professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Two very disparate pieces connected in my crazily wired brain today. The first is one I read a week or so ago about how parents can sometimes, in an effort to motivate their kids, actually cause an opposite reaction. You can read that post here: Entitled THIS IS ABSOLUTELY THE WORST WAY TO TEACH YOUR KIDS TO READ, it talks about making sure we do not equate reading with chores. "To make an hour spent with a book into the equivalent of loading the dishwasher is to send the strong, implicit message that reading is a similar task, one that will never be a source of pleasure. You may end up with kids who have logged in lots of hours of reading, but that won’t make readers out of them. There’s a vast difference between dutiful, grudging, joyless reading and the kind of hungry, engaged reading that makes for a good student and a thoughtful citizen."

Connect that piece with its most excellent point to a forthcoming David Sedaris essay in THE NEW YORKER: STEPPING OUT: LIVING THE FITBIT LIFE is a wonderfully funny piece about walking and having it all charted and documented via electronic devices (the craze used to be pedometers). When his device broke, Sedaris found walking, climbing steps, etc. not quite as exciting as there was no device encouraging him, counting for him. I know this is tongue in cheek, but it fits so beautifully with so many discussions of late about canned programs and motivation and engagement.

A few weeks ago, after a Twitter chat on a piece by Alfie Kohn, one tenacious teacher and then later a university teacher, began peppering me and Donalyn Miller and Dylan Teut with questions about our stance on a canned reading program, AR. We pointed them to Krashen, Kohn, and research articles that discussed the program. They responded with some of the old arguments. "My kids like it," was one we saw over and over again. Despite the research presented, the proponent was insisting that it worked for her. There were other questions about research, most of which came directly from the company's web site. There ws no convincing with other research, though, and so I withdrew from the conversation. I wold rather spend time reading, writing, napping than arguing with someone who will not be moved.

Back to the topic of motivation. What is extrinsic motivation? Why is it more powerful than intrinsic motivation? That is the central question. And it was one that the proponents of the canned programs could not answer. So, if kids are motivated by the program, what happens when the program is not there to reward any longer? Donalyn Miller's most excellent book, READING IN THE WILD, deals with this central question. What good does it do us to create school time readers if they never will evolve into lifelong readers? Canned programs cannot help this evolution. Indeed, they block the development of it. Whether it is a contract for screen time after page time or walking without the vibration of approval from the Fitbit, we need to look beyond the immediate and work toward the long term.

Eyes on the prize.
Tags: extrinsic, intrinsic, motivation
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