Some recent online discussions on motivation and eportfolios reminded me of an experience back in October at the EDUCAUSE conference…. well actually it had nothing to do with the conference.

Towards the conference, I needed to get out to the airport (which seems to be located somewhere in Nebraska) since my wife was flying in on an evening flight as we had plans for some Colorado sightseeing. I managed to misunderstand the concierge’s information that airport shuttles ran every fifteen minutes– well they did except I missed that the schedule ends at 4:00 PM. There was no way a called shuttle would get me to the airport on time, so I had to knuckle under my own mistake, and ride out in a taxi… a $50 lesson.

But hey, make the best of it, right?

This is how I got to meet Benoit the taxi driver. He was not the overly chattering type some conversation always is a better way of using fifty bucks worth of drive time. We talked a bit about Denver, and the number of people there for the conference, and I tried to explain what the conference was about. Obviously with his accent, Benoit was not a US native, so I asked where he was from.

He described his home as an African country I had never heard of with only a few hundred thousand people, and indeed, I did have to look up Djibouti on a map. I tried to ask politely if it was a stable place to live, not wanting to assume that all African countries are in civil war. He laughed and said, “There’s not enough people there to cause trouble!”. I liked that.

He asked me a bit about the job possibilities in computer fields, and I tried to arm wave a bit about opportunities yet in a time when many parts of the field are shrinking or going overseas. He explained that he had a degree in Physics, but it was not recognized here, so he was looking at going to school here, starting over from scratch. Ouch. Hence the cab job.

I told him his spoken English was good and asked how he went about learning it. This is what floored me when he described teaching himself English by absorbing television, newspapers, and continually practicing, immersing himself.

That is what got me thinking about the drive and motivation for learning, whether it be in school, on the job, or just trying to find the best way to get along in society. When it is important to an individual, as Benoit made it to learn to speak English, everything else falls into place.

Intrinsic motivation makes everything else fall into place.

I shook hands with Benoit when he dropped me off, and he laughed when I told him I expect to see him at a future technology conference. I believe I will.

The post "Benoit the Denver Cabbie" was originally pulled from under moldy cheese at the back of the fridge at CogDogBlog ( on December 2, 2004.

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