Unlocking learner motivation in the era of digital natives
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Unlocking learner motivation in the era of digital natives

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For all the focus on "EdTech" in the classroom, little work has been done, leveraging technology outside the classroom. Teens, in particular, could benefit from new approaches in this area. What are ...

For all the focus on "EdTech" in the classroom, little work has been done, leveraging technology outside the classroom. Teens, in particular, could benefit from new approaches in this area. What are the best formats; how can we motivate self-learning; and what is best done outside, vs. inside, the classroom?

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  • Hello everyone, I’ve very happy to be here for the second year running. Last year, I talked about Learning, English and Videogames. This year, I want to talk about the people that play those videogames, and why these young people can be a challenge to teach. --- How many of you teach teenagers or university students? (SHOW OF HANDS). --- How many of you sometimes feel that you are not getting through to them?
  • Let’s start by remembering that THIS YEAR, the internet is officially 20 years old. That means that anyone 25 or younger – what we call GENERATION Y and THE MILLENIALS that were born after them -- has never known anything else than a DIGITAL, CONNECTED WORLD. For them, “technology” is no more special than “electricity” is for us.
  • While the internet was growing up, the world was being turned upside down. Who would have imagined two decades ago that today….
  • The world’s best golfer would be a black man?
  • The world’s best rapper would be a white man?
  • The market capitalization of Apple would be larger than that of Microsoft?
  • Some of the most “British” car manufacturers would become INDIAN….
  • … or that China would one day become the largest English-speaking country in the world?
  • These two decades have ALSO been a time of incredible change in AREAS DIRECTLY RELATED TO THIS CONFERENCE, AND TO THIS TALK.
  • First, thanks to neuroscience and advanced medical imaging, we know a lot more about the TEENAGE BRAIN ; how it DEVELOPS; and how it LEARNS.
  • Secondly, there is a growing consensus among teachers of English as a Foreign or Second Language about WHAT WORKS, and WHAT DOESN’T, when teaching English to young people.
  • Third, we know a lot more about WHAT MOTIVATES TEENAGE LEARNERS ….and what doesn’t.
  • And finally, after two decades of EXPONENTIAL GROWTH in web use, we have a clear idea of human beings’ huge pent-up demand for access to information, to entertainment, and for connecting with their friends and social networks, ANYWHERE and AT ANY TIME.
  • So WHY ON EARTH, given all the changes and all the new knowledge we have accumulated over the past two decades, are THESE TWO CLASSROOM PHOTOS – TAKEN A CENTURY APART -- SO SIMILAR?
  • My main point today is that it’s HIGH TIME we put these 4 things together --- (1) an understanding of the teenage brain; (2) advances in Language Pedagogy; (3) a better understanding of Learner Motivation; and (4) the infinite possibilities of the web – TOGETHER to come up with a more effective way of motivating THE LEARNING OF ENGLISH for teens and young adults.
  • The objective being to end up with a classroom APPROXIMATELY MID-WAY between this…
  • ….and this.
  • So let’s practice what we preach, and start with the Learners.
  • WHAT ELSE DO WE KNOW ABOUT TEENS? We know that their brains are in a VERY SPECIFIC STATE OF DEVELOPMENT.
  • Today, thanks to computer-assisted mental vision imaging, for the VERY 1 st TIME we are able to see EFL coursework through a teenager’s eyes. To you and I, for example, this is a fairly standard ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING WORKSHEET.
  • …AND THIS IS HOW THE TEENAGER SEES IT. In the teenage brain, all educational content has been very effectively filtered out, and the DISTRACTION ENGINE is running at 12,000 rpm. Not a lot of language learning going on here, then.
  • I’M JUST JOKING OF COURSE. BUT ONLY IN PART. COMPUTER-ASSISTED IMAGING HAS INDEED GIVEN US A LOT MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE TEENAGE BRAIN.
  • The way to think about these developing brains is NOT as an empty house that needs furniture – q house that needs FILLING with KNOWLDEGE – but as the FRAMING of a house that still needs wiring, walls, and a roof. It’s simply not READY to function like the brain of an adult.
  • Basically, the teenage brain develops rapidly from about the age of 13 BACK TO FRONT, starting with the LIMBIC SYSTEM at the back of the brain, which controls things like EMOTIONS and PHYSICAL COORDINATION. Development gradually moves forward to the front of the brain, to the PREFRONTAL CORTEX, which controls higher-order thinking like REASONING and CONTROL OF IMPULSES. But it’s important to realize that this higher-order brain development is not complete until about the age of 25.
