Your Students Aren’t Motivated Because They’re Bored!!

Wooden weathered texture

A recurring theme this week, both at work and as I’ve perused Twitter, has been the lack of motivation students have for learning. Yet when we look at the learning experiences these unmotivated students are often relegated to sitting through, such as day after day of the same instructional technique, often one centered around the teacher, the problem isn’t motivation. It’s that they’re bored. I’d be bored too if I had to sit through the same thing day, after day, after day, after day…

Often the lack of motivation observed in the classroom is directly related to the level of engagement students have in the learning experience. If all we’re doing is repeating what the book or the teacher just said, why should we be motivated? Why should we care? I wouldn’t. So next time you think your students aren’t motivated, ask yourself, what kind of thinking are they doing and would you be motivated to learn? Would you be bored?

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/93965857@N07/11222851433/

Being Participatory: An Impromptu Twitter Chat

Held Her Breath And Hoped To Survive Until Daybreak

I’m generally a shy person and very much an introvert. Yet, I decided to enter a profession where I need to be outgoing all day long as I work with learners of all ages. Over time, I’ve accepted and don’t have a problem speaking up in most social settings. Most. Twitter has been one of those mediums where I’ve been less comfortable with interacting with others. I seem to have gotten more comfortable and I didn’t really notice it until tonight when I joined a Twitter chat very unexpectedly. While waiting for my daughter to finally go to sleep (she’s still awake by the way), I opened up Twitter to check things out. Most of the time I’m a lurker. I don’t get too involved, mainly because I don’t have a lot of time to contribute. But I saw a tweet in my feed with the hashtag #1to1techat and decided to check it out and was in luck that they were still actively engaging in their Twitter chat. I lurked for a couple minutes just to see what was going on and then I quickly found myself shooting out a few tweets in the last minutes of the chat.

I’m sharing my experience not because I want to out my social awkwardness, but because too often we don’t engage through social media even though we have a lot to contribute. This has happened to me and a lot of very eloquent educators I know who don’t want to engage for a number of reasons. Yet, as we lurk, we have opinions on the conversations taking place without us. We aren’t using our voice and our contributions that can help deepen everyone’s knowledge never reach the engaged, captivated audience in Twitter. I didn’t really notice, or maybe believe, this until tonight when I spent just a few minutes participating in the Twitter chat. I sent out only a few tweets, yet a number of people retweeted, replied, and favorited some of my tweets. I don’t feel like I said anything too revolutionary, but it apparently was valuable to some people, which makes me think I assisted in their learning. And that’s what makes social media powerful. It’s the interactions you have with other people. While tonight I only engaged in a small way and my knowledge and skills likely didn’t change all that much, although I do think they changed, I helped contribute to the learning of others. All because I participated and it’s entirely possible that the next time I participate I’ll get to a deeper level of interaction with my Twitter colleagues and my knowledge will in fact expand into new arenas and in different ways.

So next time you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, check out Twitter and see what’s happening. Participate. Send out some tweets in response to what others are saying. It may feel awkward. It may even be a little uncomfortable. But you get used to it and nothing makes you feel better than when someone validates something you’ve said. Because just maybe, you helped then learn something and in the process, you learned something too.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11248435@N04/8163873467/

“Boring PD”…My #ITEC14 Takeaway

boredI recently attended ITEC, which is Iowa’s big ed tech conference held every year in October. I’ve enjoyed going to ITEC over the years and always walk away with something new. This year my focus was on all sessions related to professional development, although I admit I went to a great session on how a middle school teacher in Bettendorf, IA is doing real project-based learning. In general though, I went to sessions that looked at professional development and how to make it better. At one point someone tweeted, advocating for the use of social media as a professional development experience, that if you aren’t engaging in social media then you aren’t pushing yourself as an educator. After some back and forth the issue that “Boring PD” was insufficient to meet the demands of learners and society arose.

While engaging in social media is a great professional growth experience I believe more teachers should engage in, since it helps us get outside our comfort zone, I don’t consider it all that much different than attending conferences. Instead of engaging with people in a room we engage with people across Twitter on topics we care about. While this will, to a degree, lead to change in the educator and in a more convenient and cost friendly way, our growth as a teacher is much more multi-faceted than spending a few hours a week on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Great ideas are great…as long as they are implemented. Otherwise, it’s just an idea.

