For the past few months I have been a proud member of the MIT MOOC, Learning Creative Learning. Session 8 focused on motivation and persistence and below was the suggested activity for the week.
Activity: Tell about something you’ve worked on that you felt was meaningful and motivating. Explain what made you feel motivated. If you were designing a learning experience or environment, what would you do to help others feel motivated and engaged?
It could have been November or December when our school's technology coordinator asked me if I would present at a small tech conference he was hoping to organize for teachers. He didn't give very many details and I didn't think much about it.
Fast forward to January and I was asked once again if I would contribute. I responded with a simple yes and this time I was forwarded some planning documents. The conference was titled "Hack the Classroom" and the goal was to start new conversations about technology and education. After I read the documents, I let my contact know I would love to help in anyway I could. The next Sunday, I was in a Google+ Hangout with two other people trying to plan an organic conference from scratch. I was asked to use any and every skill I had to grow their idea for the conference. I was soon on the founding team.
My main role was to build our social media influence. I was given absolute freedom to post on the website, the Facebook, the Twitter, and the blog. My opinions and thoughts were not only valued, they were continually reinforced as necessary. This was very exciting to me. Being relatively young, one sometimes feels they are battling for authentic voice. I wasn't here. I was an essential part of the team, yet had a ton of autonomy.
I also cared a lot for what we were doing. I had a ton of intrinsic passion for the whole idea. I am a huge proponent for authentic conversation of new, innovate, and effective educational pedagogy. I take learning very seriously and believe my job as a teacher is to make sure that my students are learning. I felt that I was part of a movement trying to forge new momentum; a momentum that matches my values. All of this meant a lot to me and led me to spend copious amount of free time devoted to Hack. I suppose you could call this motivation.
I was also given a central role in presenting at the conference, so much so that I gave the closing keynote. After I finished, a lady came up to me and asked for my presentation. As I was transferring her the file, she asked how much we got paid for the day. I told her we did this for free and never considered taking a payment. She said that was nice of us and that we could be considered social entrepreneurs. This made a big impression on me. Every member of the founding team was not motivated by money or prestige. Every presenter was not there for a monetary reward. People were there because they chose to be there. They gave their own time and efforts because they had a passion. This is what really motivates me. People coming together to learn and share about things they are passionate about.
My takeaways for design a learning environment would be:
1) Match people with their interest and passions.
2) Allow people to feel connected to a movement or team, but also have a large amount of individual freedom.
3) Value individual voice and talent
4) Limit extrinsic rewards
5) Try and be organic. Do things as they come. Roll with the punches. Allow for control to be decentralized and the culture to feel "grassroots".