Crucial Thought Rss

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Chris selected as K12OnlineConference keynote speaker Each year the K12OnlineConference provides tremendous professional development for free, and entirely online. This year, they have selected me as one of their keynote speakers. I am thrilled to have been chosen and look forward to participating in the conversation. Read the full post announcing all the keynote speakers here.

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Two quick links on Cognitive Load Theory I've been fielding lots of questions lately about Cognitive Load Theory. Here are two quick links that may be useful. First is an article talking about the practical implications of CLT on the design of learning. The second are some "recent" (as of 2003) developments regarding CLT. Happy reading! Update: I clarified the second...

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Practical advice on kids and Android app development After hearing about my students' success developing an Android app, I've gotten several emails asking for more details as to how I practically worked with my kids. Here are some pointers that I offered to the first person that emailed me, perhaps they are of some use to you. Please note that your mileage may vary. It's ok to not be...

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Publishing an App Inventor app to the Android Market As I mentioned earlier, my students and I published an Android app to the Android Market. See those links for more information on the background. This post is decidedly technical. First, once we finished the coding process, we packaged the app for to download to the computer. This is an option in App Inventor. This downloaded an .apk file....

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Designing and publishing an Android app with kids This post is designed to provide some context around how/why we decided to build this app. The more technical details of the code and how we published it will come in a future post. My students and I recently completed and published an Android app, and here's how we did it. First, the genesis for this goes back to a question I asked...

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Motivation in education (also titled breaking the blog silence)

Category : Academics

I’m breaking my self-imposed blog silence. I have to. I can’t keep quiet any more.

I happened to see a tweet from Lisa Parisi about her summer to do list. I scanned through her blog which I hadn’t spent much time on and came across a notice about her being involved in a new EdTechTalk show called Conversations. That note is at the end of the post I referenced a moment ago.

This is what I said…

Are you really going to talk about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

Please oh please go read everything by Eccles and Wigfield.

Then go read a fantastic book called Motivation in Education by Schunk et al.

And then, make sure you’re familiar with B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning.

Bottom line, there’s no such thing as intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

There are lots of amazing theories that surround motivation, such as the Expectancy-Value theory and others.

I’d almost rather you chat about motivation in general and get out of the specific question of extrinsic or intrinsic, it’s a false dichotomy.

Motivation in education is a much larger topic than solely that, in fact there is a large body of research that indicates that this dichotomy is totally wrong.

Lots of folks are doing great work in the arena of motivation. Please go search them out and involve them in your conversations. I dare you to contact Schunk, Eccles, Wigfield, Feldon or any of the other major names in Motivation and ask them to appear on your show.

If you do, you’ll surely learn a lot and get beyond the echo chamber of intrinsic v extrinsic and what we all do in our classrooms. Let’s get some outside info from folks who have been researching this very topic for many years and can shed some real, research-proven tactics and theories with us.

Just my thinking..


I know I am going to be accused of being academic and uppity. I know I’m going to be accused of being snobby or something.

Either way, there is a lot more out there than solely the intrinsic versus extrinsic discussion. MUCH MORE.

A topic that has been running around in my head for a long time is the disconnect between the research being done at the University level and what is considered best practice on the K-12 level. A lot of what we consider best practice is not so good after all. I suppose that’s another post.

Man I wish I had more time to blog. Honestly, there’s little value in it right now as it’s not going to keep this roof over my head. I’m prepping for a sick course load next semester, so less blogging (not that I do much anyway).

NB: I didn’t link to the book in the comments to her post. I did in this note. Here it is again if you missed it the first time.

Comments (11)

Maybe I’m a puny thinker but I can’t get past your value-lading everything. What do you mean by “good?”

We miss your blog posts. JUst one question–and perhaps its none of my business to be sure: Who is NB? The prof?

Lisa is my friend btw.

Let me be the first to confirm that you are indeed academic, snobby, and uppity in this post. There’s a reason the show is called “Conversations” rather than “Dissertations” or “Elite Discourse”. It is an informal chat among classroom teachers. The point is to discuss ideas and practices relevant to those teachers. It is not a rigorous, doctorate level treatment of academic ideas.

What a pity you had to break your blog silence to call negative attention to a teacher who wants to do nothing more than spark discussion. You could have made your point privately to Lisa. There was no need for this post.

@ryan: My thinking is that good means something that works. Motivating kids and keeping them motivated takes a lot of work. Researchers have been trying to figure out what actually works for some time. It’s really interesting work. And for the record, everything you do has a value, otherwise you wouldn’t do it. I just find that I am very analytical of what I do. It has to be about what’s best for my students, right? There’s where my value lies.

@cathyjo NB is Latin for Nota Bene. I suppose it’s a geeky alternative to a footnote or a By The Way sort of way to let folks know something.

@just a teacher: I am so sorry you interpreted my post in that fashion. My heart is not to draw negative attention to anyone. I think Lisa is wonderful. I posted this as a comment on her blog and felt it deserved a mention here. I do not intend to illicit elite discourse at all.

You see, there is a real disconnect between what’s going on in academia and what’s going on in K12. Remember, I am also a 6th grade teacher and I am NOT a credentialed academic.

I just happen to know that there are loads of motivational theories that have the support of research behind them.

Conversations amongst teachers is fine, and I’m one too. Why can’t I join the conversation?

