5 ways to motivate different kinds of students with digital learning tools

Motivation is crucial to learning. Without motivation, students are prone to just memorizing information or crunching for an exam instead of immersing themselves to really learn about the topic. Ideally, with high motivation, surrounded by a culture of learning and supported by a community of experts, students can learn deeply, actively share information, and even create new knowledge.

One quite detailed motivational model relevant to schools (Tapola, Veermans & Niemivirta, 2013), categorizes students into five different achievement goal orientations. Each type of goal orientation responds to different ways of motivating, which is made easier by personalized learning and tools in a digital learning environment.

1. Enhance desire to learn and gain knowledge

Students with mastery-intrinsic orientation don't need motivation from the outside, but it is important to support them and provide resources. Digital tools allow personalized learning where students can get additional tasks or projects, new tools, ideas, and ways to share information. Participating in a variety of online learning communities will help students to expand their creative capacity and reasoning skills.

Examples of Microsoft technologies that help to enhance the desire to learn and gain knowledge: use Skype in the classroom to create a learning community, grow authentic communication skills, collaborate, and build global awareness. Use Office tools to prepare students for high growth jobs, and Office Online for seamless real-time collaboration. Promote data literacy and visualization with tools such as Excel and Power BI.

2. Empower students to achieve more

Students with mastery-extrinsic orientation strive for achievements: although they are highly motivated, they might feel depressed and lose interest in studies if they are unable to reach their goals. Games can help, as they provide opportunities for students to achieve new levels or rewards. Students can actively participate in an online learning community to gain attention, and tutoring others in the use of different digital tools can also be a motivating factor.

Examples of Microsoft technologies that help students achieve more: OneNote supports both student thinking and collaborative learning. Minecraft allows students to engage in a diverse range of subjects.

3. Help students become more successful

Students with performance-approach orientation are competitive and want to be at the top of their class. For these students, a gaming environment can increase motivation with the possibility to excel. In an online community, it is also possible to achieve more–create more materials, more impressive graphics, or more popular videos. Additionally, different kinds of cooperative projects may provide insight into learning together; as a team everyone can reach a higher level, making competition less important. It is a good idea to praise students for working collaboratively as well as for their individual achievements.

Examples of Microsoft technologies that help students become more successful: get your student hooked on coding with free tools, resources, and curriculum for the classroom with Microsoft Imagine. Show students how to use Office Mix to communicate their learning in an effective, creative, and engaging way.

4. Improve student performance

Students with performance-avoidance orientation fear public failure. Such students especially benefit from learning communities where they don't have to worry about failing as individuals, and they can contribute to creating something new together. Reflecting on one's own learning is useful for all learners, but particularly for students with this type of orientation. An electronic notebook that acts as evidence of past projects can prove that the student has been able to perform successfully before. Accessibility tools can help students with special needs.

Examples of Microsoft technologies that help students improve their performance: use digital ink to support deep and complex learning (see the research paper by Sharon Oviatt). OneNote notebooks support student thinking and enable literacy , especially among students with special needs, without singling them out in class. Skype Translator provides on-screen and near real-time translation and transcription so people can participate in video conversations regardless of their language and hearing abilities.

5. Improve student focus

Students with work-avoidance orientation want to minimize their efforts. It is important to understand that this kind of a student might be very talented yet bored – they should be given meaningful real-life projects or exciting tools to work with. In a digital learning environment, it is easy to find materials and experts on any niche topic that the student finds interesting. You can motivate students by showing the usefulness of a task; it makes sense to learn to code instead of implementing the same thing many times over.

Examples of Microsoft technologies that help improve student focus: Sway allows students to get creative with their presentations and foster self-expression. Kodu Game Lab Community enables them to build games, play games and share games.

Project-based learning in groups of students with different kinds of orientation goals will create interesting outcomes. When students who are intrinsically interested in something are working together, they can act as an innovative science community and create their own study materials and even new knowledge, depending on the topic and resources available. When students are motivated by achievements and performance in the team, together they can become even more efficient and do presentations of their results also outside of the group (in competitions, conferences or publications). In a motivated, self-directed group, students with any type of orientation goals can gain insight, get excited, and thrive.

The above mentioned tools will benefit learning communities and individual students of all ages and levels. You can find more information on Microsoft education tools in the Microsoft Educator community. See also 6 Ways Microsoft technology helps foster creativity and critical thinking skills

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