Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Information Students Care About

Motivation, no doubt, is a factor in how well students search, evaluate and use digital information. If you really care about the information you seek and find, you'll probably do some things differently.

If the motivation is extrinsic or intrinsic may matter less than if the information is deemed important or not. For many, it may boil down to 'do I really care about this information?'

Please understand, I'm a huge fan of intrinsic motivation. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was my dissertation chair. I aim for flow in most of what I do. Learning (in the long run) is better when intrinsically motivated. But extrinsic motivation is also effective at getting results (think: grades, money, respect, etc.). School assignments are typically structured with extrinsic incentives--or punishments--because students won't do them voluntarily. Things like grades and privileges are effective short-term motivators.

Searching, evaluating and using information are generally short-term tasks. Of these three, thorough evaluation may involve considerable time and effort, but as presented in most assignments, these three are seen as stepping stones--sub-tasks--to a larger task of learning subject-matter. If students really care about the subject matter--if they think it is important--they may perform better at these sub-tasks.

Most of the challenges I offer through this blog try to be relevant to students, but they may not be important. I'd have to know the interests of specific students to do a better job at choosing challenges based on importance. What I have to opt for is a range of topics that involve searching (and evaluation) competencies.

Librarians and teachers who work with specific students, on the other hand, can offer 'important' search challenges. To that end, the examples you find here are representative searches. They may or may not work well because students care or don't care about them. The challenge for educators is to find--or create--challenges students really do care about. That, I believe, will help achieve more lasting results and greater information fluency.

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