Using Simple Words and Pictures to Tell People How Something Works #176

Using Small Words to Explain Complex Topics #176: Challenge | Recap

Imagine being asked to design an e-learning course on a complex topic using only third-grade English vocabulary. Sound like fun? I hope so, because that’s what this week’s challenge is all about.

Never Use a Big Word When a Diminutive One Will Suffice

There are more than 170,000 English words in current use. On average, native English-speaking Americans have a vocabulary of only 42,000 words. Just a hunch here, but I’m guessing the average instructional designer has an even larger (and more weighty) vocabulary.

While having a rich vocabulary helps us communicate more effectively, it doesn’t guarantee our courses will be as simple and jargon-free as they could be. That’s why I’m such a fan of Randall Munroe and his comic explainer Up Goer Five

US Space Team’s Up Goer Five

Using only the 1,000 most common English words, Munroe brilliantly (and simply) annotated a blueprint of the Saturn V rocket. He calls the rocket an “up goer” because “rocket” isn’t one of the most common words.

Check out the comic to read all about the Up Goer Five:

US Space Team’s Up Goer Five

Touch these blue words to view the Up Goer Five comic

Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words

If you’re looking for even more examples of “complicated stuff using simple words,” you should touch these blue words to learn more about Munroe’s book, Thing Explainer.

Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words

Touch these blue words to get your copy of Thing Explainer

The book is packed with annotated blueprints of common examples, including hand computers (mobile phones), shape checkers (locks), and boats that go under the sea (submarines)!

Up Goer Explainer Examples

Up Goer Five Text Editor

To help you explain your idea using only the ten hundred most used words, you can run your script through the Up Goer Five text editor.

If you use a word that’s not in the common word list, an alert will prompt you to choose a different word.

For fun, I dropped Wikipedia’s entry for Instructional Design into the text editor. Not surprisingly, most of the entry was rejected:

Up-Goer Five Text Editor

Touch the blue words to view the Up Goer Five Text Editor

After a few minutes of trial and error, I found a jargon-free definition that could work:

Up-Goer Five Text Editor

Challenge of the Week

This week, your challenge is to create an example (static or interactive) that explains a complex subject using only simple graphics and the 1,000 most-used words in the English language.

Make sure you run your text through the Up Goer Five Text Editor to ensure you’re using only the most common words.

Last Week’s Challenge:

Before you make the complex simple, check out the informal training videos your fellow community members shared in last week’s challenge:

Record and Share Your Informal Training Videos #175

Record and Share Your Informal Training Videos #175

Wishing you a great week, E-Learning Heroes!

New to the E-Learning Challenges?

The weekly e-learning challenges are ongoing opportunities to learn, share, and build your e-learning portfolios. You can jump into any or all of the previous challenges anytime you want. I’ll update the recap posts to include your demos.

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Maggie Baker
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