Motivation and Teaching with technology.
This year I’ve been doing quite a lot of teacher training both in university language centres and in secondary schools, here in Northern Italy and the topic I’ve been working on is training teachers to use blended learning in a principled way. This may not be new for those who are interested in technology but for many teachers it is still a bit like going into a dark forest where you’re not quite sure of the dangers or of where you might lose your footing.
Motivation is a complicated thing, as we all know, and there are so many different things that come into play for teachers, but I would just like to mention a few of them, by relating them to a series of five questions about the use of technology in the classroom.
1) Intrinsic v. Extrinsic:
Do you want to use technology in class because you actually believe it enhances your teaching or is it an instituational imposition?
Do you see yourself as a teacher who is comfortable experimentinig with new technologies and learning how to use them?
Do you feel personally involved in the process of using technology with your classs, and are you investing youself in creating something meaningful for them and for you?
Do you feel able to use technological tools easily to help your learners?
Do you feel able to work autonomously with the tools or are you afraid that you are not using them as well as you might, or as well as some of the traditional tools you are more familiar with?
Changing your point of view
These are important factors, I think, that are sometimes overlooked and teachers in training courses become learners and need to approach new skills with their eyes open. Our motivation, as Zoltan Dornyei says in his theory of L2 selves, is closely bound up with our sense of who we are.
A Fixed Idea of who we are or an openness to growth?
I recently read an article which described two frames of mind, which tie in very closely I think to the idea of identity. Some people have very fixed ideas of what they are and if you tell yourself you are a “X” teacher (substitute what you like for the “X” traditional, tolerant, innovative etc. etc.) then that is what you will be.
On the other hand there is also the “growth” mentality that does not see identity as being so fixed but sees life as an exploration of potential in whatever field you may be interested in.
In a recent session I asked teachers to think about 3 stages in lesson planning:
- What can your learners do before the lesson?
- What will you and your learners be ding during the lesson?
- What can they do after the lesson?
The idea was to think about work that could be provided online for learners to do in advance, such as vocabulary preparation for a topic they would explore in the lesson. The “during” phase was designed to help participants think about what technological ools they could use in class such as images, polls, collaborative writing etc. etc. and the “after” phase was to think about work learners could do online after class such as discussions, writing, questionnaires.
One teacher, who was tryng to plan his online work said to me as I monitored their work:
“I don’t know how to do this. It’s not the way I work. I usually go into class and present my lesson. I wish I could do this and I’d like to see what others are doing.”
This showed me that the feeling of agency and competence were missing. This way of working, which to me seems very normal, was not at all normal to him and yet he was open to learning something new. He wanted to get to the stage where his identity was tied up with the lesson he was preparing, and that means, I think, being open to the “growth mentality”. I was quite humbled because it made me see that motivation and fear has to be taken into account much more than I had been doing.
This all provided me with quite a lot of food for thought, anyway, and made me decide to talk about learners, teachers classrooms and materials in the Manchester Iatefl conference. I want to explore how technology used in a principled way can help us to beyond our boundaries, both as learners and teachers. If you want to know more I will be speaking about this on Monday 13th at 5pm, so I hope to see you in Manchester.