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How to Stay Motivated During Remote Learning

The new school year has started for most students in the Bay Area! Usually, the start of a new school year brings students a lot of excitement. They look forward to seeing all their friends and peers again, meeting their new teachers, and doing all that back to school shopping at Target. This year with the pandemic, things might look a little different. However, don’t forget the most important thing: you’re in control of your learning experience, and it can still be a fun and successful school year.


A few of my students have expressed their lack of motivation and excitement about school this fall. I can absolutely understand that and relate. It’s easy to fall into a rut and feel like everything is monotonous. After all, we are stuck at home every day with minimal social interactions.


To combat all of this, we can refer to the wealth of resources online that we are so fortunate to have. One of the best motivation boosters I’ve found online is TED talks. They are 15 to 20-minute videos about various thought-provoking topics. Some of these talks are particularly helpful for students. Here are the best TED talks for students that I’ve listened to and highly recommend.



This TED talk uncovers a surprising truth about success. IQ and pure talent are not enough to ensure success, as many studies show. This is true for academics, college, and in most other important aspects of life. In fact, many studies have shown this time and time again. Rather, it is passion and perseverance that allow one to succeed.


This TED talk is particularly applicable to the current circumstances. With COVID changing the fundamental way we do so many things, it’s even more important for us to stay on course. We must keep striving for our goals and doing our best. For students, this might mean continuing to study just as hard as you normally would, even though exams are all remote and the teacher isn’t right there with you. This means continuing to connect with your friends, classmates, and teachers online, even though they may not be able to sit next to you in class or answer questions in person.


This idea centers on having confidence in yourself. This might sound trite, but it becomes especially important when you get to college. Students get a lot more independence in college, but that independence can be tough to handle at first. Believing that you can do well and that you can improve as a student becomes incredibly important.


Building on that concept, equipping yourself with effective tools and smart study habits is also crucial in order to improve and succeed. For example, doing test corrections and retracing your steps in a problem you got wrong is a great study habit that I recommend students do, in high school and beyond. This is one of the best ways to improve your scores quickly.


As a fellow introvert, I can definitely relate to this one. I feel mentally tired after two hours at a social gathering. I used to feel anxious back in my high school days whenever I decided to brave it and answer the teacher's question in class (do it for the participation grade, right?). Susan Cain, a famous author and speaker, delivers this eloquent TED talk about the power of introverts. Even if you don’t consider yourself an introvert, this talk is worth listening. Susan also discusses the advantages of being in solitude, which is quite relevant to our current shelter-in-place lifestyle!


This talk is great for students who dread staying at home with nothing to do. At this point during quarantine, this might be the majority of students. Even though boredom can seem like a waste of time and make you feel restless, learning to embrace a little boredom and the act of doing nothing productive actually allows your brain to form new connections. It also encourages more integration and synthesis of all the various pieces of information floating in your mind.


Forming new neural connections and integrating information may actually help you come up with some innovative ideas. Maybe they pertain to a project you are working on, or a new way to score your soccer team more wins, or a creative speech that motivates the school club that you are in charge of. Whatever your challenge may be, a little spark may be all you need to overcome it.


This is an inspiring story about a teenager who created an affordable and easy test to detect pancreatic cancer. This is a big deal because pancreatic cancer typically goes completely undetected until it is late-stage. At that point, there is no longer enough time for treatment. Even though this is an extraordinary and anomalous case, it is a positive reminder to keep your mind open and keep exploring the things that naturally spark your curiosity.


In addition to watching TED talks, I also encourage you to form study groups with friends who are taking the same classes as you. It doesn’t even have to be in person. You can all be on a Zoom call together and work on homework assignments and study for exams together. Many students have attended classes via Zoom at this point. Here's a short, helpful Zoom tutorial for you if you're new to it! Having social interactions are important for learning and retaining information.


You can also try out new digital learning tools and apps such as Socratic that are designed for students. Trying a new study tool serves two purposes:

  1. It adds a little more excitement and “newness” to your daily routine of being at home all day and studying on and off throughout the day in a blur

  2. You will likely find a new tool that allows you to study better than you have been. This will hopefully save you time and a lot of frustration/confusion


More on digital tools and apps in the next blog post. Stay tuned!


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