In “Minding the Stories We Tell: Acknowledging and Addressing Implicit Narratives in IDT,” Amy Bradshaw defines two different kinds of storytelling in IDT: the explicit narrative and the implicit narrative. Any story that intentionally informs or entertains learners is an explicit narrative. This narrative is often used to illustrate IDT movements or to provide context to a theory. Conversely, an implicit narrative is an unacknowledged curriculum that subtly reinforces dominant cultural norms, structures, and attitudes. For example, Bradshaw points out that the explicit narrative of IDT history often highlights white men like B.F. Skinner and Robert Gagné. The implicit narrative resulting from this storytelling is that the field is not open to people from different backgrounds. Bradshaw notes that the inclusion of diverse leaders like Grace Hopper and Mark Dean in the traditional IDT timeline could broaden the field’s appeal to more individuals.
Implicit narrative is closely related to the constructs of hidden curriculum and null curriculum. Hidden curriculum refers to values that are not overtly stated but are still a significant part of the course material. On the other hand, a topic that is entirely omitted from the course is null curriculum. Bradshaw notes that even if students manage to encounter these forbidden topics, the existence of the null curriculum “limits how one is able to perceive and think about it” (Bradshaw, 2018, p. 233).
IDT courses have three unique challenges when it comes to addressing implicit narratives surrounding social justice. First, social justice issues are not traditionally part of the IDT curriculum, and their inclusion may be viewed as superfluous. Second, there is the perception that IDT course content is too full and that there is no space for additional topics. Finally, some students and instructors may not be able to thoroughly critique and interrogate oppressive systems as they may be unintentional beneficiaries of these systems. Bradshaw addresses each of these challenges and stresses that the IDT field should recognize how social justice issues impact learning and technology.
To test how to incorporate implicit narrative into a curriculum, Bradshaw designed a class project addressing implicit narrative in a graduate-level introductory educational media production course. Students were asked to form groups and create a short informational video highlighting key events or people in the development of the IDT field. After submitting a draft script, the students were asked to revise this script to incorporate social justice issues that would be considered null and hidden curricula. Throughout the class, students received several rounds of feedback on their video’s progress from both the instructor and their classmates. After completing the final version of the video, students wrote a brief response essay and filled out an anonymous questionnaire that recorded their reactions to the assignment.
Overall, the students welcomed the additional requirement to add context to their projects based on null or hidden curricula. About half of the students felt that learning about null or hidden curricula was the most valuable part of the project, while seven of the twelve students indicated that time management was the most challenging aspect. Most of the students responded that the project impacted their perception of IDT and social justice and that they would consider the role of implicit narratives in future projects.
Although most student comments about the assignment were positive, a few complaints stood out. The collaborative nature of the assignment sometimes led to unfair workload distribution, as some of the students had more experience with video production than others. Some students felt that there should have been an earlier discussion of hidden and null curricula and social justice issues in the class. As is usually the case with intensive projects, the students wished they had started on the video earlier in the semester and had more time to complete the assignment.
This study demonstrates a compelling example of incorporating hidden or null curricula in an IDT course. Bradshaw could have included the social justice criteria into the first description of the assignment, but by requiring a revision, she illuminated how the students unintentionally ignored the content in the first draft. In addition to introducing these concepts to her students, Bradshaw also encouraged her students to participate in an iterative design process.
Bradshaw’s research into hidden and null curricula is distinctive within IDT. In a field heavily focused on process and objectives, it is inspiring to see research that questions how the structures of the field relate to historical injustices. However, Bradshaw’s work only provides a starting framework for how to approach these questions. This study only briefly addresses how acknowledging null and hidden curricula can make the IDT field more accessible to more people. In the results section, Bradshaw indicates that some of the students felt that their relationship to IDT work changed after completing the assignment, but she does not include specific actions that the students plan to take.
Future research in this area could involve replicating this assignment in a less onerous format. Video production is time-intensive and requires special software and equipment. Students could construct a similar historical analysis using an interactive timeline application, a written script, or even a PowerPoint presentation. IDT courses with limited resources could then more easily replicate a pared-down version of the assignment.
Another direction for this topic is formally incorporating more social justice content into an IDT course. From Bradshaw’s description, this assignment was mostly self-directed. Students independently selected their topics and chose historical figures and events to highlight from their research. An instructor could create class content that more explicitly includes topics from the hidden and null curriculum, perhaps by augmenting class readings or assigning more narrowly defined project topics. Professors could also collaborate to create new syllabuses for IDT introductory classes that were more inclusive of social justice issues.
At the end of her paper, Bradshaw calls for more critical awareness of social justice issues and implicit narratives within her academic program and the IDT community at large. The successful design and implementation of her video project indicates that there is space to question power, inclusion, and injustice in the IDT field.
Bradshaw, A. (2018). Minding the stories we tell: Acknowledging and addressing implicit narratives in IDT. In Hokanson B., Clinton G., Kaminski K. (eds) Educational Technology and Narrative: Story and Instructional Design (pp. 231-248). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69914-1_19