Do You Know Something or Understand Something?

All artwork from “Design for Teaching and Training” by LeRoy Ford

The best classes I took for my masters degree was my education courses.

While journalists need to know their subject well, they also need to enough understanding of how persons learn to make the storytelling worthwhile.

While it is important to help people with knowledge it is very limiting. Knowledge is at the base of learning. This is where you memorize and recall information.

When you can take the pieces and create something new this is when you are demonstrating you understand the content. You are demonstrating comprehension, which is expressing ideas in new forms and even interpreting them.

You want to be able to get to the highest levels of understanding which is application, which is the transfer of the learning to a new situation.

Now you may think this is all common sense but I am finding that it isn’t for many in the industry of communications.

One of the biggest issues I see with professional communicators is their lack of understanding that the content of the subject matter isn’t really explored fully. While in this drawing you see how the audience has different ideas as to what is being taught, I am finding out that many communicators when they ask questions in the storytelling process with the subject they take what the subject says at face value.

They are not even aware that what the subject is talking about isn’t what they are thinking they are talking about.

When I was in Nicaragua we had to have most of the students go back and clarify what the subject was talking about. They learned how to explore the subject and in the process learned how important this was to helping the audience really understand what was the problem they need help with.

Watch this package that Naomi Harward produced this story on Alvaro Ramirez and his wife, Erica, who are helping children with the issues of alcoholism and how it is affecting their country of Nicaragua.

What is important is that Naomi helped you through visuals and the audio to understand how alcoholism affects the entire family and community.

Another student covered the medical volunteers and what they were doing. Saying the people have medical needs isn’t enough. By clarifying what type of services they were providing the audience now will understand we are talking about households having no medicine cabinet like we would have in our homes here. When they go and buy aspirin they don’t have the money for a bottle and buy it one tablet at a time many times.

Most of the students in the class were anticipating the technical aspects of storytelling to be the biggest hurdle. They anticipated that learning how to use Adobe Premier was to be the most difficult to do.

Most realized pretty quickly understanding what a story is and capturing all the elements needed for a good storyline was quite difficult. Before they could really sit down at their computers and start sequencing their video clips and photos they had to have the content. This meant that as they were interviewing the subject they had to have a clear understanding of the objectives of the story.

There were Five Steps they had to understand about the problem to communicate it to the audience.

When working for a nonprofit the storyteller is helping educate the audience so that they understand the problem and how they can get involved in solving the problem with the organization.

Now while I am teaching the students about how to do effective storytelling I am moving the students through all these stages of learning.

We show them all the microphones they can use for an interview. [Knowledge] We show them how to record an interview. [Comprehension] Then we send them out to practice with each other so they are getting a clean audio and well exposed video. [Application]

Once they go out into the field and do the actual interview we review it with them. Together we talk about the issues that might exist. One that was pretty common was the wind noise. [Analysis]

They are sent out again to then address all the problems they had with their first interview and also a list of things that were missing in the content of their interview. [Synthesis]

As we near the end of the editing process we are asking them questions and they are evaluating their content and deciding what they need to include or exclude to tell an effective story. [Evaluation]

Now while this is what we are doing with the students to help them learn about storytelling they are doing the same process of applying this to getting the audience engaged and understanding how they too can get involved in solving the problem of the subject of the story.

It is one thing to help people know about something and quite different to get them to understand and how they need to be involved.

You need to know does the audience just know more about the subject due to your story or do they understand your subject and now are taking action to do something about it?