This brings me back to “Boring PD.” We often waste, ignore the opportunities that are available to us for professional growth. Weekly, bi-monthly, and monthly PD shouldn’t be an experience those being served by it feel is boring. I can’t think of a better time for growth than when a group of educators are together to start talking about how we’ve implemented our curriculum, how we can make it better, and then start designing the instruction to make it better. How many times have you experienced this at your school? Your college? Your university? Only on rare occasions have I been engaged in such an experience that led to the development of new instruction for my class or practice. Why don’t we do this more?I get that there are practical issues that we have to discuss, especially in K12 education. Yet, how many of these issues that effect student learning everyday could be resolved if we created more engaging instruction where students are doing more than passively getting by in class, hoping that they won’t be called upon to contribute?

Will there likely be meetings we have to attend that we’d rather not? Yes. Can we change the structured learning opportunities for teachers so that they are more dynamic, more engaging, more productive so that student learning can improve? Yes. We just have to want it enough that we advocate for it, which means that we take the leadership to make it happen. Social media is one cog in our professional growth wheel. There are other factors that make us better teacher, some we know and some we don’t, some we control and some we don’t. Growing as a teacher is complicated, which is probably why we often are unsure of how to go about doing it better. Social media isn’t the answer in and of itself. It’s a small part of a larger system, which means that if we want to grow and see growth in our students, then we need to make professional development not boring. We need to make better use of the time that we have with other educators so that we talk about what’s working and what’s not, how we might improve it, and then create the instruction that leads to better student learning.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/22646823@N08/3070394453/

A Short Hiatus

Mind the Gap

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I hadn’t thought about it until late last night as I was getting ready for bed and noticed that I couldn’t remember when I blogged last. So I checked this morning and my last post was back in May, which is a bit too long in my opinion. So what have I been doing since then? Well, probably the biggest thing, which consequently is why I haven’t been blogging, is that I’ve been working on my dissertation. In January I started getting serious about figuring out what exactly I wanted to do and about April I started putting the pieces together. I’m not overly surprised that I haven’t blogged much, since most of my time over the summer was spent writing and getting ready to do my study. Although I’m not done with my dissertation and likely won’t be early next spring, I thought while I have a little bit of time between now and December that I’d start blogging again.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/66206547@N00/8466829513/

Apollo 13 Follow Up

Silver Franklin Mint Apollo 13 (reverse) 1970

Yesterday I tried the Apollo 13 activity in my Ed Tech and Design course. It didn’t go exactly as planned, but this was extra so it wasn’t really my priority. After reviewing the expectations and deadlines for all the final projects for the course, only two students had everything done and we able to participate. So Anna and Kelli were my guinea pigs. With only one group doing this I’m not able to see how they applied their knowledge and skills differently, which would have been interesting, but I was able to glean some insights from their final product.

Setting the Stage:

I first wanted to know if they knew anything about Apollo 13 either the movie or real life and neither were super familiar with it so after quickly and briefly reviewing what happened to set the context, we watched this short clip to set the stage for what they had to do. Then I gave them the task.

The Task:

  • Teach me how to use social media with children using PowerPoint
  • You have the rest of this class period to get it done (About 40 minutes)
  • Caveat: It has to be standalone once it starts

The Result:

After they had their task, I sent them on their way and didn’t talk to them until the end of class. You can view their final product here. (Shared with their permission)

My Thoughts:

What I liked about this activity separate from how I implemented it was that it allows the learner to have control of what they cover and how they cover it. For example, I wanted them to teach about using social media, yet I didn’t define what that meant. They came up with Twitter and using it in a 3rd grade context. Specifically to their project, I liked how they took a process approach to using Twitter. I also liked how they used other websites in their instruction. Rather than creating a lot of different slides to explain how to sign up for Twitter, they send the viewer to other resources to get that information. I also liked the cybercitizenry aspect to their product. There were numerous references to how to stay safe, what information to keep private, and how it will be used.

What I wished we could have done is have multiple groups try this. I’m interested how students would take different directions with the task. I do have one more day so perhaps I’ll give this a try tomorrow, but I’m still trying to decide. I also wish we could have had a discussion around what they came up with. I’d have the students in the class try to determine what Anna and Kelli were trying to do.

