Friday, February 11, 2011

Seeking Motivation (on a Friday afternoon?)

via Flickr CC license, by kyknoord

Three completely unrelated statements have sunk their talons into me recently; the first an ancient proverb, one from the higher education literature, and one from a management seminar I took a few months ago:

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

"Lifelong learners become so because they find learning fun."1

"We can't motivate people, we can only create an environment that allows people to choose to be motivated." 2

It struck me that these statements are actually one and the same when it comes to library instruction. It boils down to this for me:

We can't teach people information literacy skills. However, we can create a learning environment that allows students to see the value to them in obtaining these skills. If we can do that, only then can we take the next step in supporting/guiding their exploration and eventual mastery of these essential lifelong skills as they apply to their own interests and needs.

The Smith-Robbins article quoted above discusses higher education in the context of gaming, which I think is one (but certainly not the only) path that holds lots of potential for us as instructors. If we can harness it effectively, gaming can foster a more interactive and fun environment in which our students might more easily overcome the ever-present barriers to learning: lack of motivation, relevancy and confidence.

This all came together for me, by the way, as I sit here on a Friday afternoon trying to tweak a lesson plan for an upcoming online synchronous workshop on using e-books and books. How can I make the alien and somewhat imposing learning environment of these workshops more "motivating?" In most cases, my students are at home, sitting in front of a computer after a day at work, probably with lots of distractions around, coming together via chat, audio, and applications like a whiteboard, in a virtual space with fellow students from different cities and different departments, and an instructor, all of whom they've never met before. Not an easy task...

  1.  “This Game Sucks”: How to Improve the Gamification of Education. Sarah Smith-Robbins, EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 46, no. 1 (January/February 2011)
  2. Cherie Cross, National Seminars Management and Leadership Skills workshop, October 27, 2010.

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