Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Digital inspirations for the young and not so young: motivating learners, motivating teachers

This was the title of the opening plenary at this year's VUS-TESOL conference, presented by Heather Barikmo and Marcus Artigliere.  What follows is a summary of what they had to say.

They addressed these two questions:
  • What is motivation?
  • How can current instructional technology shape motivation for both teachers and learners?
External versus intrinsic motivation

We have to consider both external motivation (the expectations laid down by the principal resources available) and intrinsic motivation (our own sense of curiosity and willingness to try new things).

Teachers give up on new technology more quickly if they are only subject to external motivation.  The desire to use new technology has to come from within the teacher.  The presence of the technology alone is not enough to motivate us.

Constructivist education

This is the idea that learners ultimately construct their own knowledge.  It is all about situated learning - that is, learning which is context related.

As teachers, we don't often use technology to construct learning - we tend to use it just as a tool.  It is often hard for us to change the way we teach to digital natives.


How and why should we use technology?  Some examples:
  • Using i-Pads to discuss facts and opinions about animals.  For example, 'Can animals think?' - students create digital books using screenshots of PowerPoint presentations.  They personalise their learning and increase their efficacy.  It's engaging for the students because learning becomes much more self-directed.
  • Developing digital stories - another way students and teachers can develop a constructivist approach to learning.
  • Creating digital post-its of the phonetic pronunciation of new vocabulary.
  • Writing notes on an IWB over a projected image.
Projects like this increase digital literacy and learners become more self-reliant.  They are invested in their own learning and results.  Students can also help teachers when using technology in class.  They can become the teachers.  This role reversal can be highly motivating for both students and teachers.

The constructivist approach with students

1. Vocabulary on the street - students use mobile phones to take photos of words they see or make notes on words they hear.  They then e-mail these to the teacher who makes a presentation of this 'found' vocabulary to show to the rest of the class.  In this way, students create the word lists rather than them coming from coursebooks.  This is very motivating for them.

2. Blogs as a class space - class blogs can be used by the teacher to share presentations with students and extend the classroom time.  They can also be used to practise web-based reading, with a focus on hypertext where students click on links to learn more about a topic and then come back to the original text.  Students can use the comments section of the blog to give feedback on classroom material.

3. Interactive maps - use mapping software to learn more about places discussed in class.

By using these ideas, students continue to look at course content long after a course has finished.

The constructivist approach with colleagues

Faculty blogs and wikis - wikis can be password protected to turn them into filing cabinets for the faculty.  They can also be developed to serve as a textbook.  Current staff can be given author rights to post on a faculty blog and these rights can subsequently be removed when a teacher leaves.

The idea of using technology in our classrooms is a global concept which can not be ignored!

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