Does ICT motivate learning?

There is a tacit assumption that children are motivated by using technology, but the evidence appears to be rather conflicting.

Here are just three samples from many recent research findings.

motivate“The technology-supported learning environment improved student motivation and engagement by 9%” (Increasing Motivation and Engagement in Elementary and Middle School Students through Technology-Supported Learning Environments), Godzicki, Linda; Godzicki, Nicole; Krofel, Mary; Michaels, Rachel ERIC

“..educators and researchers should avoid the assumptions that all youth are digitally savvy and motivated by technology”

(Rethinking Common Assumptions about Adolescents’ Motivation to Use Technology in and out of School Jacobs, Gloria E. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, v56 n4 p271-274 Dec 2012-Jan 2013

A relationship seems to exist between the opportunities that technology presents and motivation for gifted students. When technology use aligns with authentic or “real-world” applications, motivation can be enhanced

(The Role of Technology in Gifted Students’ Motivation. Housand, Brian C.; Housand, Angela M. Psychology in the Schools, v49 n7 p706-715 Aug 2012)

In addition to this advocates of a switch to computing in the UK national curriculum from ICT cited student boredom as one of the reasons. ( Of course there are a lot of political interests in all this, from micropolitical interests of subject groups through to mainstream party politics. Perhaps the question is the real problem. It is a simplistic question and invites a simplistic answer. If we asked does reading motivate learning? Does team work motivate learning. Does practical work motivate learning? We would have a similar dilemma. All of these have a long heritage in education and probably everyone can think of times when they have been bored or thrilled by any of them. It seems that we should stop asking simplistic questions about ICT because of its novelty and consider it more in the context of any other essential aspect of learning.  ICT is an essential part of a broad and balanced education in the modern world and so it should be considered in the same way as other mainstream aspects that we take for granted as part of the established education landscape. If ICT is not motivating learning it is because the teaching and pedagogical context in which it is being used are at fault, not anything to do with the technology itself.

The Handson project is designed to work out how ICT can be targeted effectively to ensure it motivates high attainment. Whether this is an inherent property of the technology or the way generic technologies are deployed is immaterial. What matters are outcomes. Is the high attainment associated with sustained motivation evident?


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