Friday, July 27, 2007

Changing Your Mindset - Part One

I just finished reading Mindset by Carol S. Dweck. I am so excited about this book that I don't know where to begin. In Mindset, Dr. Dwecks explains her work on the "fixed" versus "growth" mindset. A person with a fixed mindset believes that their intelligence is fixed - there isn't anything he or she can do to change it. A person with a growth mindset believes that if they work hard and challenge themselves they will succeed and grow. Fortunately, those of us with fixed mindsets can change and learn to embrace a growth mindset.

At some level this seems obvious and yet I don't think we realize how much we carry around this fixed mindset, especially when it comes to intelligence. This can be a very dangerous mindset when it comes to our children. When we tell our children or our students "you are smart" we are unwittingly passing along a fixed mindset. This kind of vague praise doesn't give room to grow and learn, instead it can create a fear of risk and a fear of looking stupid.

" the fixed mindset, effort is not a cause for pride. It is something that casts doubt on your talent." (Dweck, p 99) I think we can apply this concept to teachers and technology. Sometimes, successful, experienced teachers will be very resistant to exploring new technologies. These teachers may be exhibiting a fixed mindset. They feel what they are doing works, they think of themselves as "good" teachers. If they try something new and fail, then they will no longer be "good" teachers.

The phrase "a born teacher" plays right into a fixed mindset. Good teachers are good teachers because they work at it, because of the experience they have working with many children over the years, of trying different things with different kids and seeing what works. Teachers are not born, they are made.

I have so much more to say about this, but I'll stop here for now. This book should be required reading for all teachers and parents. It will open your mind to so many possibilities! Stay tuned for more.

Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Dweck.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset. The new psychology of success. Random House Inc. New York. 2006.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Technology Integration Between Friends

I just completed a 5 day course learning how to coach and facilitate a type of professional development called Critical Friends Groups or CFGs. In CFGs, groups of 10 - 15 teachers meet regularly (monthly) to discuss student work and teacher practice in an effort to improve student achievement. They do so using protocols facilitated by a trained member of the group. These protocols provide a structure that focuses the conversation, keeps people accountable for the things they say and helps the group find solutions to difficult problems.

I believe in the effectiveness of this work. I wonder how to both bring technology into the work itself and how to use the work to help increase the use of technology in the classroom. Can one support the other? I'm sure the answer is yes, but I don't yet know how. Perhaps a social networking site like ning, a blog or a wiki could help teachers to stay connected, keep the conversations going, and reflect on practice in between sessions.

I also wonder if there is a way to use the protocols Online. Could these types of structures help facilitate Online interactions? Could we create some protocols to help guide our Web 2.0 conversations? Do we need to? What do you think?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What is the question?

"How will you incorporate information literacy skills, such as evaluating and comparing the quality of sources, effective and efficient searching for information, and issues of copyright and plagiarism into your teaching?"

This is the question I recently posed to several candidates applying for a teaching position at my school. Some of the candidates followed with, "Are you asking me how I will use technology?" I realized through this interchange that I wasn't really asking about technology, I was asking about information. Yes, technology is changing rapidly. Yes, there are millions of interesting Websites and Web 2.0 tools out there. But what I really want to know is, how you will teach your students to navigate the massive ocean of information in an intelligent, efficient and ethical way.

David Warlick refers to this as learning literacy. He describes it as " — the skills to resourcefully use your information environment to help yourself learn what you need to know, to do what you need to do." So it isn't really about the technology, it's about what you do with it. We need to teach our students to think critically about information. This is not new to teachers. Good teachers have been doing this all along. There is just a lot more information out there to wade through.

On a side note - not one of the candidates had read any of my blog entries. My blog is linked to the front page of our school Website. It isn't hard to find. (I thank my principal for allowing it to be so prominent on the page -Thank you David if you are reading this). So narcissistic me thinks that maybe one of the candidates will walk in the room and say "Oh I read your blog..." Not one of them did. I'm not sure what that says - and if you are out there reading this please leave a comment and prove me wrong - but I have to say I was a little disappointed.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

iLove my iPhone

I just got an iPhone and WOW! it is so amazing I can hardly put it down. I am not normally a gadget person, but the beauty of this phone just sucked me in. And no, I didn't have to wait in line for it. I went to the store and asked for one, easy as that. Setting it up was just as easy. In a matter of minutes I had synced my contacts, calendar, music and podcasts. The interface is so easy to use. I got lost yesterday, put an address into the phone and figured out where I was. I can search the Web, access Google reader and check my Gmail and Yahoo mail. And, oh yeah, it is a phone too!