What is the growth mindset, and what can it do for my students?
As an educator, three profiles of students stand out to me: ones who perform for the A, those who like learning but don’t get the grades and students who are apathetic towards learning in general. The growth mindset, a term coined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dwek and made popular by her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, has given me answers for encouraging all three to succeed in and beyond the classroom. It has also made me a better teacher and opened me up to finding ways to combine new technology with traditional teaching methods for my students.
Dwek proposes that there are two kinds of opposing mindsets: the growth mindset that believes in a capacity for continued growth (in intelligence, strength and other traits and abilities) and the fixed mindset (where talent and our ideas of “who we really are” are seen as determining who we will always be). A student with a fixed mindset is more likely to give up when faced with a challenge they cannot solve right away. A student with a growth mindset, however, is more likely to keep working until they solve difficult problems as they believe that they can expand their capacities to include ones they don’t currently have.
The most exciting part is that the growth mindset can be learned! When I teach students that traits like creativity and intelligence can be learned and expanded upon, students who are in it for the A become more curious and keep exploring even when faced with potential failure.
What can we do for apathetic students or the curious ones who ask great questions but don’t excel in class? Blended learning has been the answer for me and has opened doors for students I didn’t know how to keep engaged before.
Blended learning and the tools to make it happen
Blended learning is the combination of in-person teaching (with teachers in a classroom) and online learning (with online courses or digital media), and it’s becoming increasingly popular in schools. Just as some teachers tend to use whiteboards to explain everything and others prefer handouts, each teacher finds his or her favorite tools in the digital world. I use the Learning Management System (LMS) Canvas and the media creation tool Genially as my digital foundation to build on. Whether you know what those are or not, I hope the information below can help you in your journey to find your own tools.
Why? Because the mix of tried and true hands-on work in the classroom and digital exploration has been key in my class for enticing apathetic students to give school another try and to prove its relevance to them. It’s also been the missing link for my most curious students who felt limited by the scope of classroom teaching and the pacing of classwork, which is so often decided by other students. Most teachers can use traditional methods and lesson plan in their sleep, but what about the digital side of things?
Canvas helps us keep all of our digital materials in one place: assignments, grades, announcements, to-do lists, class discussions and more. It helps teachers like me make sure our digital learning materials aren’t scattered and distracting, but instead purposeful pieces working as part of a larger vision. It’s the perfect platform to use for course building, and I use it to structure all of my digital learning.
With Canvas as my foundation, I add content from past years of teaching and other LMSs we’ve used in the past. Then, I choose what material I’d like to upgrade (powerpoints, I’m looking at you!) and upload it to Genially, an all-in-one tool for creating interactive and animated learning media: presentations, infographics, interactive images and even breakouts and other gamified material. After making my static material interactive and more visually appealing with a few quick edits, I create new material with the same tool.
One of my favorite parts of Genially is that it helps me visually prioritize the most central concepts of each lesson and store the rest of the text, videos, etc. in pins and windows students need to discover themselves. This is great for getting them engaged and exploring. I find that since switching to Genially, my students are more stimulated by my online lessons and really “show up” in class. They remember what they’ve seen because they’ve interacted with it, and they’re eager to try their hand at creating their own projects to share with their classmates.
News for the New Year
For those of you familiar with Genially already or those learning about it for the first time, I have an exciting announcement. *Drumroll* Genially and Canvas now integrate perfectly, so you can insert your geniallys seamlessly into your courses and individual assignments. Here's how a genially looks once inserted into my Canvas course.
How easy is inserting your genially into Canvas? Check out this video.
I hope this post motivates you to continue encouraging a growth mindset and to grow in your own use of blended learning in the classroom. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out by commenting below. Here’s to growing together and inspiring meaningful learning in 2020!