Crafting ‘wow’ moments to kick start curiosity

Last week while working on some cross curricular planning with a colleague and were starting to formulate an possible inquiry into urban spaces and how humans interact with space.  I asked her what her ‘wow’ moment was going to be and started to throw around some ideas – what if the students came in in the morning and you had moved all the chairs and tables to the field leaving only a note on the whiteboard to say to meet you there.  Once all the students arrived you’d continue like nothing was out of the ordinary, call the roll and maybe even get them to do a math test.  Only after they experience the shift in space and unease would you then begin to ask questions around the inquiry topic.  While you’d probably get a barrage of strange looks lugging the furniture across the courts I’m pretty sure you’d have their interest.

In researching curiosity and gamification it has always come back to a defining moment when the user shifts into a mode of internally driven momentum (if I had  more than 28 minutes I’d insert reference here). A catalyst needs to be provided to cause this change and I think for students who encounter so much new each day it needs to be something that shocks the system and causes a moment of wonder, an event that occurs that wakes them out of their slumber. Which could be an epic class event or a simple one-to-one chat.

While the above example is pretty full on it got me thinking about my own practise and what I had done over the past year to create wow moments – were there many? how did they go?  One that stuck in my mind was with a Year 8 Robotics class.  They came in one morning and I didn’t speak, just stood to the side of the classroom and nodded as they came in.  Once seated I methodically handed each student a piece of paper with a gold seal , shook their hand and wished them luck.  The note read that they had been selected for a special task force but needed to complete x, y and z to gain the next clearance classification to continue the mission.  I didn’t explain the mission or anything really and this whole activity was completely different to what they had been doing the week before.  I didn’t speak for nearly the whole block as students immediately went to work focusing on their ‘mission’ which included some coding using a program they’d never used and new equipment that they needed to figure out. While the activity was teacher driven how they went about the tasks were open to interpretation and student defined – and this was the learning.

I was in a meeting the other day when a colleague stated that learning doesn’t always have to be fun as a rebuttal to a suggestion I had made. While I see where they were coming from, I actually completely disagree.  Not all learning needs to be a sunday picnic and we all know it shouldn’t be.  Then I twigged that maybe we just had different interpretations of what fun means – when I think fun I think hard fun.  It needs to have some substance to it, get me intrigued and keep me engaged.  I need to get a buzz from it which will only come from hitting that perfect combination of the challenge and skill (insert Csikszentmihalyi reference here).  For me this is maker mindset 101 – try, fail, try again, fix, repeat, get better, try harder etc.  The thing is that you need that ‘wow’ moment to get you to this maker mindset.

Now I’m pondering about the ‘wow’ moments I’ve planned to roll out this year.  I want them to be fun because when they are they stir curiosity and start a commotion.



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