Searching for the Upside of Student Irrationality

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at HomeHaving read and enjoyed Dan Ariely's first book, Predictably Irrational, I was excited about plunging into the follow-up titled The Upside of Irrationality. Also, after reflecting on how SuperFreakonomics (a similar book with some overlapping experiments) can save education, I set about reading Ariely's work with the mindset of an educator. Below are three chapter connections as they apply directly to the classroom.

Meaning of labor - In a poignant story about a male worker who gets disillusioned after his PowerPoint presentation gets shelved, I am reminded of how our students experience homework in their classes.Often, homework is processed on a two-way street, but it is a small and narrow side street, meaning that assignments usually start and stop with the teacher. As a technology integration specialist, I see homework possibilities expanded to include sharing and collaborating with classmates, and in the case of many Web 2.0 assignments, students can share their creations with the world. This gives them an instant audience and motivates them to produce a high quality product.  


The IKEA effect - Similar to how we might overvalue a piece of furniture that we assembled, a student may have a similar feeling towards a class project or a successful performance on a test. Overvaluing an assignment in this case can lead to positive outcomes, as students will put more time and effort into a class that they are excited to participate in and are consequently proud of the work that is produced in the class. The same can be applied to teacher-created lessons. It's one thing to download and modify an existing lesson plan from the Internet. It's a completely different scenario to create something from scratch. I get this sensation often when I train on SMART Notebook. Although I am quite familiar with the "let's not reinvent the wheel" attitude, sometimes we just have to invent a different type of wheel.

Empathy and emotion - One of my greatest fears when leaving the classroom to be a full time professional staff developer was losing the ability to empathize with students and teachers. Thankfully, I continue to draw upon and reference my experience working with students for 10 years, and I have even applied lessons learned from my very first year of teaching. Even as I am now responsible for over 200 teachers and potentially up to 2,800 students, I aim to establish relationships with each and every teacher who asks for technology assistance. Whether it is responding to a question on how to configure Outlook or an invitation to lead a department workshop on Google Apps, I try to engage in as many opportunities to work with colleagues in small group environments as possible. By developing these interpersonal relationships, I earn the trust and respect of the teacher, and our professional relationship grows as a result.

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