It is an understatement to say that the process of revision and lesson study has influenced my thinking about the design of the learning experience I’m creating for learners. It is informing it. Participating in this process has forced to the surface the weak spots that exist in how I design lesson plans and learning experiences in my professional life. If I am honest, the design process for my students thus far in my career has taken on the following form most of the time:
- Decide the topic to be taught
- Come up with some way to teach it, often this involves lots of Google searches.
And so this is the process that I implemented when I began working on my learning experience. The problems quickly became apparent. Step 1 took me a while but I didn’t worry too much. I figure this is all part of the process, it will come together eventually. As it turns out, Step 2 is much easier to do once Step 1 has been done. Thus my troubles began. I kept going round and round with ideas in my head but never really committing to one because none of them ever seemed like the perfect idea.
Traditionally this is the part of my “process” where I get stuck, be it in writing lesson plans, planning parties or writing blog posts. When it is time to get specific, I get lost.
The day we coded for TPACK was pivotal for me. It was difficult for me to do and I had much resistance to the entire process. It was tedious and I felt trapped and uncomfortable and an overwhelming urge to jump out of my skin. As I persevered, I began to realize what the root of the trouble was: I do not like making decisions. And coding is one small decision after another after another after another. We had to decide if and “idea unit” needed to be categorized and if so, into which of 6 categories it belonged. Again and again and again.
This is when I caught on to myself and realized that making decisions was at the the heart of my troubles in the design process. I was afraid of making a mistake, being judged, criticized or looking bad. I was also afraid of picking a bad topic that I could not do anything with, resulting in wasted time and effort.
Even as I write this, however, I see the fixed mindset (Dweck, 2006) out of which that perspective is born. I am looking for a “perfect” design, lesson, experience, whatever, outside of myself. Always on the hunt for that one “magic” idea, I think I will never create a lesson that is good enough until or unless I find the perfect idea. This mindset feeds an unwillingness to let go of ideas I do up with for fear that I will not find any that are better.
What I see now is that designing is not so much inspiration that strikes a person all of the sudden (as I had previously thought) complete with a brilliant idea, implementation strategies and logistics all arranged nicely. I never saw the part of anyone else’s design process, so I did not see the iterations, feedback and struggle that went into their designing.
I now have an entirely different view of the design process and consequently of myself. I understand it now to be work and a process. I now understand that ideas can come from inside me. I do not have to stumble upon the “perfect” idea; I can start with a marginally good idea and refine it until it is a really good idea through the process of iteration, feedback and revision. Feedback becomes a valuable tool that can help in the refinement process rather than a threatening competition to see who “found” the better idea on their search for perfection.
The transformation of my thinking from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset encompasses my view of myself as a technology integrator in the making, as well.
Previous to about four days ago, I have not thought of myself as a technology integrator, even since I began MAET. At the school in Boise where I teach, I am not in an official technology position, and even after completing the first year of MAET, I did not see myself as a “technology integrator”. My school is loaded with technological devices and people who know how to use them. Each class has a set of chromebooks, a document camera, loads of of calculators and software to run with them, and we have a brand new teacher who was trained on many interesting and engaging web tools.
I had decided that I could not possibly become a “Technology Integrator” because I am just not inherently put together that way. Upon deeper reflection, a Technology Integrator is a person that is skilled at effectively blending technology and best teaching practices. They understand how to maximize student learning utilizing whatever technology is available, be it paper and scissors, a website or creating a movie. This I can learn to do.
The iterations of my Theory to Practice project have taught me that I am not inherently any label; that I can learn and work and struggle and revise and chisel myself into anything I want to be. The definition I was using is another demonstration of a fixed mindset (Dwek, 2006). I discovered through the iterative process first, that I can redefine what “Technology Integrator” is to me, and second that I can grow into whatever that definition turns out to be.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.