Motivation by Dan Pink. A lesson for schools?

At this time of the school year in Australia, with holidays beckoning, motivation of our students is a hot topic. This is an interesting video of a TEDtalk about motivation. Dan Pink ,when looking at the puzzle that is motivation, starts with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think.  In fact, they are probably counter-productive.

What he basically goes on to say is that the extrinsic motivations (carrot and stick) approach often doesn’t work because they narrow the focus. They work best where there are clear guidelines and a single destination, simple tasks. In a world where creativity is needed you need more intrinsic motivation. So what does this mean for secondary education, where you want students to learn, to create, to analyse and make meaning for themselves, to develop their skills across the board and understand what works best for them.We often hear people talk about the world outside school where our young people will have to be problem-solving adults, where many jobs they will be asked to do are not yet created. What does this mean for schools in light of Dan Pink’s points? I would love to say that we are creating young people who do things because they matter, learn because they are interested in learning,  not just for some extrinsic reward (be it a certificate, gadgets,chocolate or other food forms), that we are, by example,  creating young men who do not ask “what is in it for me” before doing something. I’m not sure we are there yet. Motivation is an interesting concept. Have businesses got motivation wrong, and schools, that are increasing being held to business practices and standards, also?  This is an interesting talk that goes against many traditional thoughts and business and educational practice with regard to motivation.    

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Visual Blooms

As a discussion starter Mike Fisher, an instructional coach and education consultant, has created a great one. In a wiki called Visual Blooms he is trying to puts web2.0 resources into the Bloom’s Taxonomy structure. The resources are placed into the well-known categories of remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

Visual Blooms

BloomsVisual-remeberingFor example, Delicious, YouTube, StumbleUpon, Diigo and Google are placed on the Remembering page. He has started some discussion on the Creating page.  Tools such as Google Docs, when used to allow us to collaboratively create documents and/or presentations and VoiceThreadare placed in the Creating category. Wikis, used so that many can collaborate to synthesize the combined knowledge of about a topic on a shared website.
He then begins to discuss other tools eg. Picnik, which allows us to modify photos in many creative ways and the as well as YouTube as a creative tool.

There are many pages/places to fill in and you can do so by joining the wiki and adding you houghts. It certainly make you think about each of the tools. The Visual Bloomscould be an excellent resource for teachers to start to think about how they could best use the many tools available. We are a notebook school. We want our students to learn many different skills. A wiki like this, one that encourages discussion and collaboration, can help us find the most appropriate tool/s for our needs. When I look  at web resources I can see that many can be used in more than way and so don’t necessarily fit into just one of the categories in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

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Passionate learning

Yesterday, in a number of professional development sessions, we thought about and discussed ways to engage students with their learning.

In the video below, one of my favourite thinkers, Sir Ken Robinson talks about harnessing natural aptitudes and passions to get the best out of their learning opportunities. This does not always sit so easily with the traditional education systems.

Wordnik – more than a dictionary

Another Web 2.0 tool for those who are fascinated with words. This is a fascinating site as well and, be warned, you can become quite caught up in and forget the time. Wordnik

Wordnik offers an alternative to the more usual online dictionaries and thesaurus resources available. The site, is very new and still in beta, is built from existing sources and added to by contributors. So far it contains more than 1.7 million words. 


When a user searches a word using Wordnik it displays word definitions, pronunciations, synonyms, antonyms as well as their etymology. From the FAQ page, it states “Wordnik is based on the principle that people learn words best by seeing them in context.” (Not new to teachers that one!) The site goes about this in a number of ways. It pulls examples from novels and Twitter,as well as definitions from several dictionaries. Users can contribute example sentences, audio pronunciations and images from Flickr. This seems a simple thing, and, for instsnce, how better to explain a colour? The “related words” feature, which shows not only synonyms and antonyms, but other words that are used in a similar context, words that often show up in the same kinds of sentences.

This all means that it offers opportunities for users to gain a very good idea about a word, with different ways to approach information about how and when a word is used. I think that ESL (non-English speaking students) would find this a more useful tool than the traditional dictionaries.

Other interesting features include the word statistics that show you how Wordnik statisticsoften a word had been used throughout history and the opportunity to observe almost live reflections in blog posts and tweets.  Words are also presented in context of literary texts from various times, which allow you to see changes in style and use.

A post on the blog Inspirited Enterpriseoffers some information behind the development of Wordnik.

Wordnik is collaborative and the policy about words is an inclusive one and uses a broad definition about what is considered to be a “real word.”

If you’d like to contribute, you can sign up! Otherwise, it is worth a look and it will be interesting to see how it develops.

I am going to have more of a play to check out to see what ways it may be useful for the students at school.

Participatory Learning (with audio)

More discussion today about the learning that took place in the year 8 Immersion Week.

Speaking about learning this is an interesting slide show about how (or will)articipatory learning change the education landscape.

From a tweet tonight, Susan Carter Morgan sent information about an interesting slideshare presentation. It also took me to the blog of Bill Farren, a teacher who is passionate about education. His site is called Education for Well- being. His recent slideshow was about Participatory Learning.

View more presentations from ed4wb.

Useful Links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Learning styles: fad or useful?

 I found this video as I was going though information about learning styles.

In the video Professor Daniel Willingham describes research showing that learning styles are a myth. It is interesting to watch.

This was an interesting perspective. The concept of learning styles has been around a long time. This video made me go back and reflect on why I was going to have my students look at learning styles.

I thought I would use an on-line survey with my students and have them analyse the results. It was to be a starting point for some discussion about how they like to learn best. Not about one way but all the ways they find they it easier to learn and the things that they find more difficult. I want to encourage my students to “own” their learning and become active participants in their own education. I want them to understand what it is that they find difficult and how they might go about improving in those areas. The information about how they like to learn, how they believe they learn best and what they need to improve upon, will not only help them but also help me when I am preparing lessons and resources. I have always tried to offer several approaches to the lessons/resources I want students to learn from, with varying degrees of success. It is always useful to get student feedback on what worked/didn’t work but it would be better if it included a description of the why (from each student).

I believe most teachers do not set put to simply ‘cater’ to their students’ strongest learning styles. Most of the better teachers try build up their students weaker abilities(learning styles) whilst giving them an opportunity to demonstrate and refine their strengths. The best teachers provide a balanced learning environments. that challenge and support all(most)students.  

I found watching Dan Willingham’s video interesting because it challenged other, very pro-learning style, theorists. I am still going to have my students do the learning style survey along the lines I indicated above. I want them to gain insight into their own learning strengths and weaknesses, so they can improve in all aspects as well as appreciate that the differences, within the class of 24 learners, to create a better learning environment. From here it is a small step to understanding the potential for wider learning opportunities, beyond the classroom walls.

Iam going to look at Dan Willingham’s Teaching Content Is Teaching Reading video next. If the 1st video is anything to go by, then this should give me something to think about as well.