The Computer Scientist Who Can’t Stop Telling Stories – Technical Information Flows with Stories – Workshop Tip #231

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Try this: In implementing Workflow Learning or Story-Based Lessons, ask your participants to search their technical textbooks or scientific papers for examples on how technical knowledge use common, day-to-day language to help readers understand the information better. For example, computer-related terms like, “server farms” or “cloud”; and terms like “opposing party”, “first in and first out inventory”, and “exact opposite” that are often used in legal, accounting, and engineering respectively. Workers and learners discover that to make ideas simple, they must apply stories and use words in the layman’s language.

In Workflow Learning, the use of stories is a great way to communicate different nuances of issues in the workflow. It makes the learning context richer, substantive, and easier to understand and appreciate.  Stories help convey the human side of the work and learning.

For pioneering computer scientist Donald Knuth, good coding is synonymous with beautiful expression. In the article, he was referred to as the one “who can’t stop telling stories.” He is recognized for his flare and knack for telling stories as a way to effectively communicate computer science-related topics. He said, “The best way to communicate from one human being to another is through stories.” His passion for programming, algorithms, and good stories is the driving force behind his book, The Art of Computer Programming.  

I recall having worked on a project with the large consulting firm KPMG, and with a group of nuclear operations trainers at INPO. At first, I was a bit concerned about how these highly technical group of people would explain complex ideas in simple forms. But I was inspired by these two brilliant people.

Donald Knuth who reminded me that in many scientific papers, scientists needed to incorporate stories, metaphors, and other forms of symbolism to put their point across. And, Richard Feynnman, the Nobel Laureat who is famous for his story-based teaching methods. 

There is a certain poetry, charm, and artform when we are able to explain complex ideas in ways that inspire, excite, or just help others understand them easily.

References

Susan D’Agostino, Computer Scientist Can’t Stop Telling Stories

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

Related blogs

The Power of Metaphors in eLearning
Making Facts Stick With Stories

Videos

Metaphors – “I Can’t Make a Square Out of That Circle”

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