  • At around age 13, there starts a second phenomenon specific to teen brains: the PRUNING BACK of grey matter as a survival mechanism to direct all available brain development energy ONLY to those activities and processes which are BEING USED THE MOST – and thus, to the brain – to the activities which seem the most useful for adulthood. It is, quite literally, a question of USE IT OR LOSE IT. Like a Hot Air Balloon.
  • And thirdly, the onset of adolescence also witnesses a massive rise in the brain’s White Matter, which is a sort of electrical insulation of the brain’s synapses which allows it to fire and make connections much, much faster than in childhood. Equivalent of 3000x data speed increase from 56k dial-up to 168 MB super-fast broadband internet connection.
  • Now we know that there are very significant teaching implications in all this, both generally and with regards to the teaching of second languages.
  • Our first task is to get beyond the teen BOREDOM FILTER. Teens are physiologically PROGRAMMED for DISCOVERY, for NEW and STIMULATING experiences; so anything they find DULL and TOO FAMILIAR will simply not get through to them.
  • So the trick is to USE their craving for what’s NEW and EXCITING in order to GRAB THEIR ATTENTION. You basically have to TRICK them into paying attention before you even START teaching.
  • Secondly, don’t forget that their brain functions responsible for organization and prioritization are very underdeveloped. So help them by …..  breaking down large assignments into smaller ones with short-term objectives  Remember that at this age they are not good at multi-tasking and they are naturally disorganized, so they need a lot more reminding, prompting and coaching.
  • Third, KEEP IT SHORT. A few years ago, in 2007, Wired Magazine dedicated its front cover to what it called the SNACK CULTURE, in recognition of that fact that the teens driving popular culture like everything in small bites: short video clips via YouTube; ringtones, mini-games and text messages on their phones; short messages on Facebook – and so on. So this is NOT the right audience for learning English via 19 th Century epic poems.
  • The underdevelopment of higher-order thinking in teens means that you will LOSE middle-school students if you make your topics and lessons too abstract. So KEEP IT REAL, and save discussions of philosophy and semiotics for older learners. That’s also why traditional GRAMMAR teaching doesn’t work with teens: it’s just too ABSTRACT.
  • A VERY IMPORTANT THING TO KEEP IN MIND IS THAT TEENAGE BRAINS ARE PROGRAMMED TO CONNECT TO OTHER TEENAGE BRAINS, to make new friends and enlarge their social circle. USE THIS PROPENSITY TO COMMUNICATE to your advantage!!!! Get them to make pen-pal friends in English, participate in exchange programs with other high schools, get them to use English in chat rooms, join FB fan pages and Groups, etc.
  • Because of the radical pruning of neurons in this period, we need to ensure that our lessons are perceived as RELEVANT to their needs and concerns. So choose your input topics carefully, selecting ones that elicit a strong emotional response or can be seen as immediately useful. A good bet is a focus on topics like MUSIC, JUSTICE, THE ENVIRONMENT, RACISM, ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS, PARENTS, FRIENDSHIP, INDEPENDENCE, RESPONSIBILITY, and LIFESTYLE CHOICES.
  • Remember the USE IT OR LOSE IT reflex. It’s not good enough to only go over a concept or fact once or twice. Their brains will retain only those things that they use OVER and OVER. So you need to find new ways to keep re-exposing them to your lesson material so that it has a chance of moving from short-term to long-term memory and thereby become KNOWLEDGE.
  • We can take advantage of the huge expansion in brain processing power during these years by exposing them to more and more input, and allowing the brain to enrich itself by making connections between all these inputs. In terms of learning English, this means more and more English-language video, music, reading, and conversation, both in, BUT ESPECIALLY OUTSIDE, of the classroom, between classes.
  • But again, resist the temptation to make the input material too abstract, or too boring. The concept of MANAGEABLE CHUNKS is very valuable here; and certainly the way their brains work favors a LEXICAL APPROACH over a GRAMMATICAL one, especially if you can find ways to make the LEXIS CONTEXTUAL and interesting to them.
  • This is the time to challenge them to make the connections between the different rapidly evolving parts of their brains by forcing analytical thinking. Avoid too many closed YES or NO questions and push further, asking HOW WHAT and especially WHY. This approach will also make classroom discussions a lot more interesting, both for you and for the learners.
  • Don’t forget: girls and boys mature at different rates, and that certainly includes their brains. Boys are typically two years behind girls in brain maturity, despite school classes typically being organized by age and therefore not recognizing this fact.
