Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mindset and Technology

Many are familiar with Dr. Carol Dweck's work concerning our mindset, and how our thinking impacts affects our ability to improve and grow in our learning and endeavors.  If you examine her research and how she applies the two different types of mindsets (fixed vs. growth), you find the principles behind the processes can be applied to just about any challenge or process in our professional and personal lives.

Developing a growth mindset is even more critical in today's world of constant change with the presence of new and what appear to be greater challenges.  A growth mindset equips us to embrace those challenges as opposed to avoiding them.  In teaching and learning for example, technology tools we use to leverage student learning are not to be avoided simply because there exists the immediate challenge that requires us to invest in time, energy, reflection and work (fixed mindset).  Instead,  they are tools to help us embrace and master the new (and I might say exciting) challenges that face us today and will be present tomorrow, (growth mindset).
The growth mindset perspective, in light of new common core, technology and 21st Century Skill challenges, is a must.  The chart below (Graham 2007) outlines the major differences between the two types of mindsets and how they apply to key characteristics that affect learning and academic growth.

When it comes to students and teachers using technology to increase student academic achievement, one can easily see how all of these apply.

Teachers who excel in using technology have had such an interest, desire and understanding of the benefits of using digital tools in the most appropriate way have learned to embrace the challenge of learning and implementing new apps, software, strategies, etc.  Technology is no longer a threat, but it is a means to a powerful end.  The use of technology is embraced; not avoided

I think a real difference maker for tech use success for all teachers is how administration helps teachers to avoid the one obstacle with no tolerance.  Technology has to work, and it has to work efficiently.  Technology reliability and viability are obstacles that have to be taken off the table.  In my view the teacher mindset is irrelevant if the technology does not work.  The district and site leaders who understand that this is essential exemplify a growth mindset by having a "whatever it takes" mindset to make sure the technology works (no excuses).  In other words, this part of the tech equation is on leadership, and the leaders who succeed for their staff persist in the face of setbacks.

There is so much trial and error involved in this work that we have to embrace persistence and effort as key.  The other growth mindset characteristic is having the humility to allow students to leverage our efforts by learning from them as we try and retry our lessons.  In every lesson and in every attempt to improve, we learn from our failures and successes.  The growth mindset connects effort to success.

Teachers who may be initially intimidated using technology may be even more sensitive to any feedback.  This makes it even more important to nurture a growth mindset.  These teachers learn feedback can be an advantage to them and their students, and another set of eyes is a benefit and not a threat.  They look beyond anything that may be taken personal because they value the benefit of feedback for their growth.  The growth mindset stays focused on the benefits of using the tools in an even more powerful way in order to help kids learn.  The fixed mindset tends to not appreciate the vision and purpose of using technology, and any feedback or criticism is not regarded as useful.

Success of Others
Celebrating the innovation, excitement and powerful learning among kids because of what these teachers are planning and doing is something we do not do enough.  And, when we do celebrate, we emphasize how one teacher's success adds to all of our successes.  Just like the other parts of the mindset, this one relates directly to our vision and purpose of using technology in the classroom.  When we see how it is helping kids (and our own efficiencies), we look beyond the shortsightedness of being threatened by others' success to the larger perspective of opportunity and inspiration for our own work and improvement that leads to students' improvement.  When we get better, our kids get better.  A growth mindset puts the welfare of our students above our own egos and comfort.

Fixed Mindset
Growth Mindset

Give up easily
Persist in the face of setbacks

See effort as fruitless or worse
See effort as the path to mastery

Ignore useful negative feedback
Learn from criticism

Success of Others
Feel threatened by success of others
Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset: Which One Are You? (2007, April 15). Retrieved March 16, 2015, from