This is a response to some posts and discussion on 'jenny connected'

and it explores some of the fundamentals of intrinsic motivation for Montessori classrooms, and for MOOCs ...

... Context is indeed all. Montessori, like you, faced an almost impossible 'learning design' problem - how to design learning 'carrots' - in her case for severely disabled children, in her first classroom, with few or no suitable resources, I am sure.

I suspect that as Italy's first women doctor, she was being given a 'poisoned chalice' here, and expected to fail - as a doctor and as a "woman", in "women's work" ...(gasp to taste at all the misogynist implications of that).

... but ... she succeeded. She designed self-correcting materials, exercises, probes, learning objects/ environments which her 'dysfunctional' learners could use to explore their own senses, arms, hands, fingers, minds, in their own time, at their own pace, and, perhaps most importantly, in their own rhythm (cf. Simone's recent links on the ways in which 'rhythm' is fundamental for so many things).

e.g. ... a friend recently visited with her toddler-age daughter, who became very busy with putting a set of wooden animals into a toy container, then out, then back in again - in her own rhythm. A neighbour's (slightly older) child spontaneously joined the task, and asked her the names of each animal, adding one's she didn't know, and reinforcing ones she did know (spontaneous collaborative design).

then ... the mother - who asked how Montessori's principles - as in Lillard, perhaps - see above - could be extrapolated from the Montessori classroom to the home ...

... the mother wanted to stop her daughter, because they had something 'important' to do - i.e. catching a train.

... oh no! I said, you can't do that. The child is completing her own self-defined, self-created 'learning task', which has its own content and, most importantly, its own rhythm and integrity (as in: wholeness of content, form, rhythm, and 'completion').

So ... the child must be asked (not told) to 'complete' her task (her, own, self-invented learning task), not interrupted. The integrity of this (very small) person's newly invented, almost fragile, learning trajectory must be respected - by one and all, but particularly by her parent/s. Otherwise there is little sense in taking the child to a Montessori nursery – the ‘whole’ context – home, school, community - needs to exemplify an integrity of space for learning.

Now, all of this can be applied, de capo, to x- and c- MOOCs, to explore the implications of teacher / institutional-imposed task content, form, rhythm, etc, as opposed to learner "embracement" (sorry, words fail me here) of the 'whole' task that they embark upon.

... if not, kiss goodbye to intrinsic motivation, and much else besides, and just tell them what to do – but don't be surprised if they quickly become alienated from what the adult / institutional world counts as 'learning'.