Category Archives: Student Engagement

The Science of Motiviation

photo (46)

 

 

How do you stay motivated to continue learning, doing assignments, and progressing as a lifelong learner?

 

“Humans, by their nature, seek purpose—to make a contribution and to be part of a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.” – Daniel Pink, Drive

 

Why is it then that many of us struggle to motivate ourselves?  What is the secret behind motivation and learning?  We cannot start to answer these questions without first defining motivation.

Wikipedia defines motivation as: “The driving force that causes the flux from desire to will in life.” Educational psychologists define motivation as, “…the processes that energize and give direction or purpose to behaviour (Wlodkowski, 1989).”  

 

In simple terms, I think motivation is the internal desire to complete a task one has imagined possible.  I clearly remember the night I decided to run my first ultramarathon.  It was New Year 2006.  I had been trail running for about a year, and could consistently run for a couple of hours on the trails without issue, but the Diez Vista was an altogether different challenge.  I would be required to run non-stop for over seven hours.  Where did the motivation come from to transition from running two hours on a Saturday morning with friends to running 50km?  Looking back there were six key elements to my motivation:

 

  • Plan/schedule – at the time I was running with friends who had developed a detailed training plan
  • Practice – every time I practiced, I felt stronger and moved a little closer to the goal
  • Confidence – after each training session I had inevitably run longer than I had ever done before, and with that my confidence and belief in myself increased.
  • Overcoming adversity – on our last training run which was scheduled to last about 7 hours.  I snapped the laces on my trail shoes and got lost.  The smaller group I was with turned a 7 hour training run into an 8.5 hour run. At that point i knew I could finish the race.
  • Support – I received and gave emotional support to ten friends for the four months we trained for the race.  I also received coaching, tactical, and nutritional support from my fellow runners.
  • Challenge – for the majority of the time I was training, I wasn’t entirely sure whether I could actually complete the race, and I believe this uncertainty was a driving force behind my motivation.

My mantra throughout my training was an inspiring quote I found in a running magazine in 2006:

Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else; it’s the ache in your lungs, the burning in your legs, & the voice inside you that yells, “Can’t!” But you don’t listen, you push harder. You hear the voice whisper “Can.” and you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are.” – unknown

 

Motivation and Life-Long In Education

When I think of my own motivation for lifelong learning it stems from a desire to master my craft.  I can see the educator I want to be.  I have a strong mental image of him.  I know exactly what he looks like, his educational pedagogy, how he interacts with his learners and his peers, and how he designs his learning experiences.

 

A recent Scientific American article titled, Three Critical Elements Sustain Motivation helped me to better understand how I maintain a love of learning, and what keeps me motivated through the process.

 

Self-determination

Motivation can manifest speedily when we feel like we are the captains of our own ship.  When we have a level of control over the direction of our learning, we are more likely to be motivated to move along the continuum to mastery.  The energy and enthusiasm applied to a given task increases significantly when one is given the freedom to approach a new learning experience in ways that best suits one’s own learning style.  Learner autonomy is important in this phase.  As Dirksen says, “You may be able to influence your learners, but you can’t control them.”

 

Purpose

When I compare the most successful learning experiences I have had with my learners with my own learning experiences I noticed that both events have a clear purpose for learning.  When I canvas my learners about learning that is most purposeful I often hear responses such as “Can I use it in real life?” and “Will this help me with…” In order to motive today’s learners the work they complete needs to have real life applications.  It has to be authentic and engaging.  More importantly, the work needs to be purposeful for the learner and not necessarily what the teacher thinks is purposeful.  The only way an educator can achieve this is to spend the necessary time to understand each of his/her learner’s needs.

 

Progress

Proficiency is equally important in the science of motivation.  To maintain motivation levels one needs to feel success on a regular basis.  Going back to my trail running experience for a moment – If I hadn’t see small gains in performance each week, then I’m sure my motivation levels would have dropped to the point that I would have discontinued my goal.  From a learner’s perspective I believe it is important for students to see and measure the progress they are making in order to maintain their motivation levels.  Video gaming is an excellent example of facilitating an ongoing level of progress to maintain motivation.  Gamers are constantly being provided with feedback on their performance.  This feedback enables them to see progress, and they can visualize their goal and maintain their motivation.

 

References:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/three-critical-elements-sustain-motivation/

http://www.personal.psu.edu/bxb11/m&g.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivation

Design For How People Learn, Julie Dirksen

Drive, Daniel Pink

Education: Behind The Noise Of The ’21st Century Learner’

In my #tiegrad class, I was recently asked to consider whether or not our current schools/teachers/curriculum are preparing students for the 21st century?

