Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Motivation and Learning

I wrote this entry as I worked on my application for the Google Teacher Academy. An important part of the application was a one minute video on the subject of "Motivation and Learning. 50 people were chosen for the academy. I wasn't one of them. While I am bummed that I wasn't selected, this project gave me a purpose for exploring YouTube as a medium, the tools that I needed to accomplish it, and the concept of motivation and learning - something I have thought about for many, many years.

I'm working on my application for admission to the Google Academy. They require a one minute video on "Classroom Innovation" or the topic "Motivation and Learning". To get my head around the relationship of Motivation and Learning I've been brainstorming and visualizing my message. It is quite fun to picture the message with the tools that I have at my computer. Photos, movies, audio. I am using Keynote, iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band. I would love to attend the Academy because of the tools the Google is offering our students and the innovations they are offering in cloud computing. I expect that the people who attend the Academy will be similarly motivated and inspired to do interesting things with the tools that Google provides.

One of my methods for gathering ideas has been to brainstorm or free associate on the subject of motivation and learning. Here are some of the ideas that have sprung from this;

Motivation is the fire of learning, the wind under our wings so to speak. Motivation is exemplified in our enthusiasm for learning, for exploring, creating, and building community. Without motivation, there is no energy for learning (or any activity for that matter). As I have pondered what drives learning, the fire for motivation, I have been led to wonder what the roots of motivation are. This takes me back to consider not only motivation for a particular result but the root of our motivation for learning in general. What are the ingredients for a healthy human being to have the capacity, the fire, for learning? What does a child need to develop her curiosity, desire and ability to solve problems? If we want to nurture learning, we should consider the basic building blocks - the first 5 years of life especially.

Many images come to mind as I consider these questions. A newborn in his mothers arms, being talked to, gazing into her eyes, fed and embraced. A toddler banging around the room, knocking things off shelves, making noise with unusual devices, talking and asking for things. The early stages of language and other forms of communication, receptive and expressive, without which learning is delayed. I can picture a 2 year old testing his limits, challenging the word no, boldly going where he has never gone before. A kindergartner asking questions, telling her story, finding her place in the classroom circle. A elementary school child who loves school and learning, her teacher, her friends, and who follows the rules with religious devotion, expecting justice triumph. A middle school child who experiments with limits, stepping over, stepping back, watching adults to understand their reaction. A high school child who values independence and friends over all and who, with abstract thinking extends her experiments from the probable to the possible.

Our development never ends, unless we tragically lose our motivation. Many of us find motivation in the act of learning. Perhaps this is a key. If we have been given the care and attention we deserve, the guidance, encouragement, consequences of our choices, we will develop a sense of purpose and be motivated to extend our learning. If we have not, we will likely have difficulty finding constructive purpose. We will be motivated, but our motivation will be stuck in a infants rage or and abused reaction to our past. We may forget that we are the masters of our learning process.

Perhaps this is the hallmark for measuring motivation; the degree to which we feel in control of our learning. The baby wants to know if her cry will bring attention to her need for food, warmth, movement, etc. This dance of requests and bonding with her mother, gives her an initial and essential sense of control. As a social worker and behavior consultant, I met children who lacked this confidence and who suffered various degrees of isolation. While most children do not suffer to the degree that my clients did, too many people do suffer from some sort of neglect or ignorance in their upbringing. It is fortunate that the human spirit is as resilient as it is and as optimistic as it seems to be for learning, cooperation and being social.

If you are interested you can find my one minute presentation on YouTube:

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