Saturday, February 11, 2012

What Motivates You

I committed to writing a weekly blog post back in December 2009 and haven’t missed one yet.  Some weeks, actually many, I get to the weekend and have no idea what to write about.  My wife Shelley and iStock_000016027894XSmallwill kick blog titles around while drinking our morning coffees (she blogs weekly as well over here) until something resonates.  She came up with the idea to write about motivation today and I scooped it (she’s a sharing person).

mo·ti·va·tion /moh-tuh-vey-shuhn / noun

1. the act or an instance of motivating, or providing with a reason to act in a certain way. Synonyms: motive, inspiration, inducement, cause, impetus.

2. the state or condition of being motivated: We know that these students have strong motivation to learn.

Blogging for me is an outlet for my ideas.  My blog posts do not attract a lot of comments but my blog averages around 350-400 visitors from around the world with 1000-1400 page views per week.  This audience or readership definitely motivates me to write.  Having an audience makes me feel obligated to write regularly and with consistent quality, purpose, and depth.  If you read my blog regularly, you’ll find iStock_000008508482XSmallI tend to stick with topics involving technology, education, and the future but usually from a philosophical perspective.  I am a rather introspective person and like to think deeply about things, especially things that are bothering / worrying me, or that I’m super interested in or excited about.  It is really encouraging to receive direct emails from people saying how they enjoy my blogging.  Or, when I bump into people through my work or in a conference setting who want to meet me to tell me how much they enjoy my writing.  That is a motivator for sure.  Interestingly, in high school and college, I hated English and writing.  Fast forward to today, and I love it.  Obviously, the right motivators were not there during my formal education.  It was merely a means to an end.  How many students feel this same way?  Shouldn’t we be tapping into each students motivations to learn?  Isn’t that a key element of “personalized learning”?

Along with Chris Kennedy and Kris Magnusson, I was asked by Bruce Beairsto in December to keynote a session “Targeting Technology for Maximum Student Benefit” for the SFU Centre for Educational Leadership and Policy.  We invested time developing the theme, scenario, agenda package, and many many hours into designing and creating our own presentations.  There was no financial compensation for doing this.  I accepted this challenge for a few reasons:

  • an opportunity to speak to an important audience
  • an opportunity, an honour actually, to be asked to keynote with two leading BC educators (it was a little intimidating…)
  • the topic and the scenario is one I think, write, and talk about often and is a key focus area for my work
  • I enjoy public speaking, especially on topics I’m super interested in
  • I love to share stories of students and teachers undertaking interesting learning activities with educational technology

I will be facilitating a professional development session on social media for a group of principals and vice principals (PVP’s) in my school district this coming Friday.  Besides delivering some content about social media, we will focus primarily on the purpose for, mechanics of, and hands-on use of Twitter.  My hope from this session is that they will be motivated to commit to use Twitter in their professional practice.  If you’re interested, my unfinished Prezi that will guide the session is available here.  I hope each person will discover their own motivation to open white empty room with opened doorthe door of possibility by incorporating Twitter into their daily journey.  Many of us often say “Twitter is the best pro-d I’ve ever experienced”.  I hope for our PVP’s that they experience this for themselves.  Similarly, I would love to help our PVP’s become “life-long bloggers”.  I believe PVP’s can offer so much insight, knowledge, and experience to people through a professional blog.  Their voice is important.  Perhaps you’re a principal and you could offer and share your own experience and motivation for blogging and using Twitter.

Think about young people and gaming, sports, music, or just fun for a moment.  Generally speaking, do they need to be motivated by others to pursue their interests?  Not usually.  They take to things they are passionate about ‘like a duck to water’ (sorry, had to).  My point is, shouldn’t their schooling experience be personalized to their passions, to what motivates them?  I’m thinking more of the process, technique, or methods but also some of the content.  Educational content should be clearly purposeful and the relevance for kids made clear.  Another anecdote…  I used to see no point to history but it seems as I’ve grown older, history has become a fascination for me (The Future of History, Digital Immersive History Machine) and I really enjoy reading historical fiction as well.  I now see the point to learning from our past.

As educators and government officials in British Columbia discuss, debate, and speculate about the future of learning through the BC Education Plan, I hope motivation is a key element.  I do believe that some learning experiences should be “painful” (not necessarily enjoyable for the participant) as we humans seem to experience deep learning through difficult situations, “lessons learned”.  Also, there is a lot of content important to learn so as to be a productive contributing citizen that we may not choose as it isn’t interesting to us.  But, imagine for a moment a school experience for kids where, an arbitrary, 80% of their learning experiences were well aligned with what motivates them.  How might that improve student learning success, results on high stakes exams, their lifelong potential?  What motivates you?