I’ve always had this fascination in the large scale effects from small points of change, punctuated equilbrium not just in evolution and white water rafter trips, but also in human nature (anyone with me on that one?)

Actually, I was thinking about a vocal faculty member in our college system that for sake of vagueness, I refer to as non-gender specific “Pat”. The frequency of Pat’s antics vary, but Pat is well known in our system for the loud (in email) finger-pointing, administration bashing, emails blitzed system wide. On a much lower level of frequency, Pat sends out a meaningful story related to life or learning, but usually it is a rant against Pat’s department, Pat’s college leadership, the dark forces of our District office, etc. Anyone who rebuts Pat, whether to the entire system by email or even privately in a direct email to Pat, is then publicly lambasted by Pat in (again a system-wide) email. The best way to deal with Pat is to ignore Pat, logic and reason fail if Pat disagrees.

Pat’s action has prompted changes system wide in email, in regards to reply-all functionality on distribution lists. But more importantly, Pat is almost solely responsible for motivating people in our system to learn how to use e-mail filters. Our trainers struggled for a long time to get our folks to learn about things such as organizing email by folders (most have an ever scrolling inbox), selectively reply-quoting, using attachments, and adding filters, with a modest amount of actual grabbing on to these concepts. But because people are so irate by Pat’s annoying behavior, they have gone out of their way to learn how to write email filters, to send Pat’s missives to the trash can.

Motivation drives learning.

Another example. A few weeks ago I listened to an NPR radio story of some animal rights activist who for year lobbied Congress to pass legislation that would stop the practice of sending “downed animals” sick cows, to the slaugherhouse- that is right, your hot dog may be lurking inside of it ground up bits of ill animals. The cattle industry was always able to shut this down. Then came along “Mad Cow Disease”, and the activists almost tiny shift from an animal rights issue to a health scare made the action take place almost overnight. Small change, big results.

Motivation drives action.

Think about computer use. 5, 6, 8 years ago, us folks in the instructional technology arena spent a lot of time convincing people of the value of things such as multimedia, internet communication. In workshops, before we could get tot he exciting stuff, we would need to stoop to teach mouse and window basics. Along came the web, and people began gobbling up computers at home because there was a personal reason for doing it, whether it is online shopping, communicating with distant relatives, geneology research. We (usually) no longer need to reach the basics.

Personal Motivation drives learning.

We can recognize the powerful force of motivation, give it lip service, yadda yadda, but for a large portion from where I sit, a lot of education going on is still a delivery model of an institution “giving” canned content, or curriculum, or lecture, or click and read web to students, and not making the information relevant, important, or personal enough to motivate them beyond “What do I need to do to pass?”

Where is the motivation?

The post "Motivating Drivers- One Person’s Actions Drives Learning E-mail Filters" was originally cracked open and scrambled from a rotten egg at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2004/01/motivating-drivers/) on January 29, 2004.

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