I think it’s fair to say that schools, teachers, and curriculum want to meet the needs of their learners regardless of the century they occupy.  They want to produce independent thinkers who contribute to society in positive ways, and learners who are encouraged to reach their full potential.

Are they doing enough?

Probably not, but it isn’t from lack of trying.  Everyday I am surrounded by deeply passionate educators, who deliver curriculum in meaningful and innovative ways, work hard towards building robust relationships with students, in districts who desperately want to see successful children arriving at school doors every morning.

In order for curriculum to meet the needs of its learners it cannot be revised every 4+ years.  It’s in the area of curriculum where I find educators excel, and the work they do is sometimes under appreciated.  They have become extremely skilled at using curriculum as a guide before tweaking, contorting, and manipulating its content to make it relevant for their learners.  I don’t know a single teacher who isn’t working their socks off at making curriculum relevant.  It might not follow current ‘trends’ in education but who’s to say that it’s not meaningful to the group it’s being shared with.

By now it is unquestionable that our current education system was designed for a different era, and needs an overhaul.  Learners grouped by age instead of interest/ability, sat in desks for the majority of the day, learning a compartmentalized curriculum, and primarily focused on individual success and recognition.  The world is moving in a different direction and education is in danger of being left behind.  If our current education system operated in the business world, then it would have folded long ago.  In its defense, there isn’t the kind of money allotted to make the kind of sweeping changes that occur often in the corporate world.  Schools are asked to do more with less and strain is clear to see.  When high schools are so overpopulated that PE teachers are required to conduct their lessons in the hallways then there is an obvious problem.  Perhaps there are too many individual groups (Ministry of Education, school boards, school districts, DPACS, principals, parents, union, and teachers) within the system trying to advocate for their own methods of reform, that it is difficult to hear the message through the noise.  The British Columbia Ministry of Education is in the process of revising its curriculum through its much-touted BC Education Plan. Will it be enough?  Only time will tell whether it will support those asked to convey its new vision of a changing world and changing learner.  I agree with the BC Education Plan’s message that student’s need to be at the center of their learning.  In fact, the more I read about student centered learning from the likes of Angela Maiers’s The Passion Driven Classroom, Will Richardson’s Why School, and Daniel Pink’s Drive, the more I realize the importance of learner choice in education.  Learners need time in their weekly schedule to find their passions and follow their own learning path.  I particularly enjoyed watching Shelley Wright’s TED Talk about the power of student learning.  In it she talks about a pedagogical awaking under the guidance of Alex Couros.

“For the first time I began to realize that maybe my students could construct their learning.  That learning is constructed in community, and that maybe they would be the centre of it, maybe they would have something to say about it.…”  Shelley Wright.

Student centered learning promotes lifelong learning, stimulates creativity, fosters a healthy sense of inquiry, and leads to increased engagement in the subject matter.

As I continue to shape and reshape my own pedagogy through the experiences I have at school, my own lifelong learning, and the professional networks I have developed, I have come to realize certain facts about learners in the 21st Century.  I know that curriculum needs to be relevant and meaningful to its users.  I know that learners need time to follow paths of inquiry, and be encouraged to take risks. I know that the social and emotional needs of my students need to be met before any learning can take place, and there is a unhealthy fear of failure in our schools.  Most importantly, a robust, flexible, and rigorous public education system is more important than ever.

Does Design Thinking Have A Place In Education?

Design Cycle_Design Thinking for Education (1)

 

 

In my latest #tiegrad course I have been tasked with better understanding design thinking, and to consider whether it could play a relevant part in my own instructional design process.  I wanted to share my initial findings as I seek a deeper understanding of the process.

If empathy, interpreting, imagining, planning, and testing are the principles of design thinking, then it is remarkably akin to the assessment cycle used in education.  They are both user centered, continuous, and intentional.  Perhaps design thinking is the new assessment cycle?  Regardless of your thoughts of the process of creating engaging, authentic, and relevant instruction in your classroom, I believe design thinking has a place in our education system, classrooms, and schools.

If “Design has a set of tools and methods that can guide people to new solutions.” (Nussbaum, 2009) and mainstream public-school education in Canada is having difficulty understanding the needs of the latest entrants into its system, then surely we can borrow some ideas from design thinking to inspire a new generation of learner.

I will be the first to admit that I struggle to consistently design learning experiences, which engage all my students.  I struggle with student apathy towards education, and I seem to focus so much of my day developing and maintaining relationships, understanding my learners, and meeting their socio-emotional needs that my current assessment practices need redesigning.  Can the design thinking cycle help?  I’m not sure yet, but I am certain that more time I spend with my learners working towards authentic, real life learning experiences the more engaged my class is, and the more satisfied I feel.

