iNACOL 2015: Cultivating Student Ownership Through Growth Mindset to Develop World-Class Learners

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Eduardo Briceño, co-Founder and CEO of Mindset Works

  • Dweck’s fixed mindset vs. growth mindset: fixed identifies skills as static and unchanging / innate vs. growth that identifies skills as learnable and developable
  • Intelligence can be developed over time.
  • Thoughts occur when neurons fire together and connect; these change our brain and increase intelligence.
  • Albert Einstein an example of growth mindset: ‘It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with a problem longer.’
  • Growth mindset belief leads to different behavior which leads to (different) results.
  • Fixed mindset people want to look good / intelligent in front of people; they stick with what they know because they’re good at it.
  • Growth mindset people want to try new things that could fail.
  • Fixed mindset people look down on effort, that if effort is required then it shows weakness.
  • Growth mindset values effort.
  • Fixed: The fact that I’m struggling means that I’m incapable; they lose interest.
  • Growth: The fact that I’m struggling means that I’m going to persevere.
  • Experiment in Chile on sophomores taking a national test: growth mindset students were 3x more likely to score in the top 20%; fixed 4x more likely to be in bottom 20%.
  • Also found that lower socio-economic with growth mindset scored better than higher socio-economic with fixed mindset.
  • Growth mindset can be taught: Brainology.
  • Fostering growth mindset impacts achievement gap.
  • Teaching teachers the growth mindset allows them to focus on teaching methods rather than inherent qualities of students.
  • Telling students that they are good at something (or smart; ‘intelligence praise’) reinforces a fixed mindset (though intentions are good) because it identifies an innate ability; ‘effort praise’ (‘you must have tried really hard’) focuses on the process.
  • Students given the choice between an easy and difficult puzzle largely chose based on intelligence praise (easy) and effort praise (difficult).
  • Subsequent struggling impacts the confidence of the intelligence praise group but enables effort praise group to persevere.
  • Intelligence praise is designed to increase confidence but actually diminishes confidence.
  • Students were asked to tell their scores to students they didn’t know and would never see (at other schools). Intelligence praise group was 3x more likely to lie about their scores.
  • Focus on what you’re teaching. Used to be content. Is it still? Higher order skills? Learning motivation and efficacy?

The Case for Restoration or The Cure for Device / App Overload

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I’ve officially accumulated enough devices that I needed to make some changes (worse problems to have, I realize). The hoarder in me doesn’t like to get rid of things but rather to reappropriate them for more specialized uses. So those old iPod Classics (you know, with the scroll wheel from the 17th century)? They become specialized storage units for academic materials collected online (MOOC lectures, iTunesU, etc.) so that I don’t take up space on my smaller-storaged devices but also don’t have to manage and remanage syncing when I want to change content.

It’s also interesting to see how different devices self-select into different functions. That iPad 1 / Original iPad (yes, still have that kicking around)? That has become the workhorse of the device family, the offensive lineman of the device team. It’s the one that comes to the gym and goes on the elliptical, that plays music while I’m painting, and that scores the softball games for my team (in the dust and rain; and, yes, I do put it in a Ziploc on rainy days, through which the touch screen still works). The iPad2 with the ZaggFolio keyboard? That’s the productivity device, where I am at my most efficient and productive. And the iPad Mini? That’s the classroom one, portable and versatile.

But back to the Original iPad. As the original, it was also the most cluttered / crowded. It was the one that took the brunt of app fever, when every app seemed like it was going to change your life and you had to have it. Over the years, the whole thing had become unwieldy. Now, of course, I could delete apps, and rearrange them, file them and organize them, either on the iPad itself or on the computer via iTunes. But that seemed more trouble than it was worth, especially from a mental standpoint of making those decisions about what to keep and what to cull.

So I started over. I wiped it clean. Hit that restore button, hit that setup as new iPad button, reentered my iTunes ID and was off and running. And I can’t tell you how much more pleasant an experience it is. I have two screens (and I wish I had thought to screen shot the pre-restore screens) now. The second one is largely the entertainment one: the games, basically. The first one has Settings plus five folders, with six apps in the dock. Clean, easy, pleasing.

