TED Conversations

Mike McCabe

Director of Technology, The Foote School

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Let's build a school around the idea that motivation is internal, not external. Using the 20% Model like Atlassian, Google, and others.

If what Dan Pink says is true, you and I must take some time soon (now) to invest in our kids and grandkids. If we don't, they will fail.

Mr. Pink mentions a number of successful models which work because of passion, not monetary reward. His suggestion that Wikipedia, Gmail, and other successful products were created because people simply wanted to do them (and wanted to do them well) motivates me to explore the possible ways to create a school around that model. Even a 20% Time school where kids could do whatever they wanted at least one day a week could be a great start. Maybe integrating a peer-review process like Atlassian's FedEx Day and 20% Time programs have could help shape the initial groundwork.

Are you a teacher? Do you help run a school? Jot down your ideas (brief or detailed) about how we can make this work? Can we do a full-blown ROWE (Results-Oriented / Results-Only Work Environment) School?


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  • May 17 2011: Hello!
    I'm a designer&advertising student from Barcelona.
    First of all, sorry for my "poor" english =).

    I think it could be a really good idea.
    Creativity is an important skill in my area. In my school we are ALLWAYS busy, doing projects, doing doing doing....
    the teachers says "this career is really hard, you HAVE TO work" ok, I understand, but if we are allways in this mood of busy life, without a portion of time in which we can do what we want, we don't feel motivated.
    More over, In my school we are forced to be in class every day. if you don't attend in 4 classes on a subject, you fail it.

    People are allways afraid. We are really busy, we have lot of work, and more over, if we dont arrive at the goal or we don't attend at class, we fail the subject! We are more focused on bad things, on the "fears & punishments" and we can't relax and focuse on design or on "feel love for design".

    I know it depends on the person and on the optimism levels of each one, but when you are young and you are in school you usually feel a bit lost.

    What I want to say is that I feel that in my school people is really demotivated.
    Maybe it could exists a subject or some time every day in which we were allowed to work in some project we loved, or we wanted.
    Also I think an school needs optimist teachers that teachs to the students how to "love their work" or "love their studies". I think that all is a problem about loving what you do, and usually the origin it's on a problem of self-esteem.
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      May 18 2011: Hey Patricia, thanks for your comments. I'd like to respond. My students love my class and love learning. I believe they are motivated by the desire to learn. Plus, they are not punished by grades or threat of other rules and consequences. If you threaten students with "attend 4 classes or fail," you begin by taking away any motivation they may already have. No one wants to be threatened. This is why the old way of grading punishes students. If they don't understand something that was taught and you give them a low grade for not understanding, what motivation could they possibly have to even attempt to learn anything else?

      In a results-only learning environmentTM, students are never threatened by grades. They are given many choices for the way to demonstrate learning, and if they make mistakes, they are re-taught and given another opportunity to return to the activity and improve it. This is real teaching and learning.
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        May 19 2011: Hi Mark,
        Have you seen any examples where the Results-Only Learning Environment can be set and successfully implemented by the kids? Patricia's note makes me think that she is feeling (as I and many of us in our environment have felt) that there is so much to do that nothing much matters. It's all too hard and breaking it into smaller pieces won't help.

        I wonder if Sugata Mitra's talk, The child-driven education,
        could be taken to an extreme here in the US where we could somehow allow the child to really develop their own program? Then, maybe, students like Patricia would not feel so busy and unmotivated.
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          May 20 2011: Hi Mike,
          I have created the Results Only Learning Environment (ROLE)tm. I use it daily. I have written widely on the subject. You can see how it works at my blog, www.resultsonlylearning.com. Feel free to comment there.
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      May 19 2011: Hi Patricia. I wish my Spanish was half as good as your English. I need to find the time to practice, but just haven't been able to do it.

      Your note makes me think of yet another great TED talk I saw recently. In this video, a designer, Emily Pilloton, talks about teaching design as a way of helping kids and communities who need it:

      Hopefully watching it will keep you motivated to be a positive force in whichever community you choose to be in after you graduate. I know that it may not sound like I've addressed your frustrations, but your note made me think the work that designers at Project H are doing might give you some fuel to get through all the junk.

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