I see design thinking working across the curriculum.  In social studies, design thinking is idea for addressing many social justice issues such as hunger, education, poverty, and unclean water.  These global issues need a new approach and  creative solutions.  The collaborative nature and user-centered approach of design thinking can help.  This PBS documentary shows design thinking at work by highlight the work done by Stanford University’s Institute of Design (aka the d.school) students who created products that may save thousands of lives in Bangladesh, Indonesia and other developing countries they visited.

Teaching Students Design Thinking?

In contrast to the benefits of design thinking as a teaching tool in education, I enjoyed reading Debbie Morrison’s blog posting Why ‘Design Thinking’ Doesn’t Work in Education.  As an elementary school teacher working in an inner-city school with a disproportionately high number of at-risk students, I fully agree with her argument that design thinking has a place in instructional design but not in student curriculum.  She argues that design thinking, “… requires one to think of a problem from unconventional, even unlikely perspectives…”  and could be too complex for our k-12 education system.  My students do not have the school experience or life experience to deal with such abstract thinking.  Morrison further states that our current learners

“…have the creative confidence knocked out of them at an early age and little attention paid to developing their creative thinking skills thereafter. Any design thinking process would be greatly enhanced by people who have had the opportunity to hone their creative fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration.”

My learners are concrete learners.  How do we teach creative fluency, flexibility, and originality, when these qualities may not be supported/valued at home?

 

Conversations In Ed Series #1: Advocating For Co-Ed Sports Teams:

 

 

This post is the start of a series of postings which are designed to create conversations on a variety of educational topics. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.

I have been thinking about this topic for a couple of years, because I have yet to hear valid reasons for segregated our students when they play on school sports teams?  Is it really necessary to separate girls and boys for team sports, at the elementary level?

Developing co-ed sports teams at the upper elementary level can create more harmonious classroom relationships between girls and boys, and may even lead to a deeper sense of gender equality later in life.  Those that play together learn to live together. I have often been dismayed by the lack of respect boys and girls show each on the playground, occasionally in the classroom, and frequently on the field of play. These offences are usually gross-generalizations passed down through generations. I have lost count how many times I have heard these quiet murmurings on and around the soccer, “They are just girls,” “We should score lots of goals today, they have girls on their team,” “You can’t skip with us you’re a boy.”

I have heard the argument that the physical differences between boys and girls should be reason enough to separate them, but I disagree.  In my experience, boys and girls aged 10, 11, and 12 (the age which students in my school district typically join sports teams) are very similar in bodyweight and height. Sure, there are times when the opposition towers over my smallest boys and girls, but they know its safe to play and nobody will intentionally hurt them.

Playing on co-ed teams teaches children to be more socially responsible.  One of our school’s goals is social responsibility. We learn social responsibly in different ways throughout the day, and one way is through play. What better way is there to learn these skills, in a truly authentic way? The power of a great play between a boy and girl on the soccer field cannot be understated, especially when that moment of mutual respect is later transferred to the classroom in terms of working together in harmony. I would even go so far as to say that later in life that single moment could lead to a deeper sense of gender equality.

Our schools should mirror society’s move towards greater gender equality.  We don’t have public schools for boys and public schools for girls in British Columbia.  In fact, we activity encourage our students to work in mixed gender groups in the classroom, so why not on the sports field?  Working and playing with the opposite sex is a skill and a necessity in life.  The sooner we close the gap by developing co-ed teams at the elementary level the better.

Is it really necessary to separate girls and boys for team sports, at the elementary level?  Co-ed teams foster a sense of mutual respect, they teach social responsibility, and they mirror what happens naturally in the classroom.

Further reading on gender bias’ in education:

View of single sex public education:

Two Ways To Engage In Creative Writing

 

1. The Progressive Story Project:  My teaching partner, @missbartel, stumbled upon this project last year.  Both our grade 5/6 classes participated with enthusiasm in the spring, and engagement levels were high throughout.  The Progressive Story Project was developed by Karen Ditzler, an instructional technology specialist, from Pennsylvania USA.  Groups of 5 classes, in schools around the world, work together to write a complete story.  Here’s how the project works:

  • The first class brainstorms and writes the intro paragraph(s).
  • Then the next class reads the paragraph(s), brainstorms and decides how they want to continue the story.
  • This will continue until the last class on the list writes the ending and gives the story a title.
  • Classes can edit their section of the story on the Wiki.
  • Once your class has finished the writing part, students can choose scenes to illustrate from their writing.
  • Once all illustrations have been submitted, a VoiceThread is created of the entire story.
This is a link to the story my grade 5/6 class created last spring.

