I was reading the blog of a friend and fellow #PLENK2010 participant where she was discussing the concept of motivation and cleverly introduced the old wisdom about leading a horse to water.
While it is true that you can't make them drink, a number of old tricks are available to make them thirsty.
I often think about this when planning teaching activities. If you give learners every imaginable resource to make learning happen, they often still will not drink it up. I've even observed at times when teaching, that I get the attention, set the hook, watch people get engaged in the process and then they pull back. It is as if to say " I don't really want to get too enthusiastic about this, school is not cool" One of the strategies I usually try is to lay back and let the learners approach the material in their own ways while providing hints and clues that might whet the appetite.
I worked for a while consulting on a voc/tech project in Romania. The project involved trades apprenticeships and the apprenticeship culture was a bit different from Canada. There was a saying in Romania that you had to steal your job. That is, you could be an apprentice and work on the job but the supervising journeyman would not willingly teach you anything. The journeyman understood that if he taught an apprentice something their relative worth shifted and the boss might make unfavorable choices come layoff time. So they would give the apprentices just enough information so they could do the grunt work and they would actively hide their actions as they performed the more skilled parts of their performance. You never saw a more highly motivated group of apprentices, and their attention to the slightest clues was remarkable.
Maybe our concern with providing the best possible learning conditions is counter-intuitive, just like many other things in human nature. Better to incrementally increase the challenge in learning as game theories propose. Might be a problem for all the people who have been pail fed by the current educaitonal system.