Knowledge vectors and choice of the narrative form


A compilivre® is an enhanced synthesis of information providing a state-of-the-art review of the subject addressed.

The innovative design of the compilivre®, which was created in 1998, is based on the fact that we build knowledge by associating information. This is the operating principle behind hypertext.  For learning purposes, it involves organizing information in such a way that the reader can acquire new knowledge by intuitively exploring the contents of a work, skipping between sections according to his or her needs and level of understanding.    

A compilivre® is structured around seeds of knowledge or blocks of information that can be read independently of each other but which are grouped together according to a logical order so that the reader can rationally reconstruct the contents as s/he goes along.  Depending on the subject, several reading levels are presented to respond to different objectives: satisfying one’s curiosity, confirming basic knowledge, or deepening one’s understanding of a subject.  

We choose to publish the compilivres as paperback books to reach those who may be excluded from other mediums due to limited access to technology.  However, from an educational engineering perspective, their contents also may be shared through digital mediums without rewriting the text as their design has taken into account the specific features of digital formats.  This feature enables the use of innovative teaching approaches in both formal educational settings and in training programs for diverse audiences.   

As state-of-the-art, enhanced information summaries, compilivres also generate educational products such as scientific tales. 

Educational handbooks

The educational handbooks provide readers in developed and developing countries with information that is relevant, validated, and written in such a way that everyone may understand the contents.  They address current event topics covered widely by the media. 

The objective of the handbook is not to be exhaustive but to present information using an original, attention-catching narrative mode that allows readers to develop an interest in the subject and to better understand the positive and negative aspects of the issue, minimize inappropriate health safety and economic reactions and decisions, and learn about the activities and achievements of CIRAD and its partners. The end goal is to help transfer a scientific culture to taxpaying citizens, directly affected populations in developing countries, and public and private actors, to enable them to better understand hotly debated scientific issues.

This familiar, police investigation narrative style, complete with an enigma, an investigator, and a culprit, helps the general public understand scientific approaches to unknown situations and stimulates reflection on how scientists operate. The reader is drawn into the scientific process and follows it through to the resolution of the enigma: initial questions raised, hypotheses, success, difficulties, and management of actors’ reactions. 

The format achieves multiple objectives: by following the experiences of researchers grappling with real scientific issues, readers acquire direct knowledge while at the same time the image of a research scientist is demystified. Furthermore, the scientific experiences as lived by researchers are preserved and transmitted in a format that can be used for teaching purposes. 

The application of this known literary technique to a scientific subject led to its exploration from the different perspectives of the actors-narrators chosen by the authors. Each narrator speaks in the first person “I”. Each point of view is a story based on scientific knowledge and practices validated by experts on the subject. Their voices refer to educational, cultural, geographic, aesthetic, and emotional landmarks that make sense to readers, allowing them to easily project themselves into the story and to identify with each of the narrators. By the end, readers know as much as the narrators, and effortlessly assimilate complex information regarding a scientific subject that they probably never would have studied spontaneously. The originality of the application of this multi-actor method to a scientific subject is to give the role of narrator to not only people, but also to animals, plants, insects, viruses, bacteria, vaccines…

Scientific tales

From time immemorial, stories have been used to transmit values and knowledge by seducing the imaginations of those who read or listen to them.

In the « Dairies » series, our set of scientific tales, we explore the potential of empathy, with the scientist putting him or herself in the shoes of the animal to tell the animal’s story.  This approach allows the reader to identify with the animal and understand how it goes about its life.  The challenge is to invent a specific vocabulary and integrate potentially complex information without losing the interest of the reader/listener regardless of his or her status or level of education.

This approach contributes to the effective use of scientific and practical knowledge in activities seeking to raise awareness of scientific topics among young readers.  It also furthers individual learning and the collective education of a diversified audience made up of individuals with or without scientific background or training in the subject addressed.  

Educational comic books

Although comic books once were considered simply to be an entertaining medium for young readers, this is no longer the case today.  Scientists are increasingly adopting this format as a vector to introduce diverse audiences to scientific education within and outside school environments.  Comic books facilitate access to knowledge that otherwise may be perceived as being overly abstract.

We chose to use the concept of illustrated stories.  The scientific message is transmitted through highly realistic drawings and by a text written in French inside each picture box and in English underneath the box. 

Impact studies

A questionnaire is attached to each publication that is meant to be returned to CIRAD-SAVOIRS.  The objective of the questionnaire is to develop a profile of the beneficiaries and learn their impressions of the publication. The questionnaire consists of a combination of multiple choice and open-ended questions, which provides readers the possibility of freely expressing themselves. Once analyzed, the responses are the basis for quantitative and qualitative analyses of the readers’ profiles and feedback, providing valuable information for future projects to draw on.

The impact studies are published and copies are sent to everyone who responded to the questionnaire, intellectual and financial partners in the project, the authors, and other active correspondents with SAVOIRS.

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