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The Hero's Journey in Professional Learning

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Lecture

Sunday, June 23, 1:30–2:30 pm
Location: 108AB

Karen Lewis  
Visual storytelling skills can transform professional learning into a heroic journey from ideas to action. This allegorical session provides a map for the journey that information must travel from Swamps of Sensory Memory through the narrow Cave of Working Memory and into the Citadel of Transferred Knowledge.

Audience: Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Professional developers
Skill level: Intermediate
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Focus: Professional learning
Topic: Professional learning models
ISTE Standards: For Coaches:
Professional Development and Program Evaluation
  • Design, develop and implement technology-rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning and assessment.
For Educators:
  • Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.
Disclosure: The submitter of this session has been supported by a company whose product is being included in the session

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Participants will understand the path from sensory memory to working memory to long-term memory and be able to design presentations that support each step. Participants will understand research about adult learning in multimedia presentations, including threats to effective learning such as the redundancy effect, split attention, and extraneous information. Finally, participants will be able to apply visual storytelling strategies that create compelling presentations and meaningful, long-term learning.


This professional learning story will be presented as an allegory. Throughout the presentation, participants will be involved in creating a storyboard for their own presentation, including the Hero (the main idea presented), the Companions (supporting ideas), and the Hero Reborn (how participants will carry on the information.) There will be opportunities to process information and plan storyboard at regular intervals (no more than 5-10 minutes) throughout the presentation.

The session will go as follows:

Act I: The Exposition and Estabishing the Conflict (20-30 minutes)
The presenter will share a story about professional learning session gone wrong and introduce participants toour Hero (Ideas!) and the Villian, "The Overload," who threatens to shut down learning in professional presentations. Participants will consider an upcoming presentation, and establish their own Villians (the problem that their content or strategy is to overcome) and Heroes (the solution they are presenting.)

Act II: The Journey (20-30 minutes)
Participants will join the presenters on a journey to long-term memory, beginning with the Swamps of Sensory Memory. Here, they will learn of the challenges that adult learners face with narrowing focus from the field of sensory information, as well as how to streamline sensory information to effectively chunk content for the adult learner by eliminating extraneous visual and verbal information.

In the Narrow Cave of Working Memory, participants will learn about the dual channel theory, which states that information in multimedia presentation may be processed verbally or visually. The Redundancy Effect will be introduced to explain why presenting text on a slide and reading is aloud is an ineffective presentation strategy. Participants will learn strategies for mitigating redundancy, split-attention, and extraneous information, then apply these strategies to a remediate a set of sample slides.

Act III: The Sequel (20-30 minutes)
In the final act, participants will learn how to maximize the storytelling structure. Stories are the world’s oldest way of structuring information, so participants will learn how to structure any professional development as a story with a problem and resolution. Finally, participants will begin to develop and share the storyboard for a planned session in progress.

Supporting research

Atkinson, Cliff. Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft© PowerPoint© to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire. Microsoft Press, 2011.

Miller, George A. “The Magical Number Seven, plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information.” Psychological Review, vol. 101, no. 2, 1994, pp. 343–352.

Moreno, Roxana, and Richard E. Mayer. “Visual Presentations in Multimedia Learning: Conditions That Overload Visual Working Memory.” Visual Information and Information Systems Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 1999, pp. 798–805.

Mayer, Richard E., and Roxana Moreno. “A Split-Attention Effect in Multimedia Learning: Evidence for a Dual-Channel Theory of Working Memory.” PsycEXTRA Dataset, 1997.

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Karen Lewis, Katy Independent School District

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