Tag Archives: engagement

Take the state assessment seriously or …

Thoughts on the message below? Motivating or punitive? Celebratory or disenfranchising? Meaningful choice or duress? What do you think?

As a celebration for students working hard on Iowa Assessments, we are taking all 6-8 graders who showed improvement or evidence of effort to Perfect Games.

The schedule is listed below. All students will start their day at the middle school and either go to Perfect Games from 10-12 or 12:30-2:30. They will be able to bowl or play laser tag and relax and interact with their friends. We will return to the school to eat school lunch. Students may bring extra money to purchase snacks or play additional games, however this is not necessary, and large amounts of money should NOT be brought.

Those who attend Perfect Games in the morning will have classes/support/work time in the afternoon. Those who go to Perfect Games in the afternoon will have that structured time in the morning. (It is not a half day off and attendance will be counted.)

The vast majority of our students did as we expected, putting effort into assessments and showing growth. The very small number of students who didn’t take the test seriously have been notified or will be notified by this Wednesday that they won’t be attending. Parents will also be contacted if their child has not earned this privilege.

Please let the main office know if you do not want your child to participate in this activity.

Thursday, May 8: 8th grade Perfect Games day

Monday, May 12: 7th grade Perfect Games day

Tuesday, May 13: 6th grade Perfect Games day

The fiction of most school mission statements

Over at the PsyBlog, they note that there are only two reasons why we do anything:

  1. Because we want to
  2. Because someone else wants us to

The former is what we term intrinsic motivation. The latter is what we call extrinsic motivation.

Summarizing the work of the famous motivation researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, the PsyBlog folks state that three factors are at the core of intrinsic motivation:

  1. Competence. We want to be good at something. Things that are too easy, though, don’t give us a sense of competence; it has to be just hard enough.
  2. Autonomy. We want to be free and dislike being controlled. When people have some freedom – even within certain non-negotiable boundaries – they are more likely to thrive.
  3. Relatedness. As social animals we want to feel connected to other people.

Watch Daniel Pink’s RSA video and notice how similar these are to the factors outlined in his book, Drive, of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy. Mastery/competence. Purpose. Relatedness. These are four principles around which we can build powerful learning environments for students. They also are four principles which are violated nearly every single day in most classrooms in America. Ask yourself these questions about your own classrooms:

  • Autonomy: Do students have freedom to make meaningful choices in school, and does that freedom increase as they get older? Or are they told what to do almost every minute of every day?
  • Mastery/competence: Do students want to be good at the things that we ask them to do in school? Or do they just do those things because we ask or force them? Do students get to work at their optimal level of challenge? Or do they have to do the same things as everyone else, regardless of their own learning needs and readiness?
  • Purpose: Do students see the meaning and relevance of what we ask them to do in school? Or do they struggle to see the authenticity and purpose of the things that we have them do?
  • Relatedness: Do students get to connect and collaborate with others in meaningful ways in school? Or do they primarily do their own work in isolation from others?

Reading over these questions, it’s easy to see why students are disengaged from the learning tasks that we give them. The big question is whether we care. So far, most of our school systems don’t seem too bothered by their environmental deficiencies when it comes to fostering internal motivation.

Our actions put the lie to our school mission statements that state that we’re about creating “self-motivated, life-long learners.” The result is that

most of what [our students] experience during school hours passes over them like the shadow of a cloud, or through them like an undigested seed. They may be present in the classroom, but they are not really there. Their pencils may be chugging away on the worksheets or the writing prompts or math problems laid out for them, but their intelligence is running on two cylinders at best. They pay some attention to what their teacher happens to be telling them, but their imagination has moved elsewhere. . . .

And, worst of all, by the time our kids have reached fourth or fifth grade, they think what they are experiencing in school is normal. [Robert Fried, The Game of School, p. 1]

As school leaders and classroom teachers, how long can we continue to ignore core principles of intrinsic motivation?

Schools that empower students to make a difference [VIDEOS]

Here are two amazing videos that highlight ways that educators can empower kids to make a difference in the world. Happy viewing!