  • Also don’t forget that in all probability you are dealing with physiologically fragile learners. Teenagers are ALL sleep-deprived, so you need to work extra hard to keep the class lively and stimulating. Again, droning on about conditionals is probably not the best way to make them perk up.
  • Moving on to EFL pedagogy, what have we learned these past 20 years?
  • The good news is: we’ve learned a lot. And those learnings, by and large, comfort the conclusions we have derived from the brain learning studies. The methodologies are complementary. LEXICAL APPROACH, COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH, IMPORTANCE OF INPUT, USE OF MULTIMEDIA…..
  • What else do we know about teens? We know they absolutely LOVE videogames. What do they find so addictive about them? And why are pedagogical experts excited about the possibilities of learning games?
  • Videogames are in tune with teen brains because they are fun, allow progress in a non-threatening environment, and promote a sense of achievement. Let’s see how:
  • And now let’s see where it all comes together – or not --- for teens. Because of the very special changes happing in teen’s brains and in their lives, and thanks to the new learning resources we have, teenagers have the POTENTIAL to learn languages faster than children OR adults. But that won’t happen unless these teenagers are MOTIVATED to learn.
  • Motivation has been called the “neglected heart” of our understanding of how to design instruction. This is especially true of teens and young adults, because of their hypersensitivity to boredom; their fragile physical state because of hormonal change and sleep deprivation; the pruning back of unused neurons in their brains, and last but not least, PEER PRESSURE which may ENCOURAGE learning in some cases and DISCOURAGE it in others.
  • So how can we create the conditions for motivation? THE FIRST STEP IN MOTIVATING TEENS IS TO EXPLOIT THEIR NATURAL CURIOSITY ABOUT THE WORLD. LET’S MAKE SURE WE REFLECT THAT IN OUR LESSONS, IN OUR MATERIALS, AND OUR INTERACTIONS WITH THEM.
  • SECONDLY, MAKE SURE INPUT AND TEACHING MATERIALS ARE RELEVANT TO THEM. DOES IT CONNECT WITH THEIR CONCERNS, WITH THEIR EXPERIENCES, THEIR VISION OF THE FUTURE? IF NOT, THEIR BRAINS WILL TEND TO FILTER IT OUT, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THEIR BRAINS ARE PROGRAMMED TO DO.
  • ADOLESCENCE IS A TIME OF DISCOVERY, OF EXPLORATION, AND OF GROWING INDEPENDENCE. SO IT’S HARDLY SURPRISING THAT LINEAR LEARNING FROM A SINGLE TEXTBOOK IS NOT A GOOD WAY TO MOTIVATE THEM. MAKE SURE THEY HAVE ACCESS TO A WIDE RANGE OF INPUT, TEACHING AND DISCUSSION MATERIALS, AND USE THIS VARIETY TO PLAY TO THEIR NATURAL HUNGER FOR CHOICE AND AUTONOMY.
  • About 10 years ago EFL Learner Motivation expert Zoltan Dornyei outlined three strategies to encourage positive self-evaluation, and thus motivation, and these are particularly appropriate when teaching teens.
  • Just a word about technology…
  • The internet allows us to concentrate the most teacher-intensive time during the classroom hours, and amplify the time dedicated to exposure, input and even repetition by allowing it to happen outside the classoom, on the learner’s home PC or even on their mobile phone. This is something I’ve been working on for the past two years, and I’d like to show you at this point what we have created.
  • We created English Attack! after studying the whole of the global EFL market and finding that TEENS AND YOUNG ADULTS really weren’t being catered to specifically, and that there was a big opportunity to improve exposure to English OUTSIDE of the classroom in a way that was complementary to classroom teaching. And so over the past two years we have built into this service all the concepts, principles and learnings we’ve talked about today. We use movie, TV and news clips, music videos, games, wikis, and social networking to create a learning environment which is fun, not stressful, unstructured, capable of being enjoyed in short bursts, and which rewards effort rather than proficiency. We’re currently in BETA TEST worldwide, with about 6,000 users, and I’d be delighted to welcome you and your students among our test audience.
  • English Attack! is just one way to use the web to motivate teens. The internet is so fantastic because it also allows us to go BEYOND learning, to LEARNING BY DOING. There are so many sites, tools and resources out there – sites for making posters, sharing photos, making timelines, making 3D movies, survey, comics, avatars, slideshows…
  • There is so much new stuff becoming available all the time that the only way to really stay on top of it all is to follow the great EFL Twitterers out there who scour the internet daily, finding and testing the latest and greatest sites and resources for you to use with your learners.
