The power of motivation—if young people want to learn, you can’t stop them

This blog post originally appeared on the Education Innovating blog run by Education Evolving from 2010 to 2011. It has now been merged into our main blog.

Professor Sugata Mitra’s famous Hole in the Wall experiment clearly shows the tremendous potential of motivation on the part of students.

Discussing the experiment in this video from a recent Ted talk, Mitra describes the series of experiments where he placed a kiosk inside a wall in a slum in India, provided some positive reinforcement, and then stepped back—returning (sometimes months later) to see that students had not only begun to figure out the device and software, but through mirroring and mimicking of the computer narrator were picking up British English.

"If children have interest, then education happens,” Mitra says. "Students will learn what they want to learn."

The resourcefulness and energy demonstrated by students in Mitra’s experiment is a glimpse of something that can be harnessed by a school model.

When we look at a school, and its design and function, shouldn’t a first question be: Does this school work to elicit or suppress student and teacher motivation?

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