Should we rely on technology as a motivator for students?

I found this blog post by Bill Ferriter posted on Twitter by @jennyluca, Are kids really motivated by technology? It got me thinking about the motivating factors (or not) of technology.

Quote from above article – “You can’t motivate students with technology because technology alone isn’t motivating”.

While I’m not sure I entirely agree with this, for example playing Rocket Math on the iPad is more motivating for an 8 year old than trying to do the same math on a worksheet, I do agree with the sentiment of the statement. If we think we can rely on technology to make our classes more motivating without considering the impact of the technology on the learning then we are mistaken. A poorly planned lesson with a tablet/Web 2.0 is still a poorly planned lesson!

Another quote from the article, which I entirely agree with is, “Basically what I’m arguing is that finding ways to motivate students in our classrooms shouldn’t start with conversations about technology. Instead, it should start with conversations about our kids. What are they deeply moved by? What are they most interested in? What would surprise them? Challenge them? Leave them wondering? Once you have the answers to these questions — only after you have the answers to these questions — are you ready to make choices about the kinds of digital tools that are worth embracing”.

For all the technology I have integrated into my classes over the past 12 or so months, at the start at least, I expected the technology to be motivating in itself. Particularly when starting out using a new technology like blogs. I expected the students to be motivated because they were using a new technology, and to a point they were but if I designed a poor task or a task they had done many times before on paper or in a book they soon became non plussed with the fact it was on a blog. In hindsight the technology was more motivating for me than it was the students.

Mobile and online technologies are only a tool, they are not the end point or the major focus of our planning and teaching. Student learning should hold this position, our programming, pedagogy and assessment should be foremost in our minds. Web applications and iPads/Tablets are just tools to help us to achieve these outcomes more efficiently and more effectively.

Easy Portfolio App

Something that that I am trying to improve in my teaching (slowly) is the recording and use of more formative assessment.

I need to understand more accurately where my students are at with their learning and feed this back to them on a more regular basis. How do I record the formative assessment that occurs in my HPE classes more effectively, in a way that I can easily access later/immediately?

My solution at the moment is the Easy Portfolio app for iPad. Here is an App that has powerful uses from Reception to Year 12. Once you have entered your student names you can build a portfolio for each student. You can add the following types of files to the student portfolios:

1. Video – add video taken at another time or take a video within the app and add immediately. Oral presentations, video of models and projects, video student collaboration. I have used this during term  3 to video my 7/8 students in practical lessons completing Touch Football drills (short 20 second videos).

2. Images – ad images stored on your iPad or take a photo within the app to add instantly to the portfolio. Take photos of student work or students completing tasks/working with others. I used this the other day with a student whose work would not save on the computer  or USB (it was an image with 5 associated words) so I took a photo of it and stored it in that students portfolio. Perfect for taking photos of student writing in junior primary, easy to see class/student progression in one place (on the iPad) instead of having to take home 17 books to look through.

3. Audio – add audio. This could be a conversation between you and a student (conferencing) or record a students oral presentation and instantly place it in their portfolio.

4. Notes – add notes. Type in notes about students attitude, behaviour, absence, performance, learning etc…

5. URL – add a URL. Add web addresses that contain student work ie a Glogster poster, a photo stored on Flikr, a blog or a website that enhances work they completed elsewhere.

6. Documents – add a document. Documents (all office documents) can be uploaded to the Easy Portfolio app. You do need a Dropbox account  (online/cloud storage 2G free) as the  creator of the app has linked it with Dropbox. I have used this function with my year 9 students by getting them to save a document to my USB. I then copy and paste them into a folder in drop box, assess them/add comment then upload them to the portfolio app. You can’t edit them once they are in the portfolio app. Two minute video explaining Dropbox click here. Download Dropbox click here.

This app would also be great for parent teacher interviews. Connect it up to the white board and show parents and students examples of work completed over the term or semester to enhance discussions about student learning. No need to have piles of books, paper, posters, projects within reach when conducting parent teacher interviews.

To see how the Easy Portfolio app works watch this video made by its creator Jared Robinson.

The Power of Mobile Learning

I was not going to share this video to begin with but as it continued I saw some things that made me want to share it. There is great footage of special education students using iPads and other mobile devices and the obvious benefits not just to their learning but to their independence and sense of worth. As a teacher it was touching to see their learning and the positive impact that technology was having. I couldn’t help thinking about Connor and how great an iPad would have been for him. Maybe he has one now?