What research saysGetting the students interested or using their points of interest to improve learning seems to be very obvious and it is a very old idea.
Researches show that the interest improves learning with an increased motivation and better learner strategies. However motivation is only one of many conditions required for successful learning. It is not sufficient.The research revealed several means to induce interest:
- Story telling. Narrating a problematic or historical situation implicating historical figures improves memorisation; scientific controversies are also good levers to induce the necessity of scientific knowledge.
- Games. True games with complete rules, linked to the learned topic, are very strong levers among young learners. They enjoy it and can spend a tremendous amount of time on it.
- Teacher passion. Surprisingly, teacher passion, both in the act of teaching and in the taught subject, induces a strong learner motivation.
- Surprising examples. Presenting astounding, surprising examples leads to a deep learner reflection, surrounded by the induced cognitive conflict between her/his prior knowledge and the presented situation.
- Explaining a known fact. Using taught knowledge to explain a very well known fact which was previously unexplained.
- Teaching powerful idea. Explaining the gain of this newly taught knowledge, why it is a powerful idea and the gain it induced in human progress. For example, think algebra and calculus as the languages of modern sciences and technologies.
- Bootstrap situation. Starter activity linked to the students interest helps raising their interest.
- Example cases. Application cases coming from outside the school help students see the usefulness of the knowledge. Think percentage used during commercial discounts.
- Questioning. Questioning on the taught subjects in relation to the learner's interest and prior knowledge helps improving deep learning and memorisation. It is a reflective learner process.
Interest and motivations are different. The former is merely the curiosity for or wonder about a piece of knowledge or a task, whereas the latter is based on the learner's belief that s/he can successfully learn that knowledge or conduct that task. Studies show that after a few years in schools, learners become unmotivated in subjects where they don't perform well.
To be engaged in learning, to make efforts, to persevere, the learners must be motivated. The learners interest helps raise motivation, the teacher can induce this interest. However when a learner is motivated, it does not ensure an improved learning process. It depends a lot on appropriately organized learning sequences.
Many proposed points above are orthogonal to an electronic device as a Dynabook, they depends a lot on the teacher's way to organize his/her pedagogical activities. We can make a few proposals to address those points with the help of Dynabook though:
- Games. Several game models easy to adapt to fit teacher needs will be an interesting addition. Such games could be networked; learners will play the game in the classroom and finish it remotely from home. A collection of implemented games will be useful too for the teacher. Such electronic games will ease teacher's effort to produce electronic boards, cards, dice. Such artifacts will be shared from the teacher's Dynabook to the learners' Dynabook.
- Questioning. A tool to help the teacher creating dedicated questions game will help reflexive learning. Again such question games will be produced from the teacher's Dynabook and shared with the learners' Dynabook. Other organisational schemes could be imagined though.
Any opinion on the topic? If so leave a comment for further reflection.
Notes S. Hidi, K.A. Renninger, The four-phase model of interest development, Educational psychologist, 41, 2006
 A. Bandura, Auto-efficacité : le sentiment d'efficacité personnelle, De Boeck, 2003