  • Before we wrap up, one final point about teens and language.
  • The teenage years are a time where family becomes less important and friendships and the wider group of peers are the core influence in their lives. If we can position communication skills in English as a desired group norm, this will create a “PULL” on the learner far more powerful than the teacher’s “PUSH”. SHOW THEM how young Brazilian footballers, musicians, designers, fashion models and business people use ENGLISH to become citizens of the world and increase their FREEDOM to explore new horizons.
  • And finally, we can use teen’s natural idealism to our advantage. English is not only the international language of business. It’s the international language of OPPORTUNITY, of PROBLEM SOLVING, and of CONNECTIVITY. So when we connect TEENS’ IDEA OF SELF with these BIG, POSITIVE IDEALS, we start to work WITH teens as positive individuals, instead of AGAINST THEM as reluctant students. Today, to SPEAK ENGLISH is to be PART OF THE MODERN WORLD, THE WORLD OF YOUTH. Keep reminding them of that.
  • Thank you, muito obrigado. If you’d like a copy of this presentation, just e-mail me and I’ll send it to you, and as I mentioned earlier we would also be delighted for your feedback and that of your learners on English Attack! I welcome the opportunity to discuss more with you during the rest of the conference. Thanks again.

Unlocking learner motivation in the era of digital natives Unlocking learner motivation in the era of digital natives Presentation Transcript

  • Unlocking Learner Motivation In The Age Of The Digital Natives Augusto Rocha Country Manager - Brazil BRAZ TESOL Curitiba 18 July 2011
    • The internet
    • is now
    • 21 years old
  • We live in a time of astounding change. Who could have imagined 20 years ago that today…
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  • “ A subordinating conjunction always comes at the beginning of a subordinate clause. It "introduces" a subordinate clause. However, a subordinate clause can sometimes come after and sometimes before a main clause…. ”
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  • 1910 2010
    • It’s high time we put these four things together and came up with a more effective way of motivating learning and teaching English to teens and young adults.
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  • Who Are Teens?
      • What’s going on with their lives?
        • hormones / sexual development
        • independence / autonomy
        • questioning of authority / rebellion
        • social hyperactivity / peer pressure
      • What’s going on with their future?
        • pressure over education, career prospects, type of friends, values
      • What are their cultural references?
      • What is their relationship with education?
      • English: how do they see it as relevant to them?
  • What else do we know about teens?
    • Their brains are in a very specific state of development.
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  • As if! I’m sitting next to the biggest geek in the class. I’d rather die. THIS IS SO LAME!! ! BORING BORING BORING BORING BORING BORING boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring boring Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Can’t wait to check out who tagged me on !!! I definitely like Matt; he’s so cute. I hope he likes me too… What- ever ……
  • But seriously, folks….
  • The Teen Brain: UNDER CONSTRUCTION A framework , not an empty structure waiting to be filled
  • last 1st Prefrontal Cortex Limbic System
    • Physical Coordination
    • Emotion
    • Motivation
    • Reasoning
    • Organizing, prioritizing information
    • Control of Impulses
    Not fully mature until age 25! Teen Brain Development Phenomenon #1
  • Maturing of brain as Grey Matter is lost age Adolescent Pruning Of Brain Cells The brain selectively strengthens or prunes neurons based on activity. Synapses continually used will flourish; those that are not used will wither away. Teen Brain Development Phenomenon #2
  • Teen Brain Development Phenomenon #3 Mylenation (increase in White Matter) Speeds the brain’s information-processing capacity equivalent to 3,000 X increase in computer bandwidth
  • EFL teaching implications
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  • Phased development of cognitive functions: EFL teaching implications
    • Use teen craving for NOVELTY and EXCITEMENT to get their ATTENTION.
      • video, music, movement, news, games, anecdotes
      • worksheets, lectures, objective texts
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  • Phased development of cognitive functions: EFL teaching implications
      • Break large, long-term assignments down into short-term objectives
      • Remind them of concepts, objectives and deadlines frequently.
  • Phased development of cognitive functions: EFL teaching implications
      • Use short formats.
      • Teens can only focus on someone talking for 15 minutes at a time  they need a change in state of mind every 20 minutes.
  • Phased development of cognitive functions: EFL teaching implications For young (13 – 16) teens, don’t make topics too abstract. KEEP IT REAL!
