30 June 2010

Enthusiasm is not Motivation

Many teachers who work with online tools mistake enthusiasm for motivation. They get off to a great start and then stop after putting a few assignments in Moodle. It seems like many Moodle classes I’ve seen have simply been abandoned after entering just a few resources or assignments.

What motivated me were a few experiences with engaged learners who got excited about learning and sharing when they finally found their online voice. I saw the possibilities of vast amounts of time I would save if all of it were actually complete and in use with students. I would no longer have to make extra copes, use Sub Folders, or track down work that absent students have missed. I wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time catching up my students who were added to my classes throughout the year. I wouldn’t have to grade lower level questions. I would no longer have to track down or update grades at the whim of a student, parent or administrator. The stress of losing things (as I sometimes do) would be gone because I wouldn’t have to carry around my little disk and check my pockets hundreds of times a day to make certain it was still there. (Once it went through the wash and I was in a panic until it dried out as 14GB of my 10+ year teaching career was all there!)

In short, I could actually be a teacher again. After learning to use Moodle and embed all kinds of various web tools into that environment I could do what I really wanted to do. Facilitate learning. All of those other stress causing factors and seemingly endless busywork was gone. Now the materials and course content was there, it was safe, easily backed up and accessible 24 hours a day. When I do see students face-to-face I can actually have a discussion with them about course content.

All of those things that all teachers are taught in college about differentiated instruction; encouraging higher level thinking; allowing students to take ownership of their education; create projects for assessments; give students a voice and give them access to real-world information as well as a world wide audience can now be accomplished.

One caveat I would throw out there is that if you really are motivated to complete this task of putting all of your content online is that the time it takes to do it all can make you very sick of looking at your online course. Don’t worry though, it’s probably better than you think it is by the time you’re finished. The beauty of it is that it can all be edited and changed as you go.

That avoidance of many of the things about teaching that frustrate me and the desire to see it all through to completion me helped motivate me to finish my task. Now the fun part of learning new things myself and sharing them with others begins.

(I should add that it makes it that much easier to share what you’ve done, but I’ve gone into that before and probably will again.)