Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fueling Motivation with Purpose and Passion

photo credit: <a href="">Stuck in Customs</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

We all like to see students motivated and inspired to learn. We've all worked with students when they truly seem to be in the 'zone', craving to increasing their knowledge and skills. They are a pleasure to work with when they're taking initiative, asking great questions and diving deeper into their learning. Unfortunately, the reality is students aren't always in the 'zone' and we find ourselves asking what we need to do to motivate our students. Undoubtedly we play a significant role in student motivation, but the question is...what role? As adults, is it our responsibility to motivate and inspire our students? Or, is it our responsibility to help students develop their own motivation and inspiration?

On the surface, these may sound like subtle differences in language but when you think about this distinction a little more, you start to realize that they speak to different philosophies. The educator who believes it is his/her responsibility to motivate students often falls back on 'carrots and sticks' in an attempt to motivate. (S)he views motivation as something that is done to kids. Dangling the reward of marks and threatening to punish with late marks and zeros are two of the more common strategies. Both strategies focus on extrinsic motivators, where the teacher assumes the role of the motivator who initiates the process of motivating a student who is passively waiting to be motivated.  

And then there are others who believe in the power of intrinsic motivation and help their students fuel their own motivation.  They believe that enduring motivation comes from within oneself. These teachers lead students to explore answers to real-life questions, create solutions to authentic problems in the world and help students uncover areas of interest.  They want students to see purpose and develop passion towards their learning. They create the conditions where student learning is personalized, meaningful and seamlessly connected to their experiences outside of school. They want students to drive their learning, own their learning and be inspired to make a difference.

The interviews below feature students sharing their thoughts on learning opportunities fuelled by purpose and passion. The first student discusses how her desire to help others led her to voluntarily initiate a shoe drive through Soles 4 Soles.

These students describe how their participation in Composition and Technology has enabled them to further explore their passion for music.

One point that's made clear by these three students is that 'marks' and 'grades' are not contributing to their motivation. They are clearly inspired by purpose and motivated by passion!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

"You don't know what you don't know!" It's a funny saying yet very true. Think how often someone suggests something new to you that they've been doing for quite sometime but yet you've never heard of. We truly don't know all that is out there. Sometimes other people's suggestions sound interesting, other times not so much. But the better question is, despite whether or not you find a friend or colleague's suggestions interesting, how often do you pursue the idea? And what inspires you to follow up on an suggestion? Are you the type of person who is naturally open to new ideas or skeptical of why you should try something different?

I consider myself an open person who will always hear out others' ideas but when a colleague suggested to me that I sign up for a Twitter account, I admit some question marks flowed through my mind. Twitter? Isn't that for celebrities? What could I possibly find there that would benefit my practice as an educator? 

Now, I'm not trying to toot my own horn but I've always considered myself to be a pretty good educator. As a teacher, I took time to reflect on my students' learning. What do I want my students to learn? How will I know if they've learned it? What will I do if they haven't learned it?  I constantly searched for creative ways to scaffold my students' learning. I tried to present information more clearly, improve the clarity of my instructions, tidy up my handouts and worksheets and modify activities to better support my students' learning. And I've always taken pride in being a learner. I was doing 'some' professional reading and attended workshops and conferences when they were recommended to me by others. So considering I was already learning, why would it be so important to get 'connected'? Seriously, how much could I really have been missing?

photo credit: <a href="">cbucky</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Fast forward to October 2010 when I signed up for a Twitter account, and opened myself up to a whole new world of professional learning. All I can say is 'WOW'! Immediately, I became aware of other educators, both locally and globally who were connecting with each other to share, discuss, support and critique one another's work and thinking. I realized that there are people out there who are talking about and proposing new ideas for teaching and learning. Inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, Web 2.0, iPad apps, mobile devices, BYOD, assessment for learning, etc. The list of ideas is endless. More importantly, these ideas signalled to me that educators are talking about a new paradigm of teaching of learning.

Sadly, what dawned on me is that as hard as I had once worked as a teacher, I had restricted myself by my own educational paradigm. I had been stuck within a paradigm of 'coverage' and in hindsight I realize that all of the improvements I had made were incremental at best. Now, thanks in large part to my Personal Learning Network, I view teaching and learning through a new paradigm...a paradigm of 'inquiry'. (more on this in a future post!)

More than anything, I now find myself inspired! I would never have anticipated how much my shift to becoming a 'connected' learner would change my understanding and perspective about education. Social media has helped accelerate my discovery and consumption of information and ideas many times over what I would have previously accessed through books and magazines. Add to this the fact that I am now having conversations with others worldwide about what I'm discovering and what they're sharing with me and I can't see a way to possibly replace the amount and depth of learning I'm immersed in. I used to view connecting with my PLN or writing a blog post as an added extra at the end of an already full day. Now, I can admit I look forward to connecting with my PLN on a daily basis, sometimes as the recipient of other peoples' thinking and other times to share my own thinking.

We can only strive for what we can envision. What we can envision is limited by the paradigm we know. And we construct our paradigm from the ideas and experiences that we expose ourselves to! "We don't know what we don't know!"

So, I encourage you to take the bold step of creating a PLN and begin connecting with other passionate educators from around the world. I'll guarantee you'll see there is a world of learning out there that you didn't know!