#BIT16Reads: Whose mindset is the right one?

I’ve just finished reading George Couros‘ “The Innovator’s Mindset” and I think it’s time that we addressed the elephant in the room.  The word “mindset” is so five minutes ago.  There I said it.  What I mean is that putting the words innovator and mindset together in the same phrase is oxymoronic…it’s a contradiction in terms, like jumbo shrimp, military intelligence (ouch).  Doesn’t the very word mindset imply that the mind is formed and finished?  George does acknowledge that the precursor to his book was influenced by Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset” which anyone who is anyone knows has rocked the business and education worlds leading to great new conversations about grit and resilience.  George leaps from here and says that (spoiler alert) the innovator’s mindset relies on the iterative process of finding problems, networking ideas, observing, creating, being resilient when faced with challenges, and being reflective in order to deepen the process.  But I can’t help but think about Chris Hadfield, whose ideas I support when he says that we need to Prepare for Failure:

I like the idea of having a calm confidence and being ready to be flexible.  The best time for my learning is when I’ve created flow, and Hadfield acknowledges this in his book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”.  But when the flow is really flowing, and a problem arises, I smile at the challenge…like a good question in a crossword puzzle…and my creativity kicks in and I work through it happily.  That flow is the culture I aim to create in my library learning commons every day….the messy, random happiness of flow.  The only time that I ‘discipline’ other students is when they interrupt another person’s flow and I say out loud: “You’re interrupting my learning” and ask them to stop.  One of the keys to my daily success is being prepared for anything to happen and I think being ready to happily go with the flow is one of my strengths.  It takes a lot of work though…often in the quiet moments outside of the school day, to be this ready for anything.  More than optimism or innovation, I think the future of my son’s success will be his ability to adapt to new situations.  This adaptability may require optimism and innovation but those might not be on his path.  It takes more than a mindset and more research is being written on this topic:

a) Canadian author Paul Tough has written this article as precursor to his latest book: Helping Children Succeed http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/how-kids-really-succeed/480744/ in which he questions the teachability of resilience and instead suggests we aim to reduce the effect of socio-economic status on learning.

b) #BIT15Reads author Jose Vilson lead me to see how systemic racism is a major factor in the outcome of students.  An emerging voice of educators see this quest for teaching grit as an enormous example of cultural bias: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2015/01/is_grit_racist.html

The best part of Couros’ book is when he nails the conditions for a culture of innovation in schools and these 5 points could sustain me for the rest of my teaching career:

  1. Focusing on strengths-based leadership

I could do this every single day with anyone of my relationships…focus on peoples’ strengths.

2.  Allow learners’ needs to drive our decisions

I need to acknowledge that learners are all of us, adults and students, that are working within their own process and my daily goal is to enable that process in any way that I can.

3.  Narrowing our focus and engaging in deep learning

I need to reiterate the why and the how as much more than the what in my teaching.  The what is often Google-able and I want to learn and teach more deeply than that.  I’ve seen leadership try to make this what so vague and inconsequential that the why and how can be suited to any sort of learning target within this umbrella what that is called a learning target or big idea….I’m not convinced that this is the right answer.  If we truly believe in the content of our curriculum, then we need to see the big goal as a continuum (as Chris Hadfield said) and see each one of our content concepts as a direct stepping stone to that idea.

4.  Embracing an open culture

Who am I to dictate how someone else should learn?  I think what George is getting at is the messiness of trying to implement and measure a truly inquiry-based project that is based on student voice and choice.  We need to be open to and confident about capturing and measuring student learning in a variety of modes and mediums. This means that I also have to be really confident about what I want to measure in order to recognize it when I see it in a new form.

5.  Create learning experiences for educators that we would love to see in the classroom

Would I like to take my own course?  Would I like to be in this atmosphere?  Every day the answer needs to be yes.

I added The Innovator’s Mindset to the #BIT16Reads book club list as a way to add a leadership voice to the question:  How do we create a culture in schools to best integerate technology? and I think this book does so very well.  Moving education forward isn’t an elephant that we can eat all at once.  It’s a very complex beast.  Creating conditions for innovation, which may or may not include technology, is best for learning.

Sidenote:  As a librarian, as a researcher, I would really like an index in George Couros’ book.  I’d like it to refer to every outside reference George uses all in 1 place, and every big idea that is mentioned.  It’s one of the first things on my list when I buy non-fiction for my library….if there aren’t embedded tools for useability, it could be more useful.

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