The Tom Sawyer Effect: Intrinsic(ish) Motivation in Gamification

I’ve been reading the book “Drive” by Daniel Pink, which is all about motivation.  It came highly recommended from my PLN, and resurfaces repeatedly in conversation.  In one of my Voxer groups, we had a friendly debate about using Class Dojo for professional learning, and talked briefly about Drive.

Last night during the #edtechbridge chat (for which I lurked when I could, while moderating #digcit), we talked about Drive again, and its implications for gamification models.  Chris Aviles chimed in, and said that he had intrinsic rewards in his item shop.  I thought about it, and tried to figure out how I could add more intrinsic(ish) rewards, myself.  The -ish comes from me still trying to figure it out.

At first, it sounds like an oxymoron.  If a person is intrinsically motivated (Type I, as identified by Pink), s/he does not need rewards to be motivated.  At the beginning of the year, when I set up my leaderboard, Chris’s warning against using “stuff” as rewards resonated with me.  However, I had the students brainstorm what they would want, and tried to incorporate their wishes as well.  Now, all they seem to be buying with their points is the “stuff” (i.e. headphones, cell phone chargers, fancy pens, colored notebooks, etc.).  Don’t get me wrong, the “stuff” is comprised of things they can use to do their work, but it’s still stuff.  The challenge is, now that I have this system in place with so many extrinisic rewards, how do I keep students motivated, while steering them towards intrinsic motivation?

Something struck me this morning while participating in #BFC530.  The topic was how to motivate the unmotivated.  For some reason, everything came together in a magical a-ha moment.

I can turn work into fun!

In the introduction, Pink describes the Tom Sawyer effect.  For those of you who have not read Drive or the eponymous book by Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer is a mischievous kid who tricks other kids into doing his chore (painting a fence) by saying that he is doing it for fun.  At first, the other kids want to try, but he acts as though it’s too much fun.  In the end, they bribe him into painting the fence by giving him presents.  Tom totally wins in the end.

What would this look like in a classroom setting?  Well, here is my evil master plan to take over the world, muhahahahaha…er, I mean, here’s what I have in mind.

I’m thinking of adding three new rewards to the item shop (possibly more, if I think of some):

  • Flipper of the Week!!!  I have been using flipped instruction for almost two years now.  I typically start off the year by flipping on a weekly basis, to help establish routines.  Towards second quarter, I fall off and just flip when it’s needed (i.e. project walkthroughs, etc).  My kids love to take selfies, make videos, do morning announcements, etc.  As a student, how cool would it be to do the weekly video, and be shown to both classes, as a minimum?  Even better, if they have a media release, maybe they can even be posted on my YouTube channel, and be shared to the world!* *(pending approval)  Also, the other students would probably get a huge kick out of seeing their friend present an idea.  Along similiar lines…
  • Teacher for the Day!!!  This one, I’m kind of struggling with.  I don’t do a whole lot of direct instruction, but I’d be willing to change up the structure if it’s in the best interest of the class.  One of the best ways to learn a concept is to teach it to others.  I have even experienced this myself, having to brush up on certain concepts once in a blue moon, before introducing them to my class (shhhh lol).  Hey, it’s been a long time since middle school.  Anyway, the idea here is to meet with a student, plan activities together, and have the student deliver them, with me on the sidelines if needed.
    • Edit: Doug Timm made an awesome suggestion to have multiple students be the teacher of the day, in teams!  That way, they would be able to collaborate, and it may introduce an element of friendly competition, as each group would be trying to outdo the previous teachers.  Sweet!  Last but not least…
  • Class Advisory Council!!!  I poll my students quarterly to see what works for them instructionally, and I tweak my delivery to meet their needs.  I often wonder how they are feeling between quarters.  Even though I have an open door policy that I’m very vocal about, students rarely give me feedback (except when I explicitly ask for it).  I feel like I have a very special rapport with this eighth grade class, having taught them in 2nd, 3rd, and 7th grade, and seeing them in the halls whenever I didn’t have them.  They are very generous of their time, always willing to help out.  (For example, we had about 20 kids volunteer to plan our pending trip to New York.  That’s 20 out of 37, and not even everyone was at school that day.)  I’d love to establish a fluid Class Advisory Council, where a small team of maybe three or four helps to plan the class activities for the week.

This may require a lot of time on my end, especially at first, but it’s definitely worth it.  It may end up being a win-win if we can pull it off.  I’m thinking that I will roll out these ideas one at a time (3, 1, and 2), in the order of how difficult they would be to implement.  This will help to keep the gamification system fresh.  (Sidenote: Next year, I will try rolling out my rewards in waves, to keep rewards from getting stale.)

We can at least try this out and see.  Hit or miss, it will be something new and exciting.  I’ll try to blog about our progress, but if I don’t, feel free to hold me accountable 🙂

If you have any ideas, please drop them in the comments, or hit me on Twitter.  I would love to hear from you.

