Archive | December 2014

New Year’s Peeve

drunk idiot

I’ve only ever had one good New Year’s Eve (NYE) and that was because I spent it drinking champagne and downing oysters with a woman who also hated NYE. The rest of my NYE’s have been damp squibs, characterized by toilet queues, violent metrosexuals and a gypsy assassin called Tim, who looked like Frank Gallagher from Shameless. However, this year will be different.

Before I elaborate upon my plans for this year’s NYE, let’s take a look at why NYE is such a hit or miss affair for your average punter. I say average punter because very rich people should always have outrageously great NYE’s with helicopter flights and stuff, and if they don’t, they must be fucking idiots.

Think about how many good NYE’s you’ve had so far. My ratio of good to bad NYE’s is about 44 to 1. Poor odds by anyone’s standards, particularly, if you’re not a betting man in the first place. And like every other fucked up part of our society, I blame the media. They’re easy to blame because in the context of a classroom situation, they are both the class clown and bully rolled into one, and therefore stick out like dogs balls.

Additionally, the media are the all pervasive shaper of opinion and very few of us are free from their control. Again, only rich people at their helicopter parties. The media talk up NYE as being that night of the year, where anything can happen, including magic and that magic finds its power in the proverbial NYE kiss. When it comes to the sliding scale of kisses, the NYE kiss reigns supreme. If you and your partner’s first kiss takes place during those sacred seconds after midnight, then you have the ultimate love story, and are therefore a cliché.

True love finds its home in the celluloid folds of clichés. Hollywood recycles clichés and NYE is one of the ultimate clichés rolled out as the night when ‘magic happens’, just like those awful car boot stickers from the 90s. Unfortunately, the only magic that transpires is when you only wait two hours for a taxi, instead of four.

The reality of NYE is boredom and disappointment, the definition of the idiom damp squib. It should be re-named Damp Squib Eve (DSE) and the acronym looks like the acronym for a degenerative condition contracted from under-cooked Duck.

Jokes aside, NYE is overcooked by the media as being the night of nights and that’s always going to be problematic because with expectations raised, the outcome is nearly always going to be cloudy, with the chance of mild depression.

The best NYE’s are always spent in a house with a view and a bath full of beer, preferably surrounded by friends, or at least people you have something in common with but only just met. This negates queues and psychos in polo shirts and the soul destroying crush of humanity. I’m not suggesting the cultural trappings of The Big Chill (my No Exit nightmare) but a house full of people who like getting shitfaced, and are not afraid of regret.

And that’s what I’ll be doing this year and for the rest of the years that I’m able to drink heavily and not worry about blood in my urine. There will be oysters, champagne, no queues for the toilet or violent metrosexuals reeking of the Lynx effect. In short, it will be a replication of last year’s NYE spent with the same woman who hates NYE as much as I do.

And as for Tim the gypsy assassin? Well, I’m told that he’s on a job in Connemara but hasn’t forgotten our bet.

So, when the clock chimes at midnight think about this…

“There are precious lessons deep in the stench of failure and the filth of selfish choices.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough







The value of creativity in eLearning


We all love good stories. They entertain and fascinate, provide new worlds and create new thought. A traditional story comes in three parts, beginning, middle and end, following Aristotle’s three act structure. This is a formula we’re all familiar with and it’s easy for us to navigate our way through this structure. When I’m developing an eLearning module, I think about this structure, but more importantly, I think about how I can use this structure to make the module more creative.

There is absolutely no reason why eLearning modules can’t use elements of creative thinking to heighten their engagement for the learner. I use a technique that I call Fictive Embedded Information (FEI), where I develop a storyline for my module and populate it with the relevant content. This enables me to tell a story, provide a narrative arc and inform the learner at the same time. With all three elements working together, the learner is presented with a more engaging way of absorbing information.

I recently used this technique on a module that I wrote for a large media organisation. The module focussed on how changes to the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) were going to affect customer facing employees. Now, this kind of information is not the most riveting subject, hence the need to bring it to life. Based on this, I developed two characters, private investigators, who were to test employees on their way of working, in light of the changes to the APPs.

I began the process by writing thumbnail characterisations, giving the characters likes and dislikes and even a small amount of backstory to bring them to life. I also gave them a strong reason to be written into the module by developing connections between the characters and the content supplied by the client. The end result was a clear connection between the characters and the content and this is essential, otherwise the characters look like they’ve just been thrown in for the sake of it.

Once I had my characters connected to the content, I was able to write the storyboard using creative and critical thinking. It’s this blend of thought that allowed me to communicate information through a storytelling technique and maintain the balance between the creative and critical components. This balance is vital to education and it’s imperative that the two remain balanced if the process is going to work.

The final product was an engaging learning solution, which employed a storytelling device to transform rather turgid information into content that was more readily absorbed. The other elements that brought great value to the module were using a graphic novel format, voice over artists to play the characters, and the final ingredient was humour.

By using the tools of fiction to communicate information, we develop a more active way of looking at a topic, and for the learner, this addition raises the engagement of the experience. Storytelling is one of our most ancient arts and it should have a much stronger presence in the way we convey information in the workplace.