1.5 How Do You Get the Student Involved?

    The quick answer is, he immediately bought-in. Our son was eager to have access to the iPad 2 that we purchased for him. It is my observation that our child is generally interested in technology. Let’s face it, the iPad has a major wow factor for kids and adults alike. Besides, the iPad is a totally logical extension from the digital world that kids these days are comfortable with, often before they can even speak. I know that thought might cause some to cringe. As parents, we limit the amount of video game time for our son for a variety of reasons. We don’t know what affects lengthy bouts of video game playing will have on children, and there are other things that we want our son to do with his time. It’s about balance. This is something that we continue to discuss with the teachers and administrators at our sons’ school. Time on digital tools and other activities away from it are requirements that his teachers are fully aware of.

    So it was not hard to get our child on board. He is down right enthusiastic about using the iPad. Other words come to mind too, like relieved. He is so happy that he is no longer being singled out for carrying large awkward binders and backpacks. He’s even more pleased that he is no longer losing work and is getting credit for work completed on a much more consistent basis. I have observed steadily increasing confidence and determination to complete homework. I nearly went into shock when he made a very unexpected proclamation late one evening. When he realized that an assignment was due the next day and he still had work to do, he said to me “Dad, I’ll stay up all night to get it done if I have to!” Before he started using an iPad I would’ve expected him to throw in more than a few grumbles about the fact that he had not played any video games at that point. He never mentioned that fact once. What a complete departure from normal behavior. Should our son get work done without needing us to buy an iPad? Yes. Should we downplay the change in behavior since purchasing the iPad? No. We are just happy that we are seeing a change in his attitude towards school work.

    Perhaps what is indicative of why going digital is such a good decision for our son is that he interacts quite well with digital devices in the home and elsewhere. Only now he gets to leverage the decade roughly of experience that he has with technology used outside the classroom as enablers within the classroom. This makes complete sense to me. His generation is very ready for the 21st century classroom. The question is, are we adults ready to liberate them from the classroom of our past? They can’t liberate themselves, now can they?

    Is the iPad just another new toy for our son that he will lose interest in once the novelty wears off? Although it remains to be seen, my wife and I will stay engaged. Now that we have a great deal more tools at our disposal to check on things, we are hardly likely to back off now. We certainly aren’t going to let our son back off either.

    As I will elaborate later in the section on incentivizing the student, there are a variety of new ways to spark a students’ interest. There are so many apps that help students achieve academic success. There are also apps that help parents link rewards to performance. As of May 2011, there were over twenty thousand educational apps on the Apple App Store. It wasn’t hard to find apps that allow parents to reward children for achievement of goals. This is an exciting development to me as I believe that reward systems are effective, when applied correctly. Life is not a video game, but who says learning should not be fun? As you will see, I am in the early stages of linking specific rewards to academic achievement.

    The reason I feel rewards for achievement is important is because the multi-billion dollar video game, film, music, and retail industries understand the effectiveness of incentives. As humans, we need reminders of why we do what we do. Many of us are very good at internally motivating ourselves. However, there are those of us who struggle with doing so. This is clear in so many areas of life. Some examples are, losing weight, exercising, completing a college or university degree program, and for some just finishing high school is a struggle. What these goals have in common is the methods for achieving them are generally viewed as not being fun. The drudgery of working at something daily is certainly harder when it isn’t fun. We’ve all heard it said that if you find work that you love doing then it isn’t work.

    No matter the subject, teachers should carefully consider ways to make it fun. Not fun as defined in the 20th century, but as our children recognize it in the 21st century. Like it or not, the current generation experiences rewards based learning. The mere fact that entertainment industries have recognized, embraced, and leveraged this reality for profit should not diminish from its relevance to academic purposes. Providing a learning experience that is fun is not a goal of the Digital Student Project. However, it is my deliberate intention to explore ways to insert fun when it is beneficial to the learner.

    Coincidentally, our son started his winter break from school just as I began writing this section. This is a perfect time to focus on both the reward system and fun apps for learning. It will be very interesting to see what we can find to support our project. I will share our results in later sections on incentives for the student.

    Our son is involved, now what? Click here to read how we will seek to get the school on board and involved.

By Ken Granville

One comment on “1.5 How Do You Get the Student Involved?

  1. Just started reading this blog and it’s so interesting, way to go, and I hope everything is working out great for your son and your family.
    Now a friendly criticism: You said: “I believe that reward systems are effective, when applied correctly”
    From what I’ve gathered, you’re mistaken about this. Read Dan Pink’s “Drive” or Alfie Kohn’s “Punished By Rewards” to see some evidence-backed arguments against rewards and incentive systems. Ultimately this is manipulation and ends up backfiring.

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