Conferences for Introverts Part Two (Sarah: 1, daTeechur: 0)

Warning: This post is very random, with no tips or tricks.  I am just writing this one to help me to process.  Hopefully it will be of value to someone else, too…but it probably won’t lol.

P.S. (yeah, I know): I wrote this blog post at 4 am this morning, but took it down, because it felt awkward to post this while still at the conference.  I’m on a train going home now, so I’m putting it up again.

Hi everybody!  It’s been a while.  I was writing like a crazy woman over winter break, but mainly on a book that I hope to finish one day.  That’s a huge goal for me, but I really want to do it.  I also wrote a guest post on my buddy Dr. Will’s blog.  I’m so deeply honored that he extended that invitation.  Check it out if you want to get some tips on getting started with presenting at conferences.

Segue: you may remember a post that I wrote shortly after attending ISTE, entitled “An Introvert’s Guide to Conferences.”  Thank you to everyone for your great feedback.  I am curently in a hotel room at EduCon, and I am finding myself in the same boat.

Actually, the boat is slightly different.  Or maybe the boat is the same, but the waters are different.  First off, let me say that EduCon is an awesome conference.  I love how different it is from the traditional conference.  Speaking of that, Rafranz Davis and I are going to be facilitating a conversation tomorrow about the purpose of the educational conference.  I’m so excited and can’t wait.

There are many differences between EduCon and ISTE.  Although they are both major conferences (check them out), they are like night and day.  For starters, ISTE is an edtech conference with many attendees.  EduCon is a smaller educational conference, with many connected attendees.  Ironically, I was able to adjust to being out of my comfort zone at ISTE a lot quicker than today at EduCon.  Today, I dropped the ball and went all deer in headlights.

Maybe it had something to do with timing.  When I went to ISTE, I was used to being around people.  I did three conferences back to back from June 17-19 (bam, bam, bam!), then headed off to Google Teacher Academy on the 23rd, and HackED on the 26th.  By the time ISTE started on the 27th, I already had the better part of 10 days of interacting with people.  Even though I was uncomfortable at times, and honestly did hide in my hotel a couple of times, I was kind of used to it.

Then, we went back to work.

When you’re working, you don’t have two solid weeks to chat with grown-ups.  Drop me in the middle of a conference full of eighth graders right now, and I’ll be on fire.  The last time that I was in any face-to-face situation with a room full of adults (other than my co-workers) was in November.  So, at EduCon, I’m not yet warmed up.

I have done lots of presentations in the past year or so, roughly about 35.  I can talk flipped instruction or gamification all day.  These are procedural (i.e. “This is what I’ve done with my students, and it’s helped us. Here’s how we did it.”), and I consider them low risk conversations.  However, put me in a situation that I go “off-script,” so to speak, and I freeze up.

Even speaking to people in conversational settings is difficult, because I’m always afraid of sticking my foot in my mouth, which I tend to do a lot.  Instead, I don’t say much at all, and it’s awkward.  Then I get more awkward because I feel awkward about being awkward.

I hate this the most when I meet my buddies from my PLN in real life.  I feel like we’ve built this amazing rapport.  A lot of these folks, we laugh together, we share secrets, we learn together…they are truly friends, even though we have never met.  But STILL, I get all weird anyway.  Don’t ask me why…I have no idea.  It takes me a little while to be myself in face-to-face situations, and I hate this.

I’m afraid that I may be one of those people who is totally different in real life than online, at least at first, but I try.  The truth is, I am the most real in two situations: when I can hide behind a keyboard/smartphone, or when I feel truly comfortable around the majority of people with whom I am interacting.  It’s really weird, but I smile excessively when first meeting someone, which might look fake, but I’m trying to be friendly…as my mind goes blank.

What I love about social media like Twitter or Voxer is that I can chime in when I want, and can maintain Sarahdateechur in short bursts.  I can even fake Sarahdateechur pretty convincingly in face-to-face situations when I’m warmed up, but not today.

I really let myself down.  I did go to the conference today, but only stayed until lunch.  I hung out for a little bit Friday night and Saturday morning with some amazing people, including a few of my good friends from F2F and online, but came back to the hotel midday.  Yes, this was part of the plan, as I had an online presentation at 2 pm; however, I had intended to go back for EduCon Session 3 and the awesome networking events after the fact.  I just couldn’t, though.  I spent the rest of the time in my hotel room, in my comfort zone on social media, and sleeping.

Tomorrow is a new day.  It had better be.  If anything, I need to be a very convincing actress for exactly 90 minutes.  Maybe I need to reread my blog post and take my own advice, and I’m all ears to whatever advice that you may have.  I should probably get some sleep, as I need to be up soon.  Thanks for reading, and goodnight.