 

2. QuadBlogging:  The primary goal of QuadBlogging is to increase the flow of traffic to a class blog or a number of student blogs in a particular class.  The project creates opportunities for classes, in different school across the globe, to develop their blogging and commenting skills.  If you are familiar with the Twitter hashtag #comment4kids, then QuadBlogging achieves a similar outcome but in a more formal way.  Here’s how the project works:

  • School A becomes the focus school for an entire school week
  • Schools B, C, D spend the week visiting school A’s blog(s), leaving comments and interacting with the content of the blog(s)
  • In the second week of the project, school B becomes the focus school
  • Schools A, C, D spend the week visiting school B’s blog(s), leaving comments and interacting with the content of the blog(s)
  • During the third week of the project, school C becomes the focus school for the week
  • Schools A, B, D spend the week visiting school C’s blog(s), leaving comments and interacting with the content of the blog(s)
  • The cycle continues until all schools have had the opportunity to be the focus school.
If you are aware of other ongoing projects, which attempt to connect teachers and students across the globe please feel free to add a link and the title of the project in the comment section below.

21st Century Professional Development: Edcamp Fraser Valley

If you are a new teacher, veteran teacher, parent, student, administrator, or hold a job directly/indirectly related to the education profession, edcamps offer an alternative to traditional professional development opportunities.

Edcamps are modelled after Barcamps.  Barcamps are user-generated conferences hosted by programmers, open-source developers, and techno-geeks, and are designed to develop new skills, share best practices and maintain an open dialogue about the development of the computer industry.  Edcamp was started by a group of dedicated educators, in Philadelphia, USA who saw a need to improve traditional professional development, and who saw the opportunity, and need, for an unconference model in education.

Edcamps are now offered in every major city in North America as well as England and other countries in Europe.  This December an edcamp, Edcamp Fraser Valley (edcampfv), is being offered close to where I teach and I’m excited to be part of it.  Chris Wejr organized Edcampfv with help from David Wees and Grant Frend and a  small group of volunteers.  Here are the details:

What is the format of an Edcamp?:

Edcamps try to capture the best features of traditional professional workshops, which tends to be the conversations that pop up in the workshop itself, or the conversations between educators at lunch or between sessions.  With that in mind, an edcamp can best be described as a gathering of individuals with strong interests in the field of education with the intention of exchanging ideas, sharing their experiences, and learning from others in a hierarchy free setting.  Everyone has a voice in an Edcamp!  There are no expensive keynote speakers, no preset workshops, and no cost.

On the morning of the event, all attendees have the option to lead a discussion by placing their name and the topic of their discussion on a large board for all attendees to view.  Once all discussion topics have been displayed, attends vote on which discussions they would like to contribute to and attended.  Once the discussion begins, others are actively encouraged to contribute and share their experiences in order to maintain or move the discussion forward in way that the groups sees fit.  Best of all, if the discussion doesn’t suit your needs, just move to the next one.  No one will judge you to be impolite.

Who can attend?:

Anyone with strong interest in the education professional.  For example, teachers, support staff, administrators, school board employees, parents, students, etc…

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/16592733 w=640&h=360]

TED Talks for Kids in B.C.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo24PmD9eic&w=640&h=390]

As an elementary educator who encourages student involvement in many aspects of the education system, not just in the classroom, I am incredibly excited about the  independent TED event coming to Vancouver in September of this year.  TEDxKids BC is scheduled for Saturday September 17th, 2011 in Vancouver and will showcase student achievement and celebrate empowerment of students in our education system.  In a similar fashion to the larger and more prestigious TED Talks, TEDxKids BC showcases ordinary students and allows them a platform to share their experiences and inspire others to follow their dreams.

The organizers of TEDxKids BC are still looking for awe-inspiring kids who meet some of the following requirements:

  • Someone who has created a project that has made other people take notice and say: “Wow — what an amazing thing to do!”
  • Perhaps a kid who has helped others without thinking of him or herself — someone who just jumped in to lend a helping hand — and then perhaps the project grew and others liked the idea so much, that they too wanted to get involved.
  • Or maybe a speaker has a talent that they would like to share. They could tell the audience about how they developed this talent — or the effect they see in others when they perform.
If you can have a student in your class already, or know of a student that would fit well into some of the categories above, and would like to nominate himher then please fill out the this form.
You can also follow and promote TEDxKids BC through the following social media sites:

Tech Integration Post #8 of 10: Live Streaming

This post was inspired by @gcouros and Forest Green School in Alberta.