As I conclude my reflection, what I like about this project is that it’s simple and so is the product. Sure it could have been more complicated, but it didn’t need to be and given the time constraints it couldn’t be. As I think about the knowledge and skills teachers, especially new ones, need when it comes to the use of educational technologies, having the skill to generate products like these are critical to making larger, more impactful projects happen. Perhaps the goal of something like this is to be a self-paced resource for students to use as they connect with people from around the world to discuss and improve the lives of others in their local communities. This isn’t the main event, but it’s helpful getting there.

 

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

#UNIETD Post 4: Apollo 13 Problem

I came across an article written by Punya Mishra and Matt Koehler about first day activities called Apollo 13 activities. The idea behind these activities is that on the first day rather than reviewing the syllabus, policies, etc., students are actually engaged in course content and begin to experience how the course will be taught. I’m super intrigued by these types of projects, because they are pretty short and get at finding multiple solutions to problems we face.

Although it’s not the end of the semester, I’m going to give this a try in my Educational Technology and Design course. This is our last week of the course and I have a small group of students who have completed everything for the course. So what I’m going to do with them while everyone else finishes up their final assignments, is to have them complete an Apollo 13 activity of my own. I didn’t get super creative with this one, but I wanted to be somewhat safe in my first attempt. So here’s the plan:

We’ll begin by watching this video:

Then in small groups of 2-3 students will do the following task:

  • Teach me how to use social media with children using PowerPoint
  • You have the rest of this class period to get it done
  • Caveat: It has to be standalone once it starts

I had thought about doing something a little more innovative than PowerPoint, but my goal isn’t teaching them an innovative technology. I’m more interested that they experience problem-based learning, especially within a somewhat time restrained environment. I also didn’t want the technology to be a barrier and with PowerPoint I felt that would be a nice medium for keeping the process simple, yet allowing for multiple paths. We really do have limited time in class to do this, because we meet today and Friday and I’m not grading this so it can’t be homework, nor should it be in my opinion. And following the guidance of Mishra and Koehler, I wanted to avoid junky presentations so students will have to make this a standalone product once it starts. I’m not sure how this will go, but I have high hopes. I’ll be sure to share some samples.

To learn more about the activities, read the linked article above.

#UNIETD Post 3: The Power of Authenticity

Today I was observing preservice teachers at a local elementary school and all of them were creating digital stories with small groups of elementary students. As I was wandering around taking field notes, one group caught my attention, so I followed along. This group of students were trying to find elementary students and teachers to interview about pit bulls and what they thought about them. As they moved about the school talking with students and teachers, one teacher they approached explained that he wouldn’t be a very good person to interview, because he doesn’t really know much about dogs. He suggested talking with someone who might be more reliable and turned it back to the students to figure out who to call. This is where it got fun.

While the students were working, their preservice teacher was doing a great job of letting them have the freedom to take charge of the project. She had given up control to her elementary students. I was curious, though, how this was going to go now that the elementary school teacher had thrown the elementary students for a loop. What happened next is exactly what I hoped. The students with minimal direction from their preservice teacher, started talking as a group about how they could find a reliable source. One suggested calling a veterinarian or the human society. One student pulled out a chrome book and another used the preserve teacher’s iPad to start looking up emails, but then a student took it to the next level and advocated for a position. She thought it would be best to call and talk with someone. This took some convincing, both with the other students and with the preservice teacher. The preservice teacher was more concerned with how they would capture the conversation, while the students were more unsure about what to say.

The students again took charge, came up with a way to capture the conversation on the iPad using a voice recording app and they came up with the questions. A few minutes later they were on the phone talking with a representative from the local humane society. The excitement, and anxiousness, of the preservice teacher and her students was great. There was no guarantee it would work, but they all went with it and it went perfectly. I’m excited to see the final product from this group as they head into the next week and a half.

This gets at a deeper issue though. How often are we pushing back on our students to figure out their own problems and to use real, authentic, reliable sources? I know I try my best, but as a colleague of mine would say of herself, I’m a helper. I like to help people figure things out. This is a reminder of how I need to continue to take a step back and let students take control of their learning. I’m not helping by helping, because I’m not going to be there once they leave my classroom and become the teacher in the school. This applies to my work with experienced educators too. I can’t be everywhere, so I need to make sure I set up my learners to be able to make those decisions by themselves. That’s the only way we’re going to see change. Just like Dori says to Marlin, “It’s time to let go.”