This afternoon I had the pleasure of watching two incredible TED Talks. They were not memorable because of their humor (although I’m fairly certain I earned a few odd looks from laughing out loud while watching in the library), nor for their spot-on deliveries. What made these two TED Talks stand out to me were their profound common sense— something that is increasingly rare in our world today.
The first video, embedded below for convenience, was Sugata Mitra’s “The Child-Driven Education.” In his speech, Mitra described to his audience the ongoing experiment(s) he had been working on for years. His research started with a simple concept: place public computers in third-world countries for children to interact with. The results blew me away. Not only were kids figuring out how to utilize the technology on their own, but they were also working in groups in order to both learn from and teach others. As Mitra explained, “Groups of children can learn to use computers and the internet on their own irrespective of who or where they were.”
How amazing is that? However, before hearing his results I must admit that I had doubts. Occasionally I’ve come across Internet forums that ask the question “What jobs will never be replaced by machines?” Each time I read it I tend to laugh self-satisfactorily to myself and think, “Educators for sure.” In my mind, teachers have always been an invaluable presence. They are the encouragers and facilitators to authentic learning. But is this really the case? Are teachers actually irreplaceable? These are tough questions, and I will pose my answer like this: though teachers can provide a positive presence for students, it makes sense that they do not necessarily need to be present for learning to take place.
After all, learning occurs every second of every day. Did a teacher make me complete a worksheet when I learned how to shoot a basketball or throw a discuss? Did a teacher make me take a quiz when I taught myself how to make eggs benedict? Did a teacher require me to deliver a speech when I visited the memorials in Washington D.C.? No, no, and no.
So the biggest question then is, how will this thinking affect my future classroom? Before I explain, let me first examine the second video: “The Puzzle of Motivation” by Daniel Pink. His video is interesting due to the fact that his intended audience is actually business people but everything he states applies just as well to education. In essence, his argument is that intrinsic motivation is better in a 21st century work environment than extrinsic motivation.
This is not just a personal opinion either— keeping with his law theme, he has plenty of evidence to back it up. However, my favorite supplemental piece of his argument isn’t that which supports it, but rather the proposed solution to it. The new intrinsic approach for motivation that he outlines consists of:
1.) Autonomy— Pink defines this as, “The urge to direct our own lives”
2.) Mastery— Pink defines this as, “The desire to get better and better at something that matters.
3.) Purpose— Pink defines this as, “The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves”
It is in these three characteristics of intrinsic motivation that the similarities between these two videos lie. To answer my aforementioned question, what this information means for me and my classroom is that in order for students to be intrinsically motivated they need to be interested in their learning which will be achieved by allowing them to be autonomous. Easy enough, right? Though I have fully understand this general idea, it is more difficult working out the finer details. That being said, I do know two great places to start; in order for students to have control over their learning, and therefore enjoy it, they need to be able to choose both what they read and what they write. If my students do these things, I firmly believe that the rest will fall into place. At the end of the day, it all goes back to common sense.