Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Video Game Style Motivation

On Monday I bought a new exercise game for my Wii. I've been using the Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus but I felt unmotivated by it lately. I've been playing it for a few years now and was frustrated by the fact the goals I had to set were based solely on weight and nothing else. Early on there were little rewards for reaching a certain amount of hours of activities, and I always made sure that I got in my 30 minutes so it would play the little happy music, rewarding me for my hard work, but beyond that there wasn't much. I don't need to lose weight, I want to be more fit. Sure, I could set my own goals apart from the game's and celebrate them for myself, but that's what I got the game for in the first place, to be my motivator.

I'm easily motivated by small success celebrations. Three seconds of happy music or collecting a trophy or sticker or check-mark both in games and in the real world are huge motivators for me. So I wanted a new exercise game that would let me set goals that were meaningful to me. A few friends suggested Zumba and I considered it (I love Zumba and dance in general) but there didn't seem to be any goal setting or rewards for reaching goals. Instead I bought Wii Sports Active. So far it has lived up to my needs.

But how is this all related to teaching? After all, this is a teaching blog, not a exercise game blog. When looking in to buying a new game, I thought a lot about what motivates me to do things. As much as I would like to be, I'm not often intrinsically motivated, or not as much as I think I should be. I clean my house because I like guests to feel comfortable and enjoy my house as much as I do. I mow the lawn because I don't want neighbours to think I don't take care of my yard. I write because I want people to read my writing and give me positive feedback (or critique it constructively). I do get some pleasure out of doing all these things as well, but when I feel stuck or unwilling to do something, it's often external motivators that get me going. I believe that the same is often true of my students.

We did a book study at our school this past year of a book called The Highly Engaged Classroom by Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering. A few teachers got together and we read and discussed chapter by chapter. It was a good read with lots of great ideas. The one I've been contemplating lately is having the students set goals and make choices about their learning. I believe that setting goals is highly motivating, but I haven't come up with a way to integrate this idea into my Intensive French classroom.

In video games, players don't often set their own goals in the same way. The game sets up the goals for them and they can sometimes choose which ones to go for or how to attain them. For example, one of my favourite video games is Little Big Planet. I get to run around and collect stickers and I get rewarded for finding more stickers and items. In other games, players are rewarded with experience points and get to go up a level. Or they collect gold and buy new items for their character.

Now, I already have a reward system in my classroom. My students get tickets for speaking French during our daily routine and these tickets go in for a draw at the end of the week. The students often cite this as one of their favourite parts of Intensive French. Not intrinsic motivation but often effective at getting reluctant students to participate. I would like to alter this system or add a different system that somehow uses what I know of video game motivation to help motivate my students to speak French in class. I would like to figure out a way to have the students either choose their own goals or have set goals for them to attain.

Have you used goal setting in your classroom? What worked for you? Do you have any suggestions for how I could use goal setting in my classroom?

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