As the new school year gets underway, teachers across the country will be working to develop positive learning cultures in their classrooms. Many will extol the virtues of a growth mindset, pushing their students to try, fail, and try again in the name of learning.
Carol Dweck’s popular (and often misunderstood) research has become a pervasive force in classrooms, asking students to change the way they view effort and success. In one classroom I visited, I saw a poster that gave examples of fixed vs. growth mindsets, including “Instead of: “This is too hard.” Say: “This may take some time and effort.” The students were prompted to add “yet” each time they said “I don’t know how to do this,” and were rewarded with stickers of superheroes saying “I never give up!”
We demand this of our children, but what about ourselves?
When I facilitate sessions about incorporating technology in the classroom, I see teachers disengage, roll their eyes, and start skimming Facebook after the first few things they tried took longer than they anticipated.
Technology is moving quickly, and our brains don’t move as quickly as our students in adopting it. There’s not enough time in the day; we have too many classes and not enough planning periods. Our principals already paid for one tool — why one more? Yes, sure, I hear you. But more than that, I believe every educator owes it to themselves (and the students they serve) to try a new technology tool this year, and I mean really try it with an open mind.
The International Society for Technology in Education, a.k.a. ISTE, defines this challenge in one of their standards for teachers, emphasizing a cycle of exploration, reflection, and planning that can take entire school years to get right.
Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness
Regardless of our own difficult experiences learning new technology, limiting the way we teach to the ways we were taught can only set them up for failure. The jobs of the future demand students that are adaptable, reflective learners. Using technology to seek information, present ideas, and collaborate increases student engagement, builds confidence and communication skills, and makes it easier for teachers to support a variety of learning styles. We must adapt to our students’ futures, not ask them to adapt to our pasts.
Searching for just the right tool for your classroom will take time. Your students are unique, and your teaching style is developed authentically over time. So, you’ll need to invest time to learn the ins and outs of your new toy. You’ll click the wrong buttons. You’ll screw up the settings. Start over. Try again. Ask for help. Get frustrated. Have a breakthrough.
Just as we demand that our students pause and reflect before they say, “I can’t” and return to the comfort of the known, teachers should do the same. Invest in your own teacher toolbelt. Just as when your new smartphone comes, you spend time to download your favorite apps and music and make it your own, invest that time in your classroom technology.
Administrators — it’s on you to make space for this in your schools. ISTE has standards and resources to support school leaders in developing a culture of genuine inquiry and innovation. Give your teachers time and ask them lots of questions — it’s what they’re asking for!