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.

Socrative – Find out what your students know

This tool is excellent and I  will be using it in the next week or two with my stage 1 PE students. This Web tool/app allows for exactly the same type of feedback that the Activote devices provide with the IWB’s. Socrative allows you to preprepare quizzes or make up questions on the spot to find out instantly where your students are with a particular topic and use as another way of formatively assessing your students. Questions can be asked in the following formats – true/false, multiple choice and short answer questions.

To use this tool you need a wireless network, laptop or other device such as a smart phone, iPad, iPod that can connect to the wireless system you are using. For the year 11 and 12 students who always have access to laptops or certainly more so than other year levels this tool would be excellent. The teacher requires a device and so does each student participating (although I think multiple students can access one device if you don’t mind students taking it in turns). Another plus for this tool is that it does not require students to set up an account and therefore have to remember a username and password. Students connect with the teacher through a number that represents that teachers classroom (teacher provides the number to the students). Although Socrative requires students to have a device of some description it is a much easier process than the Activote devices provided by Promethean IWB’s.

Socrative also has apps for the iPhone and iPad (teacher app and student app both free). I could see this web tool working brilliantly in any class from year 1/2 up with iPads due to their ease of use.

I realise not everyone has access to laptops on a regular basis but you could use Socrative to run a quick test of your students knowledge in a computing suite or borrow 6-8 laptops and have them set up in your classroom permanently for a day so that you could get different students to do short assessment tasks for you during the day.

Check out the video below to see how Socrative works.

The Khan Academy/Flipped Classroom

The Khan Academy: The future of education? American 60 Minutes did a piece a couple of days ago about Sal Khan and The Khan Academy. The Khan Academy has inspired a whole new way of thinking called the ‘Flipped Classroom’ where students get the information at home through video and do their homework at school. The reasoning being that if students are accessing well thought out explanations about concepts and topics at home they are then prepared to do more activities and tasks in class with teacher help as opposed to ‘passively listening’ to the teacher explain concepts. I know Ed is using the Khan Academy videos with some of his students in Year 9 maths.

Here is the 60 Minutes segment. An amazing story of what one person has achieved (some of the software being trialled looks amazing).

 

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?