The Girl on the Bus

12967961_0e4a21df7f_mOnce upon a time a small girl sat on a city bus staring out the window. It was a regular day, cars and trucks drove alongside the bus, mothers with babies were out shopping for their families, and the sun shone down on it all.  The little girl looked out the bus window and felt sad. She thought to herself, “Everything in the world that we need to know has been discovered. There is nothing left to learn.” Such a sad thought for a young girl!  Well that little girl was me and I vividly remember the day and the feeling.

My thoughts may have been realistic about school and learning at that time in my young life. Then, we believed that education consisted of pouring knowledge into student’s heads to prepare them for the real world. A set amount of knowledge was all that was needed. No wonder my little girl self felt discouraged!

Preparing students for the real world was discussed during YouTube Live 1 as part of immooc .  It is safe to say that we are beginning to understand that preparing students for the real world means bringing the real world right into our classrooms.

The little girl I was, would be excited about the potential for change and innovation that we have in education today.  We understand so much more about how people learn; we have tools to create and to collaborate; and we are rethinking what ‘schooling’, means.

I’d deeply hopeful and enthusiastic about the new horizons that are opening up before us. I love the opportunities I have as a teacher to be a continual learner, explorer and risk taker. Last year my exploration led to teaching Scratch Coding to a group of grade 4, 5 and 6 students. This naturally evolved into developing a Maker Space in our school this year. This spring I was inspired by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager’s book and two day session in Edmonton called  Invent to Learn and this fall I am anticipating great things from  blendED2016 as well as the community of learners who are part of immooc.

Thankfully the girl on the bus grew up to discover that there are always new things to learn. I can’t think of a more exciting time to be a teacher.

Your Brain is Amazing!

All I can say is, “Thankfully we are developing a deeper understanding of how we learn.”

Once upon  a time I lived in a world of the fixed mindset¹ and likely you did too. Some students were smart and others were not.  Intelligence was viewed as fixed at birth and one of the roles of education was to sort students and direct each one to the correct vocation.   And,  if you think about it, too often we still organize learning in this way.

Let’s identify the qualities this fixed mindset promotes and you will recognize it right away.

Students working under a fixed mindset:

  • Are afraid to make mistakes
  • Avoid challenges
  • Give up more easily
  • Fear of constructive criticism
  • Feel threatened by the success of others

Think what this does to learning. Consider what happens when students see themselves in this way.

Contrast this with a growth mindset¹, a term which on its own sounds encouraging. A growth mindset states that intelligence can be developed and our true potential is unknown.

Students with a growth mindset are:

  • Persistent
  • Not afraid of mistakes
  • Willing to take on a challenge
  • Resilient
  • Inspired by the success of others

How can these ideas change instruction?

It is not the student who ‘knows’, that we should recognize rather the student who says, ‘hmmm I am trying to figure this out and I have not got it yet. It is this student who demonstrates a growth mindset. As educators we need to communicate that everyone can get better if they work on it, which means that persistence becomes a  key quality to encourage.

And for this reason our view of mistakes plays a critical role in our mindset. How do mistakes impact learning? The student who makes a mistake has multiple opportunities to learn.  First from recognizing the mistake, and then from working through the process to correct it.  All this creates more opportunities for brain synapses to fire and grow. Working through mistakes causes our brains change and develop.

What message shall we give to students?

 Mistakes are fertile ground for learning.

As an educator with a growth mindset, I am motivated to create an environment where risk taking is safe and encouraged, and where  learners at all levels are recognized for their effort.

 

¹Carol Dweck – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Random House Publishing Group December 26, 2007