Keeping students motivated in a digital world

American psychiatrist William Glasser theorized that people are motivated to behave the way they do by certain innate needs. Educators have applied his ideas to motivate students to learn based on what drives them.

When technology is used as a learning tool, many of the needs Glasser identified are met in one way or another, educators say.

For instance, one of Glasser's five needs is to belong and feel connected. When students connect online to their friends, their communities, their nation, and their world, they feel more motivated to learn.

Michael Soskil, an elementary school teacher from the Wallenpaupack School District, did just that when he launched a distance teaching program that used Skype to connect his fourth-grade science students to kids in Kenya. Students half a world away have been able to teach and learn from each other, as a result.

Glasser also identified autonomy, power, and competence as motivating factors — all of which come into play with online learning. Kids can use the internet to read and learn about topics that appeal to them, satisfying their need for autonomy and power. When they encounter problems, they work through them, learn from trial and error, and build competence.

Kids also want to have fun when learning, Glasser theorized. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor understood when she helped launch iCivics, a web-based education project that teaches students about civics with video games.

So, not only are students learning things online they'd never learn otherwise; they're also having certain needs met that will motivate them to keep learning.

Read more in the December 2016 issue of Partners Post.

 

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