Broadcasting live feeds to the Internet, or live streaming as it’s known, and allowing other students and professionals to watch events is guaranteed to increase engagement levels in your classroom, tenfold. There are many Internet broadcasting options available completely free of charge. Here’s a short list:

1. USTREAM
2. Livestream
3. Veetle
4. Freedocast

I like to use Livestream because it allows broadcasts to be streamed with increased quality when using the Procaster rather than the online webcast option. Livestream like many of the above has its downfalls.  Perhaps the most frustrating of these downfalls are the advertisements which pop up at the most inopportune times.  If you streams are fairly short you may gat away with it but if you stream live for any length of time you have to deal with the advertisements.  The free version of Livstream doesn’t allow you to transmit HD quality images even if you have a HD webcam which is somewhat disappointing, but I’ve learned to live with it.  I’m sure you will too.

This term, I’ve used Livestream in the following ways:

1. Present a weekly student news broadcast once a week: CETV News

    • You can follow the broadcasts live at 1pm PST on Friday’s here
    • I have a small broadcast-journalism news team of 5:
      • 1 technician, 2 newsreader’s, 1 script writing, and 1 researcher
    • On Monday morning I allow the researcher to research 5 segments including international, national, community, school, and sports news stories
    • Once the news stories have been identified, the researcher fills out a Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How table
    • On Tuesday and Wednesday the script writer uses the above table and adds his/her own unique touch to the stories.  It’s important to use a script writer who is comfortable using powerful language.  The script writer hands the final script to both newsreader’s by Thursday at recess.
    • This enables the newsreader’s to practice pronunciation and fluency in preparation for the broadcast the following day
    • During the broadcast we use hand signals which encourage the newsreader’s to slow down, speed up, smile, and speak louder. The cycle repeats itself again on Monday
    • Student engagement is high with this activity, and the fact that the broadcast may be viewed by anyone with the link means there is an increased level of professionalism from all involved.

2. Streamed live presentations of political candidates in the electoral riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon

    • To coincide with the Canadian General Election which took place on May 2nd, 2011 my teaching partner and I invited all 6 electoral candidates for our riding into school to present to our grade 5/6 classes
    • The plan was to have candidates deliver a kid-friendly synopsis of their party platform to our students, and our students would then vote at the end of the week.
    • After further consideration we decided to invite other schools in our district to join us in the voting process.
    • Livestream enabled us to stream the presentations live to eight elementary schools in our district.  The live presentations offered an additional sense of authenticity for students, and resulted in a higher voter turn out.
    • Presentations can be view here: Central Election
I experienced several challenges along the way, but I persevered and was pleased by the end results.  It is critical to hardwire to the network rather than use a wireless connection when streaming.  We found that it is best to stream in a room as small as possible to get the best audio results.  I also found it was better to use the microphone built into the webcam rather the microphone built into my computer.  Finally, it extremely helpful to conduct several tests before going live to ensure audio levels and video quality were optimum.
If you plan to try this please feel free to contact me for help if needed.

Tech Integration Post #7 0f 10: Using Voki’s in Social Studies

After covering The United Nations, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and The Convention of the Rights Of The Child in our social studies classes this term, I successfully used Voki’s with my students to demonstrate their knowledge.

Here’s an outline of what I had them do:

Assignment Steps:

  1. Visit www.voki.com
  2. Click on the create button in the top left hand corner
  3. Next, customize your character by gender, hairstyle, and clothing
  4. Once you are happy with your character click done
  5. Now it’s time to add the voice of your character.  I would like you to make your character talk about important points you have recently learned about the United Nations
  6. You can either record your own voice or use the text to speech box.
  7. Once you’ve selected an appropriate voice for your character click done
  8. You can now publish your work – click publish
  9. You will be prompted to name your work: Use firstname and UN in capitals
  10. If you have not already created an account you will need to do so now – use your @mrlister.co.cc email address and DO NOT use your last name
  11. Once registered choose medium sized voki
  12. Copy all the text in the box labelled “For Most Sites Use This Code”
  13. Once you have the code for your Voki visit the following Google Document and paste your code under your name – http://bit.ly/hsohIT

Student engagement levels were particularly high during this assignment and I received some thoughtful responses.  Here’s an example…

 

AC_Voki_Embed(200,267,”40fb56fdc05aa7ceb3bed7e9b22763a8″,3150442, 1, “”, 0);
Get a Voki now!