TITLE: When It Comes to Learning, Motivation and Study Habits Trump Technology AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 22, 2015 1:58 PM DESC: ----- BODY: A lot of people have been talking about Kentaro Toyama's Why Technology Will Never Fix Education, which appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this week. Here is the money paragraph:
The real obstacle in education remains student motivation. Especially in an age of informational abundance, getting access to knowledge isn't the bottleneck, mustering the will to master it is. And there, for good or ill, the main carrot of a college education is the certified degree and transcript, and the main stick is social pressure. Most students are seeking credentials that graduate schools and employers will take seriously and an environment in which they're prodded to do the work. But neither of these things is cheaply available online.
My wife just completed the second of two long-term substitute teaching assignments this year in a local elementary school, so we have been discussing the daily challenges that teachers face. The combination of student motivation and support at home account for most of the variation in how well students perform and how well any given class operates. I see a similar pattern at the university. By the time students reach me, the long-term effects of strong or weak support at home has crystallized into study habits and skills. The combination of student motivation and study skills account for most of the variation I see in whether students succeed or struggle in their university courses. This all reminds me of a short passage from Tyler Cowen's book, Average Is Over:
The more information that's out there, the greater the returns to just being willing to sit down and apply yourself. Information isn't what's scarce; it's the willingness to do something with it.
The easy availability of information made possible by technology places a higher premium on the ability of students to sit down and work hard, and the willingness to do so. We can fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we do when we look things up quickly, but many students can just as easily access the same information. We have found ways to use technology to make information easily available, but we haven't found a way to make motivation an abundant resource. Motivation has to come from within. So do the skills needed to use the information. We can at least help students develop study habits and skills through school and family life, though these are best learned early in life. It is hard for students to change 15-20 years of bad habits after they get to college. The irony for young people is that, while they live in an era of increasingly available information, the onus rests more than ever on what they do. That is both good news and bad. -----