Also, why did you feel like you had to hide behind a proxy to post here? Did you think I’d retaliate in some fashion? Interesting…


I just want to thank you, Chris, for bringing the conversation here. Our show is designed to converse, discuss, and – yes – debate. How else do we learn if all we we ever hear is our own point of view and our own understanding? I really was hoping the show would be a place where any teacher could come and voice their opinions, respectfully and openly. What a great concept! And I am sorry you can’t come to the show Sunday. Perhaps you and I will have to have this conversation on another day. And we’ll make it open so as not to have others misunderstand. 🙂

@Just a teach – Teachers just talking is fine. But teachers just talking about bad information is not helpful – it’s educational malpractice – a term I’m starting to use more and more. I applaud Lisa’s response here – and her desire to spark conversation. If we know something that’s useful to moving a conversation forward, we’re duty-bound to share it as practically and helpfully as possible. I think Chris is trying to do that – and I for one appreciate it and want to hear more. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about what he’s saying around intrinsic and extrinsic motivation – but I’ve always been interested in seeking out intrinsic motivators. If Chris can show me how I’m wrong to think that way, I want to learn more from him. Please don’t try to shut him down by calling him academic. (And since when was “academic” a dirty word? We’ve much bigger problems than civility if we believe that working to improve our practice through the application and understanding of research is not a good idea.)

Chris and Lisa, I’m learning. Keep talking.

I’d just like to say that I am a great admirer of Lisa — she even wrote an article for my website: — although I don’t read enough of her stuff frequently enough. Anyway, I read this post yesterday and NOTHING about it struck me as negative. I am glad (for you) that Lisa doesn’t see it as negative either.

Remember the Sufi proverb: When a pickpocket sees a Holy Man, he sees only his pockets.


What “works” seems to be as much sophistry as what is “good”. Works…good…its all values. What are those values? You bag (rather than beg the question, I fear…)

I think if you get in the water, you’ve got to get off the academic expert high horse and start defending your ideas in an authentic and legitimate way. This does, I’m afraid, smack of academic elitism as does the idea that your work is so important you don’t have time to do what all the rest of us are doing. The blog world is breaking that separation down–and I for one am glad. PhDs are great, but they are legitimacy or authenticity nor are appointments to higher ed posts. Ideas…ideas…ideas…and merit…based on clear and fiercely contested values. At least that is my view.


I am trying very hard to understand what you mean, here. I’m finding it hard to understand what you mean when you say that I should defend my ideas in an authentic and legitimate way. Is there nothing to be said for defending one’s ideas with decades of research?

I am also a classroom teacher, sir. I’m in both worlds, so I feel acutely aware of the disconnect between the two. I am having a hard time spanning them both.

Values are a personally held thing. In my own life, I have had strongly held values that later turned out to be based on my own intuition and anecdote, but were harmful to my students’ learning.

I almost see you pushing towards a very relativistic point of view, in that as long as someone has values (be them based on solid principles or not) it doesn’t matter, as long as they have them.

I don’t have a Ph.D. I am just a guy working my way through to that degree while still teaching my kids and looking to improve my own teaching.

You say I should get in the water. What does that mean? Look through the archives, this blog has been around a while. I’ve just let off the accelerator a bit due to having gotten busy.

I don’t think the blog world is doing much to break down anything, as the blog world can be a chance for folks to do nothing more than fight against new ideas. Academia works to research ideas and theories and develop implications. As is in this case, I mentioned lots of theories and a fantastic book. You haven’t accepted that, but rather chose to fight against it. We all have a lot to learn, sir, myself included.

OK, maybe I’m grinding axes or tilting at windmills at your expense. I find in my own PhD path that academia is more and more isolated from reality. That worries me as a citizen and a teacher/trainer/learner.

It’s a good blog–I’m a subscriber. I apologize for getting pushy but two things tend to set me off (my problem not yours…)

1. People suggesting this or that is “good” without saying what “good” means. I think good in education and learning is very much up for debate right now and anyone who claims high ground is, to my mind, implicitly wrong.

2. People saying they are too busy for this or that. We’re all busy. If you don’t want to blog (I have written 10 articles in 6 months) don’t do it. If you don’t write, RSS will not send wasted notes.

I apologize for venting my frustration on those two points on you. I think the message of the web and collaborative discussion is that we all have things to learn and that some people build, over time, the respect of broad audiences through quality utterances.

On a more substantive point, I find academic education to be (increasingly) almost totally disassociated with reality–and I deal with it every day in a number of different forms. That angers and frustrates me as people play a game as if CVs were a raison d’etre and universities existed to advance people’s personal curiosities and their quests for wierd forms of interpersonal power. None of that, to my mind, is appropriate. Personal curiousity is supported by universities as people do a socially necessary and highly critical job–grow knowledge and experts.

I do believe legitimacy rests in debate and debate must be based on the merit of ideas rather than posts, CVs, or even experience. Experience amogst these weighs most for me, but others may disagree. I personally value ideas and action. Too often neither of those comes from the aloof and sactimonious we must endure in any field. Maybe I am one of those too.

Regardless, I do regret any injury and my using your forum to vent. It belongs on my own.


Thanks, Chris, for pointing me in the direction of those researchers on motivation. It’s practical advice that supports my action research project and for that I am grateful.

What I am thinking about as I read these comments is how challenging it is to convey or interpret the subtly of tone in a post or comment. Reminds me of parable or Aesop’s fable (forgot source) where a letter from a child to a father is read with two different voices, one derisive the other sympathetic, eliciting different responses from the father. How do we decide what voice to hear as we read a post? Is this the uncovering of personality that Scott McLeod is talking about here.

I didn’t get the negative tone from your post–I got enthusiasm for learning, and a desire to point people in the direction of useful research that helps us get better at what we do. Stickers, praise, and letter grades have been the tools of motivation for decades in schools. I want to know what really works and why, and not just guess.