There is no learning without engagement, a situation that happens all too often in our typically lecture-based classrooms. At the same time, engagement without learning, which frequently happens in today’s digital worlds, is not a healthy alternative. Some claim that online gaming is the answer to engaging and motivating students in their academic work. Yet, students can frequently be engaged in these virtual worlds without actually learning anything or becoming more academically motivated.
We are investigating the relationship between specific technology-based motivational activities and students’ interests in STEM careers along a developmental span. To accomplish this, we are creating a four-day experience that merges technology-based activities with classroom-based instruction. This four-day intervention is designed to target specific motivation constructs that have been widely studied within the Expectancy-Value framework of motivation.
If researchers and educators want to make the claim that innovative technologies can be used as motivational tools to enrich students’ academic experiences, then research using rigorous theories of motivation must be conducted. Furthermore, educators would be hard pressed to justify the costs of these types of activities if research did not show that they are indeed effective at motivating students to do well in math and science classes and pursue STEM careers. Finally, because we know that different students are motivated by different things, we investigate which types of technological activities are most effective for different students.