Tag Archives: digital programs

TSL℠: Do You Speak It?

I’ve specialized in applying learning principles to print content in higher education for over twenty-five years. Of late, the major part of my focus has been working with technical people to transition from print texts to digital.

I’ve participated in conventions, webinars, courses, meetups, and anything that will get me quickly up to speed in the digital world. I couldn’t have started this blog without a class I took from Molly Ford at General Assembly. (Thank you, Molly.)  All of this re-education has contributed to my continuing success.

My most recent learning adventure involved signing up for the edX MOOC, Design and Development of Games taught by Eric Klopfer, MIT. I got through the first two weeks, overcoming significant challenges including learning Gameblox so I could create a simple game in which a sprite knocked out coins. I felt empowered.

Then I hit Week 3. After five hours of watching videos, reading assigned materials, and getting a review of narrative video games from Jordan, my daughter’s fiancé, my head was exploding. Still, I felt confident that in the morning I would be able to do the assignment: analyze a video game.

Only I couldn’t. Even after reviewing, Mitgutsch and Alvarado’s Serious Games Design Assessment Framework, a very much needed construct. When I tried to apply it to a game, my mind went blank. Why? Very simply, I was too new to the genre. I needed to spend a lot more time playing and experiencing games before I could analyze them.

Somehow this realization started me thinking about my parents who came to America after surviving the Holocaust.  I remembered their accented speech and that sometimes I had to translate official letters and documents for them. No matter how much they assimilated they would always be immigrants, non-native speakers.

Then it hit me, now I am an immigrant, an immigrant in technology land and like any immigrant, I have to learn and keep learning a new language, TSL℠(Technology As A Second Language℠). Does that make me a second-class citizen or in this case, a second-class digital educator? I remember a story Anna Frajlich, a Polish immigrant and poet, told me about an early ESL course she took:

Anna’s assignment was to write about a story she had read. She chose to discuss Franz Kafka’s The Trial in which the main character is referred to as Joseph K. or K. When she got her essay back, her ESL teacher had commented that her English was improving, but “in America, we write out last names.”

The ESL teacher’s ignorance is a reminder that even if something does not immediately make sense in the digital world, it can still make sense and add value. If we accept that learning from each other across cultures is positive, then learning across education generations is a no-brainer. Native speakers and non-native speakers dialoguing and collaborating can only strengthen the digital education landscape.

Extrinsic Versus Intrinsic Motivation

Educating students in school relies on motivating them to learn. Studies and discussions on the meaning, application, and benefits of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are happening as digital programs are created and instructors are incorporating them into their curriculums.

Very broadly, extrinsic motivation comes from outside in the form of stimuli or rewards such as ranking, salary, badges, and praise. Intrinsic motivation is prompted by inner feelings such as curiosity, need for belonging, and satisfaction. How extrinsic and intrinsic motivation can sometimes relate to each other is the moral of a story that has made the rounds in psychology circles for years:

A group of children go every day after school to chant anti-Semitic remarks in front of a store owned by a Jewish man. One day the man comes out to the children and says, “This is what you call yelling? I can hardly hear you. If you promise to yell more loudly, I will pay you each a dime.”

The children accept and every day, after they yell for a while, the store owner gives each a dime. After about two weeks, the store owner comes out and says, “You’ve been doing a great job; but business has been bad lately, and I can only pay you each a nickel.” The children protest, but they accept the reduced payment.

After another couple of weeks,  the store owner comes out to say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t afford you anymore. You’re welcome to continue, but I won’t be able to pay you.” The children reply, “You think we are going to do this for nothing? No way,” and they never come back again.

What has happened here? The intrinsic motivation of fun or satisfaction, (no matter how twisted) that spurred the children to act in the first place was replaced by extrinsic motivation (money) and when the external reward disappeared, so did the original intrinsic motivation. This is a simplistic analysis, but the point is clear: Be careful with extrinsic rewards.

Schools have already tied learning to extrinsic rewards: grades, test scores, medals, badges, diplomas. Isn’t that enough? These rewards have robbed many students of a love of learning. We can’t let that continue.

The world of phenomenal change that we live in makes lifelong learning more important than ever. Ditto for intrinsic motivation. We need to make sure that students desire learning without all the bells and whistles.

In the past, a higher education graduate could choose a career and plan to thrive in it through experience and some professional development. Now, we are expected to learn new technologies and ways to communicate every year. Instructors are expected to integrate technology as they teach.

The best preparation for success is knowing how to learn and to want to keep learning. Creating a deep consonance between internal satisfaction and learning in students will ensure that they are able to initiate and navigate the changes at the core of 21st century life.

For a more data-based scientific explanation of how extrinsic motivation can ruin intrinsic motivation see “Extrinsic Rewards and Intrinsic Motivation in Education: Reconsidered Once Again” by Deci, Koestner, and Ryan.