It’s a bit like the empty inbox syndrome, that theory that you don’t realize the comfort and ease of an empty inbox (which doesn’t, by the way, imply that everything is done, but rather suggests managing the inbox such that everything has a place) until you have one. Similar to the iPad. The cleanliness and crispness of a stripped down, focused device has a nice effect on one’s interaction with it.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, cut the cord entirely. Restore, and enjoy the quiet.

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Scathing Indictment of MOOCs from Tony Bates


Apparently Tony Bates, a lifelong proponent of and researcher into online and distance learning, has announced his retirement. (And I only say apparently because I was sent to his blog, where he seems pretty clear about retiring, via Twitter.) I’ve heard Dick’s name but don’t know him or his work personally, though even a cursory glance at his blog suggests the influence and import of his work.

He included in his retirement post these paragraphs on MOOCs (and for some reason, I wasn’t able to copy and paste the actual text, so I had to screen shot it):

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As someone moderately familiar with MOOCs and the controversy surrounding them (just enough to make me dangerous, I suspect), I know exactly what he’s talking about: slap reputable-college-x’s name on something and all of a sudden it’s automatically amazing, whether or not it actually is; that’s annoying in an emperor’s-new-clothes kind of way. On the other hand, few would say now (after the self-proclaimed year of the MOOCS that was 2013) that MOOCs are the educational panacea (or innovative disruptor; disruptive innovator?) that they were originally touted to be. In fact, few educators would admit that MOOCs are viable for any but the most motivated ‘students’ because of the very pedagogical flaws to which Bates refers.

But let’s not ignore the resources that MOOCs provide, if not to students than to teachers. As a teacher of subject x, can I ignore the free availability of reputable college professors lecturing, often in multi-media and engaging ways, about the subject I teach? Even if such lectures don’t make it to my students, they provide me with an invaluable resource, one both better (probably) and more engaging (definitely) than the books I’ve relied on for years. And from the producer’s standpoint, has a college professor ever prepared for a class in the way that she would prepare for a MOOC? I certainly don’t know, but I’m guessing not, such that the college professors producing such courses themselves are getting an invaluable professional development experience by, on the one hand, maintaining the integrity of their course and its material and, on the other hand, reflecting on how that best can be disseminated to tens of thousands of students at one time.

So let’s look at MOOCs for what they are: great resources for anyone who wants to avail themselves of them for any reason. Once we start getting to MOOC degrees and RIFfed faculty members, then we can start fighting the good fight. But until then I’m going to go back to my video lectures on Roman Architecture (thank you, Yale and Prof. Diana Kleiner).

And then there’s MOOCs. I can’t express adequately just how pissed off I am about MOOCs – not the concept, but all the hubris and nonsense that’s been talked and written about them. At a personal level, it was as if 45 years of work was for nothing. All the research and study I and many others had done on what makes for successful learning online were totally ignored, with truly disastrous consequences in terms of effective learning for the vast majority of participants who took MOOCs from the Ivy League universities. Having ignored online learning for nearly 20 years, Stanford, MIT and Harvard had to re-invent online learning in their own image to maintain their perceived superiority in all things higher educational. And the media fell for it, hook, line and sinker. This is a battle I no longer want to fight – but it needs fighting. But my reaction did make me wonder, am I just an old man resisting the future? And that has definitely left a mark.

Lastly, I am concerned that the computer scientists seem to be taking over online education. Ivy League MOOCs are being driven mainly by computer scientists, not educators. Politicians are looking to computer science to automate learning in order to save money. Computer scientists have much to offer, but they need more humility and a greater willingness to work with other professionals, such as psychologists and teachers, who understand better how learning operates. This is a battle that has always existed in educational technology, but it’s one I fear the educators are losing. The result could be disastrous, but that’s a theme for a whole set of blog posts.

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