  • Phased development of cognitive functions: EFL teaching implications The teenage brain quickly discovers a need to CONNECT. INTEGRATE THIS into Communicative Task Work
  • Pruning of neurons maintaining only most-used connections: EFL Teaching Implications Aim for relevance And usefulness to their Lives: Lifestyle Choices, Independence, Parents, Friendship, Music.
  • Pruning of neurons maintaining only most-used connections: EFL Teaching Implications
    • Repetition with variation. Get them to not just read a vocabulary item, but also…
      • Move from short-term to long-term memory and thereby become KNOWLEDGE!
    use it in a sentence use it in a story see a photo of it play a game based on it hear it in a song unjumble it hear it spoken by a famous actor
  • Vastly increased processing bandwidth: EFL Teaching Implications
    • Exposure  input  intake
  • Vastly increased processing bandwidth: EFL Teaching Implications
    • Provide data capable of being processed into knowledge while avoiding boredom filter (lexical / communicative rather than grammatical approach)
  • Vastly increased processing bandwidth: EFL Teaching Implications
    • Provide ANALYTICAL CHALLENGES that stimulate higher-order thinking: ask
    • How
    • What
    • Why
  • Don’t forget : male and female adolescents mature at different rates Grey cell pruning starts at age 10 – 12 Grey cell pruning starts at age 14 – 16 Boys and girls may be ready to absorb challenging material at different stages .
  • … also don’t forget: the average teen is SLEEP DEPRIVED Physiologically, teens require 9.25 hours of sleep. Most teens report sleeping 5 hours or less per 24-hour period . Sleep deprivation makes it more difficult for most students to learn, remember and think creatively. You have to work extra hard to keep the class lively and stimulating
  • What about EFL Pedagogy? What have we learned these past 20 years?
  • MOST of these match up with recommended Brain Learning techniques for engaging teens and young adults NEW EFL Approaches
    • One of the things they really enjoy, even seem addicted to, is VIDEOGAMES . Why?
    What else do we know about teens?
  • What can we learn (and adopt) from Video Games?
    • Failure is part of the game
    • Try and try again without stigma
    • Repetition breeds competence
    • Positive reinforcement all the time
    • Positive vs. negative stress
    • Level design: progress to next level is always a challenge, but achievable
    • Progress = status enhancement
    • Social (multiplayer gaming; leader boards; in-game chat; challenge-a-friend)
  • Teens have the POTENCIAL to learn languages faster than children OR adults, but it won’t happen unless they have : MOTIVATION
  • Understanding Learner Motivation
    • Motivation has been called the “neglected heart” of our understanding of how to design instruction.
    • Particularly an issue for teens, due to:
    ZZZZZZZ Hypersensitivity to Boredom Fragile Physical State Pruning Back of Unused Neurons May encourage or discourage learning
  • How can we create conditions for motivation?
    • Exploit learners’ natural curiosity to explore the world , which is at its most powerful during teenage and young adult years
  • Learner Motivation For Teens
    • Make the input material relevant to them.
    • Do they believe that what they are learning will be useful to them soon?
  • Learner Motivation for Teens
    • “ The simplest way to ensure that people value what they are doing is to maximise their free choice and autonomy ”
    • - Good & Brophy, 2004
  • Learner Motivation for Teens
    • Three strategies* to encourage positive self-evaluation:
    Promote / Reward Effort rather than Ability Provide Motivational Feedback Increase Motivation via Rewards , not Grades *Dornyei, 2001
  • A word about technology…
  • Class Time Is Precious Time: Technology Can Optimize It
    • Exposure / input and repetition: outside the classroom as much as possible.
    • Use precious class time for:
      • discussion
      • interaction
      • group work
      • tasks requiring teacher supervision
      • face-to-face intelligent error correction
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  • The Web allows learners to go beyond learning: to create
  • #efl #esl #elt #edtech #iatefl #tesol Some Ed-Tech Gurus
  • A final point about teens and language
    • Friendship and the wider group of peers are their core influence. Show them examples of how ENGLISH was important for national references that became citizens of the WORLD!
    • If we can integrate English into teens’ idea of self , we turbo-charge their learning, retention, and enjoyment of the process.
    • To speak English is to be part of the MODERN WORLD!
    *Thanasoulas, 2007
  • Unlocking Learner Motivation In The Age Of The Digital Native Twitter: @english-attack Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EnglishAttack Web: www.br.english-attack.com Blog: http://blog.english-attack.com E-mail: [email_address] LinkedIn: Augusto Rocha Obrigado!