Don’t teach, inspire
Facilitating storytelling | Mandate European Training Network EpiDiverse | Students present their thesis through videos | Language English | Year 2018
In October 2018 I worked with 15 students from the EU research program Epidiverse to explain their research thesis in the realm of epigenetics. I was given one day with the students to produce 15 short videos. The chances all 15 students finalize their videos by the end of the day were slim. To get them as far as possible I focused on maximizing the students' time to create their story and have fun while doing so. The experience was amazing. With minimal input from my side their stories or creative ideas blew me away.
Epigenetics is the hidden superpower of plants.
Probably the one thing you don’t want to be bogged down by, is technology. You want the students to play with storytelling ideas and images, not solving technical problems. In 2018 Adobe has released a basic video editing software, Adobe Rush. Though the software has many editing limitations, I went for it. Mainly because it runs on both platforms, Windows and Mac OS. Luckily no student came with a Linux based laptop!
Imagine yourself as me, a scientist.
Don’t teach, inspire
Throughout the day I mixed information with inspiration, maximizing the time the students spent on their stories:
- To help the students start thinking about how they want to explain their research subject I introduced them to the 5Ws asking them for examples. More on the 5Ws you will find here. Then I let them apply these questions on their own story.
- To help them structure their story I gave a quick overview of the 3 act story structure, with 3 minutes video examples. Then throwing the ball back I asked to hear their first story ideas.
- To safe time, I skipped the camera-operation-input. Most students didn’t use a camera, and those who did, used their smartphone.
- Finally I used the video and audio material of one student to kick-start the group operating the video editing application. I was surprised how quickly the students embraced this new tool.
What are plant phenotypic traits?
Soul over design!
By the end of the day, only one student has completed his video. To be fair, he was the only student whose mother tongue is English. All other students spent most of the time working on their story, looking for the right and simple words that a non-scientific audience could understand.
A few weeks later, all students submitted their video stories. To me this felt like the harvest season! The seeds I helped to sow have grown and were blossoming!
Did the students succeed in explaining their research thesis to the general public? Judge for yourself! I was really touched by their creativity. What I value the most is the underlying tone of the videos: you can sense the fun the students had creating these stories. It is this soul that captures the audience.
Meet professor Planty McPlantface!