There is a lot of talk in education about Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset”, in which she discusses the idea that beliefs that “abilities, intelligence, and talents can be developed.” It is an idea that educators have latched on to (for good reason) since this is not something we want to only be able to develop in students, but in ourselves as well, in a world that is constantly changing. I have even tried to even further this conversation talking about the notion of the “innovator’s mindset” in which this growth leads to the creation of new and better ideas. With new knowledge, it is important to not only be open to it, but to take it and move forward with it.
This could be something to applied the idea of educators using Twitter. The “growth mindset” is the openness to learning about the medium, but the idea of the “innovator’s mindset” leads to people creating hashtags to share things that are happening in their classroom, or using it to connect with educators that teach the same discipline as they do. With the Twitter now implementing video in the service, it will be something that people will not only be open to learn, but I am sure will do interesting and new things with. With new technologies, people not only learn how to use them, but they repurpose them to create new and better ideas. It is probably one of the reasons why Twitter moved from the idea of “what are you doing”, to “what’s happening” in the update box. People were not solely focused on sharing their own personal updates, but started sharing news from their viewpoints, and created movements moving forward. Twitter became what it is today because of people’s willingness to not only use it, but to further it with ideas that I am assuming the developers could have never imagined. Our openness to learn and to develop new ideas because of this development was crucial in this process, as with so many other technologies.
Recently though, I read a post by Tom Whitby and was intrigued about the following quote:
Without a mindset for continually learning, or a limited view on what one is willing to learn, it will be difficult to change the status quo in education. Connecting with others may be a great idea that we all agree will make a difference in education, but what good does that do us, if a majority of educators are only comfortable doing what it is they have always done. Of course, it should go without saying that if staying within those comfort zones worked, we would not be having a global discussion on needed reforms for education.
In order to create these much-needed Personalized Learning Networks educators will need to learn about social media and its culture. The ins and outs of Twitter would be the most efficient and effective way to share what is needed for educators. This however takes some time to learn, and it also takes a commitment of at least 20 minutes a day interacting with connected colleagues for anyone to benefit from this. The benefits far outweigh the time and work involved, but the fact of the matter is that not every educator has a growth mindset. Not every educator shows a willingness to leave those zones of comfort. For those reasons Twitter will never connect all educators. The shame of it is that Twitter is probably the best way to share and learn available to us now.
What threw me off when reading this is the idea that it somewhat equated the idea that if you are on Twitter you have a “growth mindset”, and if you aren’t, you don’t, and you are not willing to grow. This could be lumped into the same area of making statements such as “you are a bad teacher if you use worksheets”; it may spark thought but it could also alienate some really great teachers.
Here is a couple of things on the idea that you have a “growth mindset” if you use Twitter. First of all, I don’t really believe that the idea people have a “growth mindset” in all areas at all times. If you took my own viewpoints, with many things in education, I am very open to learning about them and applying them to my own work, but if you took the idea of skiing, my mindset is very fixed. I have no interest in learning or having the growth mindset towards flying down a hill in snow in freezing Canadian temperatures, all the while so many people tell me how amazing it is. You do not have either a “fixed” or “growth” mindset; you have either a “fixed” or “growth” mindset on certain things, and for most educators.
This is not just outside the idea of education as well, but well within in. I have challenged people on the ideas of awards for students, and from some of my conversations, some educators have no interest in thinking differently about the process no matter what is presented to them. It is not about a right and wrong in the process, but more the idea of “I am good with what we are doing at this present time”. I used to feel the same way about Edcamp; I did not really understand the appeal of the process and thought it seemingly was a waste of time, even though so many people said the exact opposite. Having gone to it at one point, I saw how powerful it could be and my mindset towards it moved from a very “fixed” one to an “open”. On Google Plus I have a pretty “fixed” mindset at this point. Do I know it can be powerful? Absolutely. Do I care about learning more about it at this point? Nope. I spend enough time using the social networks that I am currently on that I do not have time to add something that is probably great, but in many ways similar to what I am using.
It is not an “either/or” process, but something that can develop over time. Some educators were totally “fixed” on the idea of using Twitter at one point, but at some point they had a “growth” mindset that was sparked to try the service. To get people to that point, it rarely is achieved with a hard push, but often more of an understanding of where they are, and putting them in a place where they can make their own connections. I think that people are sometimes reluctant to change, but I also think that we can be equally terrible of helping move people to change.
The other notion from the article is the idea that if you are an educators that is on Twitter you have a growth mindset. There are many educators that actively use Twitter, went through the process of learning it, yet aren’t necessarily open to new ideas, or ideas out of their usual circle that they may connect with.
Not being on Twitter doesn’t mean that you have a fixed mindset, any more than being active on Twitter means that you have a growth mindset.
Learning is a very personal thing, and sometimes we aren’t open to things not because we aren’t open to them, but because we just aren’t ready to take that leap at this certain point. I would say the majority of educators that are actively using Twitter to share ideas on education, were at one point against the idea of using it. Learning can be very circumstantial, and sometimes we just aren’t ready for new ideas, no matter how good they might seem. If we are never open to new ideas, that is a problem, but some of the best educators that I know display a “growth mindset” in so many areas, yet do not use or care to use Twitter. They still make a major difference for kids and we have to recognize it.
There are many great reasons why we should try new things, but if we (educators) are not open to one thing, it is not about simply lumping people into one category or another, but understanding there is always more to the picture than we might be able to see. If we really want people to be open to change, I think it is essential that we focus on what they are great at first, as opposed to where they are deficient. Showing someone that they are valued for what they already do, is important in the process of learning as it builds both confidence and competence, and if we are going to really embrace a “growth mindset” where we are willing to take risks, that feeling of safety with our peers is essential.