Sunday, January 29, 2012

Motivation... Why don't we give it a try and go back in time?

In the introduction of the paper “Motivation in EFL Classes: Who does it depend on?” Mady Casco mentions the episode “Bart gets and F” from The Simpsons TV Series. I’ve found it very interesting because it led me to the book “The Element, How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”, by Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica (book introduced to me by a dear colleague Federico Bertón, from San Luis, Argentina).

Mady explains perfectly well how Matt Groening and Michael Stern show the connection between teachers’ expectations and those of their learners and vice versa. In “The Element”, Ken Robinson interviews Matt so as to exemplify how people can find their “element”.
I’ll quote Mat and Ken (p.4) “Matt always did fine in school, getting decent grades and passing all of the important tests. However, he found himself tremendously bored. In order to keep himself amused, he started drawing during classes. “I would draw constantly”, he told me. “And I got so good at drawing that I was able to draw without looking, so that the teacher would think that I was paying attention”. The story goes on and it’s a bit long to keep writing but what I want to point out is the following.

Maybe Matt (and Michael) did that episode on purpose, to show how he felt when he was at school. He wasn’t given the chance to do what he felt during the class. Teachers tried to motivate Matt but he found no way to keep his eyes and mind focused. And this leads me to what Gardner has tried to depict with his Theory of Multiple Intelligences plus the Neurolinguistic Programming Learning Theory of the 3 learning channels.
On January 24th, 2012, Nick Peachey gave an outstanding online session on how to motivate teens called  “Technology with Teens: Developing material and practices for the digital generation” (, for the YLTsig EVO sessions 2012) and he showed us great web 2.0 tools as means of motivation for students. Yes, I loved all the sites and I will use them but why do we (teachers) have to keep on providing students more online tools instead of coming back to old games? Teachers and parents complain a lot about kids and teens being in front of the PCs for a long time and wasting their time playing negative games, chatting, watching videos and films so… why (again) can’t we teachers go back to traditional games such as “Peggy goes”, “SuperClue”, “Chinese Whispers” and so on.

I can understand that we are in the 21st century and we are in the era of “digital natives” but kids and teens are losing the basics, the way we (adults) used to play, used to learn and used to entertain. They don’t know what a “cassette” is, they don’t know how to live without internet, and they don’t know how to look for information in a library… With just a “click” they have all!
Where is creativity in them? You might probably say… “Web 2.0 tools like Photopeach, Animoto, Voxopop… etc” and I would agree with you 100%. But I also wonder where the “traditional” creativity is. The one students use to write compositions, the one students use to speak in front of a class, the one students use to work… That one, I guess, is absent.

We, teachers, need to motivate students as much as we can through different methods, even if we have to become clowns. With too many media interference, students find it difficult to concentrate, to keep attention and we, again teachers, put a lot of emphasis in trying to bring them back… What if we move to their world for at least once and see what happens? Maybe we can discover a new way of seeing, feeling and teaching things.


  1. What a lovely post again Maria! You are on the roll! I think most of my collegues would agree with you! I will to. I understand what you mean. We teachers think we need to adapt to students using web tools, internet, but sometimes we should show them the old things as well. So, let's try and combine the best of both worlds!!! :)

  2. Thanks Marijana! I told you... I had been hybernating and my holidays woke me up! :)