Thoughts on Motivation from TEDxOntarioED

This evening I had an opportunity to sit with with a group of Nanaimo teachers watching TEDxOntario remotely, and thought that I would take notes on my blog (apologies to the presenters that I missed).

Ray Zahab from Impossible2Possible.  They undertake ridiculous expeditions and engage students around the world through their live website.  They share what they learn with the classrooms and the classrooms share back what they are learning.  Live websites are used as learning tools, teaching tools, motivation tools.

Lee Lefever on what it takes to be a good explainer.  Goal is to take something complex and make it easy to understand.  The world would be a better place if there were better explanations.  “I don’t get it”=explanation problem.  He looks at how an idea is packaged, the context it needs.    His three steps to better explaining:

  1. Build Connections to something already familiar with.  Give it context so that it’s like something they already know.
  2. Adjust to the Curse of Knowledge.  Assume they don’t know.  Use plain language.  The more you know about something the harder it is to see perspective of someone who doesn’t know.  Don’t let words get in the way.
  3. Make it Memorable.  Why should they care?  Make them care.

Joey Savoy.  In his district they created LINC – Local International and National Classroom as their container (it would be interesting to find out what this platform is based on).   In their school students write, produce, record and stream daily announcements.  They created a district Media server to contain student work.  This is a great model of maintaining student safety while letting them participate in the public web.  Once a year they hold the CUTE awards – Creative Use of Technology in Education.

Tim Long, creator of the Simpsons.   He makes a crucial distinction between hard work and productive work and suggests that in school we focus too much on hard work and not enough on productive work to the detriment of motivation.

TED video by Alexis Ohanian from Reddit called “Splashy Pants” , a humpback whale story.  The internet provides a level playing field and it costs nothing.  So might as well give it a go.  It’s ok to lose control and take yourself a little less seriously.  No longer is the message just going to come from the top down.

Danika Barker.  She uses Ning in her classroom.  Trying to find ways to value the kinds of communication students do outside the classroom.  Interested in positive applications of social networks.  She goes through the details of using a Ning.  She had her students create Ning pages for characters in the Great Gatsby.  Students worked in teams and used Ning for discussions about Life of Pi.  Now she combines blogging and discussion features of Ning to support synthesis and analysis level thinking by getting students commenting on each other’s writing.  They are anonymous enough to take risks but not so anonymous that they can avoid being accountable.  Safe online community of learners. with Nathan Toft & Jane Smith.  Wrote a book for Scholastic about how to make a podcast.  The blog content is made by students.  Their student’s work is aired regularly on CBC radio.

Jesse Brown from Search Engine.  The case for comics in the classroom.  I didn’t know that he is also involved with Bit Strips.  He talks about he is from a generation that had the first control of the images they were being bombarded with all the time.  Spent school time drawing so that he COULD focus and listen.  Teachers didn’t see it that way.  Obsessed with reading comics.  Asked his teacher if he could do book reports on comics and was told they weren’t real books.  Bitstrips lets you customize a cartoon character and make a cartoon with them.  Kids today have entertainment moving at a lightening pace; inundated with visual material.  They need to make sense of it.  Kids scan webpages, don’t read linearly (but still can’t read a webpage with a purpose – my words).  They have also created BitStrips for schools (costs money).  He feels that one of the reasons BitStrips is so popular with kids is that they can share their work with each other.  His big idea: kids are bombarded with pictures, but don’t often get the chance to speak with pictures.  Not surprising that when given the chance they have a lot to say.

Alec Couros:  Believes schools are responsible for educating active and responsible Digital Citizens.  His assumption is that “students are already motivated”.    His presentation broke up a little so I missed a lot of it.  Technology allows us to amplify factors that motivate.  His goal is to make sure that schools never get in the way of learning.

Kathy Hibbert: Quotes Gladwell and Pink – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are necessary for people to be engaged in their work.  Satisfaction and Motivation are powerful allies.  Dissatisfaction is a powerful drain on motivation.  Her recent work is on using digital technology to support student learning.   Her website: a canadian multi literacies collaborative called The Salty Chip – wow!


  1. Elizabeth

    Phil, thanks for your notes. I was held up and couldn’t attend yesterday and so it was very helpful to read and click on links. Plus I had a quick look at your information for famiilies – fabulous. Elizabeth

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