Schools That Change Communities

The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice

Textbooks amplify student disinterest in reading

Textbooks are unbelievably dull and dense … no one should scratch their head at students’ lack of interest in reading when schools require students to read the most uninteresting writing that exists day after day

Iowa high school student Jack Hostager via http://listentostudents.blogspot.com/2013/01/90-theses-of-textbooks.html

Do you have a learning environment worth learning?

Yes, we want children to learn, but then that means we must care very deeply about whether children want to learn, which means we must provide them with a learning environment that is worth learning. [emphasis added]

Alfie Kohn via http://vimeo.com/53056240

Hat tip: Joe Bower, http://www.joebower.org/2012/12/from-culture-of-performance-to-culture.html

Think outside the book

Nothing in education puts a bigger ceiling on learning than limiting kids to what’s in the textbook. We live in the age of iPads, Google, and Skype. To the learner that wants to know more, do more, and explore more, the opportunities are there. We just have to think outside the book.

Krissy Venosdale via http://venspired.com/?p=3225

Engagement is not a goal, it’s an outcome of students doing meaningful work

You often hear people talk about how technology is so “engaging” for kids. But that misses the point. It’s not the technology that’s engaging, it’s the opportunity to use technology to create something that is valued by the community and by yourself. Yes, a new device can be entertaining for a while, but when the novelty value wears off, what are you left with?

Engagement is not a goal, it’s an outcome of students (or anyone) doing meaningful work. Meaningful to themselves AND to the community they are in. Meaningful because someone trusted them to do something good, and they shouldered the responsibility. This is not something you DO to kids or you GIVE kids, it’s the outcome of this cycle of experiences.

Sylvia Martinez via http://blog.genyes.org/index.php/2012/05/01/engagement-responsibility-and-trust

Crack student ‘engagement’ and you’ve cracked 21st century schooling

If you can crack the problem of engagement – not just ‘are you paying attention?’, but ‘are you fascinated by this?’ – if you can crack engagement in deep learning then you’ve cracked 21st century schooling.

Mike Berrill via http://gcouros.com/are-you-fascinated. [yes, it's a George Couros doubleheader today!]

Also check out the incredible resources to help you create ‘engaging schools’ over at Innovation Unit.


Blaming students and technology instead of us

Here’s a comment that was just left over at BigThink on an old post of mine:

I am a senior English teacher. Here is my problem with using technology in the classroom: I walked into an AP class this past year and stood in the back for the lecture. I took notes about what the students were doing. 4 (the top 4, mind you) were using their netbooks to take notes. One student was on Skype with his college girlfriend, 6 were playing games. 2 were on iTunes and actually had earbuds in. Really? What are they learning here besides what they can get away with? When I allow students to use their netbooks in my classroom, it is only when I am actually giving notes from the board in a prezi or on power point. At that time, I walk around to make sure they are doing nothing else with them. I know, however, that when I’m walking in the front of the room, those students are working. I see the ones in the back of the room clicking around and begin feverishly typing as I get closer to their table.

High schoolers do need to be able to use technology, but if they don’t use it properly, it is more of a hindrance and distraction than a good, useful tool. Do they have the maturity to use it appropriately and how do we get them to change to proper behavior – those are the questions to ask. In case you can’t tell, this is a pet peeve of mine

This is primarily a pedagogical and/or supervision issue, not a student or technology issue. When are the students off task in this scenario? When the teacher is lecturing to them and they’re just supposed to sit passively and take notes. Are they engaged? Are they interested? Do they get other opportunities to use technology besides taking notes? It doesn’t appear so. If I were a student in those classes and I had a laptop, I’d be off task too [yawn].

Classroom management stems from good instruction. Engaging learning environments mitigate ‘off-task’ behavior. We need to stop blaming students or laptops for our own failure to create better learning spaces (and that’s true whether we’re talking P-12 or postsecondary). Mindless compliance from students? No thanks.

Image credit: Bigstock

The goal of classroom management

Motivated, engaged, challenged, and successful students are well-behaved, not because they’ve been threatened but because they are too busy engaged in learning to misbehave. The goal of classroom management is not quiet classrooms, it’s productive students.

Robert Slavin via http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/sputnik/2012/05/classrooms_need_more_pizzazz.html

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