Motivating students to learn is one of the daily struggles for teachers. Alan November would argue that they struggle because they are still teaching the content as opposed to teaching them how to find content-related problems to solve, especially ones that interest them.
But what goes on in our thought process when we are making a decision to learn something? Scott Geller, the director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech, says there are three questions that we face when becoming self-motivated.
Lately, I've been having students share images related to what we're learning. It all started when I answered a question by searching google images. Since my iPad is mirrored to the screen, my students were able to see how I search and evaluate results to find a suitable image to support my point.
They looked at me like they wanted to try it, so I let them. Now, we upload images to a Google Drive folder instead of clicking through old slide presentations.
1. Can I do it?
The reasons the image search works so well is because of the balance between limitation and choice. "Find an image that interests you and is related to the assigned topic." What kid doesn't want to do that instead of reading a textbook and answering questions? Or worse, listening to my bad jokes.
2. Will it work?
When we discuss the images students drop into the folder, I ask two simple questions. (1) What do you see? (2) How do you know? or What makes you think that?
This questioning strategy helps them merge analysis and evaluation with the feedback we share during our discussions. The more we go through this process, the better the images get. Students also have more ah-huh moments, and I don't have any classroom management issues.
The most authentic feedback is simply based on how much we can learn through image analysis and discussion because of the image they chose. If we learn a lot, it worked. After each student experiences their image supporting the lesson, they feel more competent at choosing images for the lesson. They become contributors.
3. Is it worth it?
Students want to contribute. They like to search, they like images. They also want an audience for their ideas. It's no wonder how much easier it is to get students to talk about what interested them in an image when it's the one they chose.
When the image is relevant to the lesson, think about how easy it is for students to make connections if their interests are already called up. It's worth because it's better than the alternatives. These kinds of activities also open opportunities to make all kinds of products that demonstrate mastery.