Empathy, Storytelling, and Design

the pros and cons of figuring it all out

Photo Credit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/ by https://www.flickr.com/photos/drp/
Some rights reserved by drp

My students flooded into English class today all abuzz with the results of a personality test that they had just finished taking in ToK class.  Intrigued, I jumped in and asked for the link, and by lunch time I had myself all figured out.  No more mysteries.  I have been defined.  I have an ENFP personality.  What does that mean?  Well, in short, it stands for extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and prospecting.  Just like Oscar Wilde, Che Guevara, and Anne Frank (and, much to my indignation, Muammar Gaddafi and Hugo Chavez), I am described this way:

“People with the ENFP personality type tend to be curious, idealistic and often mystical. They seek meaning and are very interested in other people’s motives, seeing life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected. Not surprisingly, ENFPs tend to be very insightful and empathic individuals – this, plus their charm and social skills, often makes them very popular and influential.”

Sounds great!  I’ve received the affirmation I’ve been searching for due my apparently intrinsic need to “seek meaning.”  As I had this week’s readings in mind as I took the test, I immediately thought of myself as a presenter.  And if this description is true, it must mean that I’m a pretty good one, right?

But wait, there’s more:  “On the other hand, this can also be a disadvantage as the ENFP is likely to worry about not being sufficiently original or spontaneous. If they are not careful, this personality trait can lower their self-esteem.”

This second paragraph happens to unfortunately mesh with the first one to pretty succinctly describe my pitfalls as a presenter.  I’ve got my on-days and my off-days, like many teachers. But I’m constantly aware that my success as a presenter depends on my enthusiasm for the content and ability to engage my audience.  And while I still hold the opinion that other teachers are the most difficult audience for a teacher to present to (Teachers know everything!), kids who have been sitting through six other classes all day long finish a close second.

tech + emotion = design

This week I’ve learned about the technicalities of how to design an engaging visual presentation that leaves a lasting impression, and those are skills that I will most certainly be working on starting now.  But two ideas from our reading ring even louder for me:

  1. empathy in presentation
  2. the presenter as a storyteller.

So therefore, I need to learn how to more successfully utilize design to become a better, more empathetic storyteller.

Some rights reserved by [auro]
Some rights reserved by [auro]
One of the best teachers I know is an actor by trade and nature.  He doesn’t teach IB History to 11th and 12th graders.  He lives it right there in the front of the room, the back of the room, on top of the desks, or running down the hall.  And those kids remember everything he says.  If they’re able to allude to Kaiser Wilhelm in their English essays, are they also able to allude to Gregor Samsa in their History essays?  He’s a storyteller, and his storytelling has “that special thing” that Ira Glass (one of my favorite storytellers) describes in his bit on storytelling.  That passion for content can’t be replaced by anything, digital or otherwise.  But for those of us who aren’t natural entertainers, it must be supplemented with design and empathy.

oh, the shame!

This week’s blog post assignment: Reflect on a presentation you have created in the past looking at how you would implement new visual presentations techniques to better communicate your message to your audience.

So here it is:  a presentation that until recently I actually thought was pretty good.  It’s a Google Presentation on satire that I used to introduce my students to the concept in the context of a unit on Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”

But now I’m kind of horrified!  Look at all that text!  Lots of questions flood my mind as I reflect on this presentation:

  • Did I talk too much?
  • Did I talk enough?
  • Do ELL students who don’t have fully developed listening skills need all that text?
  • How will they get the definitions I need them to have if they’re not written there?
  • Were my students engaged?
  • How could I have replaced text with more effective images?
  • How might the aesthetics of the presentation affected students’ learning?
  • I gave this presentation back in November.  Do they still remember any of it?

The bottom line is this:  I think I already possess (but can always improve) the ability to tell a good story and empathize with my audience.  But clearly those human characteristics need to be amplified by good design.



3 Replies to “Empathy, Storytelling, and Design”

  1. Do you think you might want to redesign this one for your final project? I do think the text is still minimal, it’s certainly not overwhelming, but the images help with the story aspect that you’re thinking about here.

  2. Hi Jessica,

    Thanks so much for sharing this post! I enjoyed running down the personality test links for a bit. 🙂

    I have a couple of thoughts regarding your presentation. First, I think the amount of text and or “zen-ness” depends entirely on your purpose. If you provided this link to your students to come back to, it’s very helpful for students to reread the definitions and directions multiple times. If those were only given orally (even with amazing photos) it would be quite difficult for some.

    How do you think it would change the experience for students if you had less text and/or alternated photos between the slides with more text? Would a redesign of the presentation ultimately mean a redesign of the entire lesson?

    Your reflective questions are great. If you do decide to redo this one for your final project, I would LOVE to see it! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *