The Founding Fathers were certainly an interesting cast of characters. Their effect on history was profound and many lessons can be learned from their experiences. Consequently, if your willing to force a few metaphors, many of these lessons can be applied to the world of eLearning.
Even 215 years after his death, Washington continues to defy expectations. As you might know, the popular cherry tree story we learned as kids a myth. But an even more shocking example of Washington’s ability to surprise us lies in his teeth. It’s popular knowledge that he had dentures made of wood. But this is one of those cases where truth is stranger than fiction. Washington’s false teeth were actually made of brass, lead, gold, bone, hippopotamus ivory, teeth from dead people, and various other pieces of metal hardware. They were more reminiscent of some macabre bear trap than they were of modern dentures.
It just goes to show that Washington didn’t do anything quite the way you would expect him to. When it comes to the world if eLearning (smooth transition, eh?), you want to take your learners by surprise as well. When you expose them to new and unusual things, it’s going to stick in their brain a little easier. For example, I guarantee you won’t be getting the image of Washington’s horrific teeth out of your brain anytime soon.
Due to an ages-old political and personal feud between himself and Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton stood in opposition to Burr’s campaign for Governor of New York. Fed up with Hamilton, Burr challenged his opponent to a duel. Hamilton complied and paid for his convictions with his life.
While dueling is an ethically questionable practice, you ought to create eLearning that is of such a high caliber, you’d fight tooth and nail to defend it. But definitely learn from Hamilton’s mistake and pick your battles. Is your course worth defending, or is this an argument you wouldn’t mind forfeiting?
Before he became the second President of the United States, Adams was a grade school teacher. Of this he said, “My little school, like the great world, is made up of Kings, politicians, divines, fops, buffoons, fiddlers, fools, coxcombs, sycophants, chimney sweeps, and every other character I see in the world.”
Needless to say, Adams knew his audience. He was so observant of the children he taught, he knew their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. He was therefore able to tailor his teaching to fit the individual and more effectively impart knowledge by playing to his pupils’ individual skill sets.
Benjamin Franklin is well known for many reasons, not the least being his sense of humor. Franklin was probably the most quotable of the Founding Fathers, making witty remarks such as, “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,” and “keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half-shut afterwards.”
Franklin was so fond of a good joke, he would often sneak subtle jokes into otherwise serious or scholarly essays. For this reason, it’s rumored that the other revolutionaries decided against having him pen the Declaration of Independence, for fear he might slip a joke into one of the most serious documents of American history.
We can do well to apply Franklin’s brand of thinking to eLearning. Learning doesn’t always need to be a serious affair. So if it’s tasteful to do so, feel free to be creative and slip a little humor into otherwise dull topics.
Now that’s eLearning our Founding Fathers can be proud of! Tell us in the comments which, if any, principles from this post have found their way into your eLearning courses and development.
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