Last night, over a glass of hot glühwein (a Swiss thing) I caught up with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while. We hadn’t really spoken in any depth about technology before–our main topics of conversation are typically about our young children. The topic of technology in the classroom came up and for perhaps the first time , I felt the gulf of the digital divide between us. Okay, perhaps I use the term digital divide term loosely and symbolically here, not wikipedia’s more politically loaded, but none the less true:
“digital divide is an economic and social inequality with regard to access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies (ICT)
This friend is an expat like me, my age (younger even), and a teacher, but she seemed very resistant (fearful of, even) to technology integration in teaching (and in life, in general), and went so far as to describe herself as “old-fashioned.”
Now, I am not a digital native myself, but a willing and interested “non-native”. I wasn’t always this way, but recently, I’ve learned and grown enough to be assuming the role of primary EdTech coach, starting next academic year. I will be working at a new campus (same school) and coaching teachers holding similar reservations to those of my friend.
Our conversation, almost more of a debate, got me thinking that a huge part of successful coaching must require a certain amount/kind of communication which must first convince someone that it (receiving tech coaching) is a worthwhile thing to do in the first place.
Earlier this week I read a few articles and posts about EdTech coaching. There was Why Coaches need Coaches, Tech Coaching for Professional Learning, The Ten Commandments of Technology Coaching, all of which offered a certain value, with tips I likely won’t fully appreciate until later.
But the article Never Too Late: Creating a Climate for Adults to learn new Skills by Rebekah Madrid resonated the most, as the ideas directly linked to (at least part of) my friend’s reservations about technology. In Madrid’s article, the concept of a Professional Fixed Mindset was introduced to me (which linked to other articles and great resources for the primary classroom!)
Basically, a Fixed Mindset is having a fixed view of oneself and one’s abilities/intelligence (not a lot you can do about it, just accept.) A Growth Mindset is the belief that one’s abilities are continually growing and changing (but you have to work at it, no way around it.)
According to Madrid’s Never Too Late,
“For children, a fixed view of intelligence can lead them to negatively label themselves with statements such as, “I’m not good at math” or “I’m a bad writer.”
Similarly, when professionals struggle with new demands, they may be tempted to use phrases such as “I’m too old for this,” or “I already know what works for me,” or
“I’m just not a computer person.”
I suppose I am a recent graduate of my own Professional (and personal!) Fixed Mindset, which used to be, “I’m not a techie person.” I might have even said these exact (or something very similar) words to my own amazing EdTech coach (yes, the very person whose job I will take over for next year) the day we started working together.
But, I suppose was willing to try new things and I think a large part of my willingness to learn was due to the approach my coach took–always modeling a Growth Mindset. My coach showed me that she didn’t know everything either, but was willing to try and figure it out–that learning “on the job” was part of the job, and that’s how her skill set grew–not because she was simply born “a techie person.”
This modelled approach to a Growth Mindset doesn’t always work with all people and it takes time, my coach advises me. I anticipate a non-techie fixed mindset will be a powerful obstacle to consider for my new role. I wonder how other tech coaches address this issue: what are coaching strategies (any strategies, really,) that convince the unconvinced, or “un-fix” the fixed-mindset.
I continually reinforce that I expect folks to not always get it right — and I am quick to point out when I personally do not get things right. We have to be willing to take risks. If we are not taking risks and making mistakes, we are not doing our jobs as educators.
-Dr. Lisa Brady, Schools superintendent in Dobbs Ferry, New York via Madrid’s article.
By the end of the discussion over hot drinks with my friend the other night, I think I did present a few positive aspects of technology integration in the classroom that she reluctantly accepted, but I don’t think I came close to convincing her that technology in the classroom or even technology in general, is at all a good thing. We changed to subject to something safer, but the discussion nags me. If I can’t convince someone who likes and respects me, how will I fare with teachers I barely know?