Wednesday, February 13, 2013


This school year I am having trouble motivating my students. My robotics after school class seemed to begin strong. There was the initial enthusiasm and oohs and aws when I got out the supplies, described possibilities for potential robots, showed some videos of robots that students had made in the past, pointed to all the different ways and places the students could look for inspiration. But by the second month in I had more students just sitting there waiting for me to tell them what to do next then ever before.

In the past I have relied upon the interests and enthusiasms of the students to inspire each other. To gravitate towards other students doing projects that looked interesting, to start up their own project based on an idea shared in the room. This year I seem to be drawing a blank stare when I ask the students about what they are interested in, what ideas they have, what types of things they might like to explore.

I enrolled in the online seminar called "Learning Creative Learning" which is being offered by Mitch Resnick and the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. Yesterday was the first session where Mitch started the open ended discussion that will be at the center of this course, what does it mean to learn creatively, and exactly what are the ways that we can and do learn creativity?

Seymour Papert wrote a piece entitled "The Gears of My Childhood" from his book "Mindstorms", where he addresses the notion of personal interest as it applies to motivation and learning.

I need to figure out how I can, as an educator, work with my students so they may discover or uncover their personal interests. It isn't proving to be as easy as it might seem.

1 comment:

  1. I've been grappling with similar issues for a while. Over the two semesters of Makers I've seen the same pattern. Students launch with energy and enthusiasm, but as they achieve small success (X) their ambition grows at x^3 or larger. This leads to them taking on a project that is beyond their current skill set on several axis.

    For the record, I recognize that those symptoms all reflect MY mistakes and errors, not those of my students.

    Those experiences have led me to more teacher-ey structure for the new group of Makers. I recognize that if I'm going to be useful in steering them to challenges that are in the "hard fun" zone, this means some more explicit path laying in the early weeks.

    I wrote a bit about this on tieandjeans over the last year. The first was a maudlin moment after MakerFaire Norfolk:

    and again, more hopefully, at the start of the current semester: