Giving My Students Purpose

This blog post ended up about being something completely different than what I intended to write. I had to delete my first two paragraphs as those were for some different post reflecting on the school year so far. Maybe I'll write that other post another time. 

I've been doing quite a bit of reading* lately to help make me a better teacher, and one of the books I've been reading is Drive by Daniel Pink. I've really been thinking about what I can do to help motivate my students. I have some students who can do great work when they want to, but more often than not, they would rather do nothing. I'm not going to be able to make overnight changes to get them working, but I can move in a direction. 

The two things I want to work on giving students more of is Autonomy and Purpose. Autonomy is mostly going to be little things such as letting them choose their teams, and letting them choose which project they work on. Purpose is a bit more tricky. I think it comes down to changing the story. 

Every student has a story, and I know this is a bit cynical, but I suspect that in many cases the default story is, "I am stuck in this class, and I have to do these things because I am told to." Giving a better story will help create that purpose.  Instead of the story being "We are computer science students learning to code." it should be "We are game developers working on making a game that will help the world in some way". 

Stories don't need to be very big. With my graphics class, I'm going to have the students write tutorials. The process of them breaking something down into steps, getting those steps written down, and making a series of screenshots to go with them will be a valuable process for them, and it'll be a valuable assessment for me. If I have them turn them in, and I don't do anything with them, then it's just an assignment with a really lame story. However, if I make a little website, and I post them for the world to utilize, and I use these tutorials as a resource in future classes, then the assignment has a better story with some purpose attached to it. 

I'm still figuring out what the story needs to be for each of my classes, but with the subjects I teach, it really shouldn't be hard to get something that my student can buy into. 

*: Having a half hour commute lets me get through a lot of books on Audible.