Oct 31 2006

How A Great Idea Might Get You Out Of A Motivational Rut

Our educational system needs new ideas, challenges and technology to motivate students and teachers

I’ll never forget the best excuse I ever heard for missing a deadline. One of my professors told me that a student didn’t get an assigned paper in on time and requested an extension.

The reason? The student claimed to be in the midst of a motivational crisis. The professor granted the extension, because who hasn’t been there themselves at one time or another?

Unfortunately, a crisis of motivation doesn’t just hit lethargic undergrads. We all get stuck in a rut — and it usually happens more often than we’d like to admit. But if there’s one surefire thing that has the ability to break us out of a rut, it’s the introduction of something outside the daily grind: a comment that makes us think, an idea that improves a project, an unexpected kind word, a brilliant color in a sea of gray.


In many ways, our education system is also stuck in a rut. As Tina Sartori notes in her column on page 7 , a surgeon from the 1900s could not walk into an operating room built in 2005 and start working. He or she would have no idea how to use today’s medical tools. But a teacher from the 1900s would manage just fine in many of today’s classrooms. Sartori makes a great case that new tools can motivate students. But for these technologies to take hold, we’ve also got to invest in teaching our teachers how to use them effectively to enhance learning.

Training is only one step, however. At EdTech, we firmly believe that technology can solve problems and fulfill dreams in the classroom. So we asked five thought leaders in education — Milton Chen, Bette Manchester, Rick Martinez, Bob Pearlman and Beverley Royster — to each describe a concept involving educational technology, which, if implemented, would dramatically improve educational outcomes for students in this country and would get learning out of its current rut. You’ll find their ideas starting on page 32 .

In “Book Smart ” on page 45, Houston County and DeKalb County Schools also profited from a great idea — tracking their textbooks with barcode technology.

This simple inventory project cut costs, eased administrative resources and helped these districts recoup fees for lost books.

We hope these innovative ideas will spawn a motivational burst and a ripple effect. And, as always, we’d love to hear about what ideas you’re implementing to tackle the challenges at your school.

Lee Copeland
Editor in Chief