Came across this randomly (or was it... "inspired"???) while playing with an iPad at the Apple store. Through my drool came this rapid animation and words such as motivation and incentive -- words I happen to be turning over repeatedly in my brain pan as I get ready to take on a 3rd grade class for the next week. Anyway, got home, looked it up again, this time with audio, and there must be something here we can use in Education.
Now I don't know anything about this RSA group, I'll look 'em up in a minute*, but the video is well done if a bit on the fast side... I want to run it back in slow motion just to make sure I caught everything. Coming from the business world, I've experienced the "just because you give them more money, or offer the opportunity to earn more money, doesn't mean they'll work harder/faster/better/not be rude to customers" phenomenon. It seems the people that are going to work hard and get things done, and done right, are the people that will do it that way regardless of monetary or advancement incentives. I'm sure the same is true of students -- the ones that will work hard and complete assignments will be those students whether they get a bouncy ball or Starburst or not.
How should we inspire/encourage/motivate our students?
I do like the Free Time idea -- let them work on whatever they want, but (the manager in me can't let go) I want to see results, I want to see contribution from all team members, I want to see your product shared (taught to) the rest of the class.
* update: okay, I've found RSA.org, as in The Renaissance Society, but that wasn't it. Here is the RSA YouTube page and the official "21st Century Enlightenment" RSA site, and here is the video/art site for Cognitive Media ...
...and here's another video -- he starts discussing education and "kids these days" at about 5:30