In my classroom, the most motivating factor for students to gain information has been, hands down, audience. If students are working towards a project that will be presented for an audience they care about, it gives them a purpose beyond performing a task for my eyes alone. In addition, the traditional audience of one does not reflect our digital 21st century. Our students can and should publish to a wider audience. This can be done through individual and class blogs, collaborations via google docs, you tube videos, skype calls with other classrooms, voicethread essays, podcasts, letters to the editor, comments on news articles, book review sites, publishing a class book, online contests - the list is endless.
To be honest though, I find that I can think of many ways to answer ‘how can students apply information?’, but always return to ‘why should they?’ If the purpose is merely to ‘gain information’ then students could just as easily read summaries of our books instead of the books themselves - in this case, information becomes a commodity to ingest and produce, no matter the audience. A paper summary is a Twitter summary is a blog summary. However, if the teacher’s purpose is to prioritize critical thinking, facilitate connections across texts and ideas, and solve problems through collaboration, then teachers need to construct the form of their curriculum to be a catalyst for these goals. The audience then becomes a meaningful context for information, where ‘how can’ is enabled by the teacher, but ‘why’ is motivated by the student.