“Distorting Reality” for Learners – Tip #77

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Most content are unnatural. It emanates from a higher plain with an objective source and is written in a perfect world. Hence most content is not understood by people. On the other hand, certain content that people understand may not be really recognized immediately as content. These are ordinary things we see, feel, touch, smell and use every day.

Factual vs Real-Life Content  ̶  Which One Works?

When unnatural content is taught, this results in unnatural learning and consequences that  are highly ineffectual. Likewise, they are costly. Most of all, they fail on the job because it is not based on reality (unnatural content) and therefore beyond the reach or comprehension of people intending to use them.
But why does content tend to be unnatural instead of natural? What can be done about it?

Move Away from Factual Learning into Reality Learning
The natural way people learn is through the wholistic approach. This means that as we learn, we strive to understand the whole and not just the parts. I spoke of SLOMO learning in a previous tip because we need to slow down our thought process and look at the whole picture. We lead our minds to think of facts and events and make our own interpretations of things as fused and connected items.
This is automatic and unconscious. One’s natural tendency is to look at things in its totality. The disconnect starts when we talk about facts separate from events or events separate from facts. And when we talk about such items, we inhibit or disallow learners to have the opportunity to reflect and form their own interpretation. The disconnect happens because designers are in a “reality distortion” mode.
Have you seen the movie/documentary, Steve Jobs? Steve Jobs has the habit of being cocooned in his own world because he creates distorted realities. The best part is, he succeeds in bringing his audiences and customers to believe in another reality. Many of them follow him. They buy into a dream, a new reality that Jobs has created in their minds. The distortion becomes productive when customers purchase the product and the experience is fulfilled. However, it fails badly when customers do not experience the promised distorted reality.
In learning design, we distort reality without realizing it. How do we do that? In a manner that we present content that is far from real-life. We tell the learner to learn content as if it is separate from reality and experience. The consequence of this is that, we stress on recalling the facts. So we make them memorize and let them take a series of tests.

Practical Tips in Design and Development of Content
Just like Steve Jobs, we seduce our learners. In a similar fashion, we appeal to the human experience. Technology and content are just mediums.
Seduction today in learning is done with massive efforts through bells and whistles of 
e-learning. They are not wrong solutions. Yet, when used to seduce learners to learn facts, these tools become ill-used or underutilized. Examples are over-investments in videos, gamification, social interaction, exercises, assessments, etc.
Remember, these are only tools to help keep our learners learning. We need to reflect back on the idea that learners look at the whole world and do not split facts and events. They create their own interpretations. Here are four practical tips in design and content development:

1. Always add context and meaning in real-life related to the fact. This will automatically lead the learner to his/her natural learning tendency which is the wholistic approach. This will prevent the disconnect between content and reality.

2. Start with context, not facts. Avoid making the learners memorize volumes of information that are disconnected from reality. Doing this will provide meaning and help learners to value the facts. 

3. Write in the way that learners talk about the content. You immediately connect to your audience if you avoid using technical jargons and instead develop your contents in the context of their own conversations of the topic. 

4. Ask learners a question always as part of your content.

The purpose is to encourage learners to quickly create their own interpretation of the fact and events. Facts and events are foreign and unknown or removed from the learners until they reflect on them.

Until they create their own insights, learners are not applying or understanding the content.

Start by asking, “What would happen if you are unable to use this content?”
“What would happen if your are unable to discover the fraudulent transactions ahead of time?”

“What would happen if you are able to detect and prevent the fraudulent transaction ahead of time?”

In the above examples, you immediately invite the learners to understand the fact and content.


Currently, there is a disconnect between content and reality. Learners find it hard to comprehend and apply content to real-life situations. The solution to this predicament is to apply the four tips in design and content development.


Ray Jimenez. Stop That Dump Truck! Ask Questions to Know What is Important for Learners 

Ray Jimenez. Slow-Mo Learning is Faster   

Ray Jimenez. Creative Musing   

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”