A healthy school of thought in the eLearning industry thinks: let’s use the story format in eLearning content. It’s hardly a new concept. Stories have been used since ancient times to train people. From Aesop’s tales onwards, morals have been taught to people as the underlying themes of stories.
From oral story-telling format, the art of story-telling adapted to a new communication technology: paper. Paper as books, pamphlets brought new dimension to story-telling. One great leap forward was merging of images with the text. Earliest books used images to decorate the text. Hence, the illuminated manuscripts used acanthus and devices to illuminate the margins and space surrounding the text. Things then moved forward for images.
Images started to merge with stories to be told. The religious patrons of art and artists immediately understood that an image’s audience far outnumbered those who could read Latin or Greek. With images, stories could be told effortlessly to even the illiterate. Images were independent works of art even without a context. This led to a communication form where images dominated. Almost every painting of the renaissance period is a communication piece that needs no text to explain itself. Recognizing this power, communicators started merging text and images to create a new story-telling medium: the picture-story.
The picture-story evolved into visual novels, Punch like satirical magazines, cartooning and to comics. Comics combine images and words like few other examples. Animated films are moving comics in a sense, but an entirely new medium, because it can manipulate timing.
While the art of animation has strong American roots, it’s maximum exponent have been Japanese animators. Japan had a strong tradition of cartoon drawings led by the great master Hokusai’s “manga” drawings. American animation scene developed vastly with emergence of studios like Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks. Arrival of computer animation led to newer experiments in animation film making.
Within the Japanese animation world, Miyazaki-san is a unique institution. Along with his Studio Ghibli team, Miyzaki-san has made landmark animation films like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Up, Ponyo to name a few of many more.
Studying animation’s story-telling technique helped us discover many concepts that can apply in an eLearning scenario. The heart of any animation is timing. eLearning courses don’t have much of a timing element due to the great “Click Next” design model of rapid application tools. Of course, there is a psychological timing in any communication, including a PowerPoint. But that’s besides the point here.
Miyzaki-san’s one great trait is his ability to visualize and sketch the whole movie. The ability to visualize the whole learning content is a great skill in creating eLearning content. To visualize the learner and his or her difficulties in learning is a key teaching requirement in eLearning.
This is a book for someone who has seen Miyazaki movies. If you are curious about Miyazaki-san’s thinking about creating great visual content, this book is a treat to read. If you haven’t seen any Studio Ghibli movies created by Miyazaki-san, please do so now!