I’m kind of shocked when reading the commentary Setting Students’ Minds on Fire which talked about Obama’s warning in the beginning. More than a third of America’s college students fail to earn degrees. (The actual figure is closer to 50 percent.) I agree money alone won’t solve the problem. Actually setting something to a high value forces people to appreciate and cherish it. If education is cheap, people will tend to take it for granted. Chinese higher education has very cheap tuition. It’s approximately $2,200/year compared with $8,240/year in public schools and $28,500/year in private schools in US. Although I myself do not know anyone who dropped out of school, however, not dropping out does not mean they enjoy the school. I could literally say more than a third of college students skip classes everyday if the instructor does not set some kind of punishment system. If students do not come to the class, the teacher will gradually lose their passion for teaching, and begins to put less work in preparing for it. It’s becoming a vicious cycle. I mean we all want to make the most out of what we invest for (money, time, etc.).
In terms of engagement, it’s really effective to incorporate games or activities in the class. Just as the commentary says, students learn more when they are obliged to think in unfamiliar ways. I had one class where the instructor turned the classroom into an engaged activity room. We had to reflect on what we learned and apply it to reality. Everyone has to contribute, which means everyone needs to invest their time in preparing for it. That memory stuck with me more than any other classes.
I feel I’ve been resonating a lot with the topic motivation. Last week I was pondering on the talk by Mike Wesch, Cathy Davidson, and Randy Bass that later evolved into a discussion about how to motivate students. This week Dan Pink gives me an unusual understanding of motivation. He convinced us that what motivates us depends on what task we are to perform. The reward system usually works pretty well in terms of simple straight forward tasks. However it does not have its place in more complicated tasks that would require cognitive skills. How does that tell us about the impact of assessment on students? I guess whether a grading system will benefit students depend on the topic of the course. If it’s a math course, it’s about right or wrong. Then the grading does do its job of assessing a student’s ability to do math. If it’s something like literature review or designing course, then it does not make sense to have grading. It might even restrict students’ creativity.
It makes me ponder when the topic was brought up in class that teachers play the role as filter in the technology infused classroom. What are the roles of teachers in the 21st century? Since everything can be googled on the internet, and students can learn by themselves through reading textbooks on kindle. It has transformed teachers to being a guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage. However, before becoming facilitators of learning, from my point of view, teachers first should take responsibility to motivate students.
The talk by Mike Wesch, Cathy Davidson, and Randy Bass gives us some insight on how to spark the interest in students to learn. Here is what I collect from the talk:
To have an informal learning atmosphere on the internet.
Help students understand why we have passion for our research.
It seems people love a sense of challenge, difficulty, and uncertainty. Something open-ended usually attracts attention.
Show them examples of pathway to successful life.
Design the curricula in a sense of purpose driven rather than content driven.
Overall, You can give your whole attention only when you care, which means you really love. -J. Krishnamurti