Thursday, April 3, 2014

Kids Aren't Motivated By Technology


The same way I'm not motivated by a toilet. It's a tool I use every single day. It's exceptionally useful, I assure you. But I don't jump out of bed ready to take on the day because I have access to it -- I take it for granted because it's a part of my everyday life.

I feel very fortunate for having the privilege of teaching in a 1:1 classroom for 4 years prior to my colleagues. I have vivid memories of hearing from the other teachers in the school about how my students must love my class because they get to play on the computer. It's not surprising they behave well because they know they'll lose their computer privileges if they don't.

I used to take offense to such statements. HUGE offense.

Nobody in my classroom ever lost their computer "privileges." They never lost their pencil "privileges" either.

What good would it be to dangle the computer as a carrot? About as good as dangling the toilet I suppose :)

I wanted them to learn in ways they never could have imagined, and the computer made that possible. It wasn't the jolly rancher I handed out for behaving the right way.

Fast forward 5 years and I no longer take offense to those statements from my past. Teachers in my school have had 1:1 technology in their classrooms for the last 2 years and they've learned better than anyone that technology does not motivate students. That having 1:1 devices does not make classroom management easier. In fact, sometimes it makes management harder knowing we have an obligation to provide personalized, innovative and engaging learning experiences -- and we've got all the tools we need to do it. No excuses.

They've learned first hand that what motivates students now is what has always motivated students.

Engaging content.
Relevancy to their lives.
Creating something new.
Being a part of something special.
Being successful.
Knowing you care.
And so much more.

As a teacher with 1:1 technology, I loved sending a message to a student to let them know I cared about how well they were doing. I loved seeing the way kids felt connected when they shared projects with ePals in Kazakstan, Germany and Japan. My favorite days were spent guiding kids as they created videos to raise money for causes they felt deeply committed to. I will never forget the way they would smile when they realized that a website could be read to them so that they could finally understand it. I was driven by seeing them motivated and times when they were so deeply connected to their work.

I'd love to say technology is the key to motivation. I'd love to share rosy anecdotes about homework completion skyrocketing when we put iPads in classrooms, and standardized test scores shooting through the roof.

If I did, it wouldn't be because of the iPads. I'd be because of the way we used them. Because of the experiences we created with them (and without them) every day.

Technology doesn't motivate kids. But you do.

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