Saturday, March 24, 2012


Motivation is something I think about a lot.  It's one of the 3 words in our school's mission statement and last week as our librarian and I were preparing our presentation on the responsible use of digital media, we talked about this word.  To be successful, students and teachers have to be motivated.  They have to be motivated to learn of course, but also motivated to "do the right thing" at a time when it is often easier, cheaper and faster to do the wrong thing.

I've written a lot about motivation in the past - reflecting on a workshop I did with Dan Pink two years ago, as well as books such as Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn which we are reading for the staff book group.  All the evidence points to the fact that we all do better when we are intrinsically motivated, however that may not be the case with school work.  Clayton Christensen writes:
When there is high extrinsic motivation for someone to learn something, schools' jobs are easier.  They do not have to teach material in an intrinsically motivating way because simply offering the material is enough.  Students will choose to master it because of the extrinsic pressure.  When there is no extrinsic motivation, however, things become trickier.  Schools need to create intrinsically engaging methods for learning.
In support of this argument, he points out that post-war in Japan 4 times as many university students were studying STEM subjects as in the USA, despite the fact that the USA has more than twice the population of Japan - these scientists and engineers were responsible for the fantastic economic gains made by Japan. However as Japan recovered and become even more prosperous than the USA, less students chose to study STEM subjects at university.  Once the extrinsic motivation to become more prosperous had been removed, students wanted to study subjects that were more "fun", or more intrinsically motivating.  This same shift in subject choices has been noticed in other Asian Tiger economies too, such as Singapore and South Korea.

Christensen, in his book Disrupting Class, argues that one way of making schools more intrinsically motivating is to individualize or customize learning.  Technology, of course, can help with this as it can "tailor itself to a student's specific type of intelligence or learning style" however what happens all too often is that new technologies are simply bolted onto the existing curriculum and so have not changed learning very much.  Even in my own school, where I believe in the primary school in any case technology has completely transformed what students are doing and how they are learning, the official line is still that technology is "enhancing" what is happening in the classroom - which to my mind totally misses the point of what actually is going on.

In our ICTL meeting where we were discussing responsible use of digital media, we talked about how "accidental" plagiarism can be avoided.  In the past, after students had read a book in their literature circles, they might have had to write a report about it.  However this year we have introduced them to WeVideo where students can collaboratively edit video in the cloud.  Each group has therefore made their own trailer about the book they have read as a way of persuading the other groups to choose to read it.  We have discussed the "language" of images, the importance of sound and music, as well as the words that students are using.  We have had students work in groups to look at and critique existing book trailers, with each student in the group being responsible for paying attention to either the sound or the images or the words - how well each of these individually support the message. They then worked in these groups to create their own, again with students dividing up the tasks.  All of the resulting book trailers are completely unique and as the task has been redesigned, copying or plagiarism is simply not possible.  This is certainly a good example of how technology has done more than simply "enhance" the curriculum - in the SAMR model we could have had students wordprocess their reports, instead we have first modified the task and then completely redesigned the way the students did it so that they could work together in collaborative groups.  These book trailers will be published on the students' own blogs and will be set up to loop on a TV in the library area - thus amplifying the message and perhaps persuading even more students to read these books.

And getting back to the original subject of this post:  are the students motivated?  You bet they are!

Photo Credit:  Should. Could. Would. Did.  by Jennifer, 2010 Attribution

1 comment:

  1. I find it frustrating when I work so hard to teach my Year 4/Grade 3 students about plagiarism or stealing as we refer to it and yet teachers and admin continually use the images from Google Images with no thought that they are involved in plagiarism. GRRR