to underscore her main points. So again, we have a professional who doesn’t just preach, but demonstrates how a good designer communicates. I also enjoyed her breakdown of creative tools for the support of eLearning. The information was divided into cost category and ease of use. No matter the topic, I found Mel’s blogs useful and easy to understand considering she is often discussing the latest in technology.

Technology changes at warp speed, and I like to try to keep up with what’s new in tech and how it is used in the work world. This site will provide that information for me as well as focus on the application of new tech in the world of instructional design.

Cathy Moore, “Let’s save the world from boring instruction.”

I selected our final tasting because I was looking for a blog that deals with the philosophy of instructional design and how that mindset should influence the methods used. This site is excellent in those regards. I liked that Cathy directed new users to her manifesto blog. “We stand firm in our belief that learners have brains and should be allowed to use them” (Moore, 2013). In the manifesto she discusses the WHY of new training and presents ways to analyze what methods would be most appropriate. Cathy’s post on how to get your leadership to “like you” or how to achieve real results by asking the right questions of your superiors. Another post provides an example of “real activities”, and like the other bloggers I selected, she demonstrates good modeling while she is instructing.

Cathy’s blog offers a satisfying buffet of choices for her readers. She has a lot of links to additional information, and a set of links to other blogs she considers worth reading. I like her enthusiasm and the philosophical perspective she brings to her blog. What I take away from this site is a shot of passion for fighting the good fight, and good ideas for how to go about being the best instructional designer possible by using methods that help your learners improve in their jobs without weighing them down with unnecessary training.

“Find topics that motivate you and challenge your thinking” (Ferriter, 2009).  When I started this assignment, I was somewhat apprehensive about slogging through a pile of information and viewpoints. I was delighted to discover otherwise; the blogs I found were easy to read, but full of information, they were all creative and even entertaining in their delivery. I can recommend them without reservation; they were a perfect intellectual meal that didn’t leave me feeling bloated with information.


Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical

features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–71.

Ferriter, B. (2009). Learning with blogs & wikis. Educational Leadership, 66(5), 34–38.

Milloway, M. (2013, June 13). Why understanding technology is important for instructional

designers. Web log post. Retrieved from


Moore, C. (2013, June 10). L & D manifesto. Cathy Moore: Let’s Save the World from Boring

Instruction. Web log post. Retrieved from


Washburn, B. (2013, July). I don’t do touchy-feely. Web log post. Retrieved from