Apr 252013

[Note: This has been cross-posted from my quotidian truth blog.]


I’ve been reading this book.


And I’ve been thinking about it A LOT.

I can really identify with having a fixed mindset when it comes to sports. I think I need to change this. I’m about 55% through the book (that reference was for you, Alex) and that’s the main area I’ve identified so far that I need to re-think, but it has certainly got me thinking about other areas where perhaps I have a fixed mindset. I need to seriously re-evaluate these areas.

One of the stories that struck me most in this book is the story of Michael Jordan. Before reading this book, I quite honestly had no idea that he was pretty much a crap basketball player when he first started playing. He was cut from the HS Varsity team! He wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted and he wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have taken him. He worked his butt off — doing things like practicing for hours after the last game of the season after they had lost; he was preparing for next season (Dweck 85-86).

I remember once getting into an argument with an administrator — a principal at a previous school — about professional growth. I had started the argument, because I was really miffed that an entire year had gone by and I had not participated in any formal professional development activities. My then-principal told me that there would be times in my career when sometimes I just needed to sit back and slide through, that I didn’t always need to be reaching for something bigger and better. He told me that maybe one day when I had a family I would understand (which I found interesting because he himself didn’t have a family). He said that I really just needed to “sit tight” for the time being and coast for a bit, and that that was okay, that I didn’t always need to be “so ambitious.”

This man clearly did not know me well.

I told him that I couldn’t ever — ever! — imagine plateauing in my career, that I didn’t think that way about being an educator, that I never wanted to coast, and that I was dedicated to always wanting to become better. I told him I would be going to a conference that year whether the school paid for it or not.

(And I did. And the school did end up paying for it, thankfully. But I was fully prepared to go on my own coin that year.)

He still argued with me. I remember him muttering something about how I’d been teaching long enough that I should know that there’s really a limit to what you can know about being a teacher, and that after a while it all is the same, anyway.

He had a fixed mindset.

I, thankfully, did not. And I daresay it’s the reason I’m a better teacher now than I was then, several years ago now.

Dweck tells the story of the one time Michael Jordan decided to coast, the year he returned to basketball after trying out baseball, “… and he learned his lesson. The Bulls were eliminated in the playoffs.”

You can’t leave and think you can come back and dominate this game. I will be physically and mentally prepared from now on.

(Michael Jordan, in Dweck 99)

The question I’m ruminating over now — and it may well be a question I spend my lifetime thinking about — is this: how can I transfer the growth mindset that I have about being an educator to other areas of my life? How can I continually keep growing, developing, and learning as a human being?

I have a lot of work to do.


Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential. London: Robinson, 2012. Print.

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Jun 042012

On Friday, the article which follows went out in the AIS Newsletter. I also cross-posted a version of it this morning on the AIS ICT and Learning blog. I wrote it in response to several who expressed concerns about our new Laptop Boot camp program. (FWIW, I’ll also state here that I’m not a fan of calling it “Boot camp,” but this decision was made prior to my arrival at AIS and it would be rather confusing to change it at this point in the journey, so I’ve let that battle go.)

Soon I hope to have the actual checklist of “Essentials” in some kind of real digital form to share. At the moment it is simply a Word Document. We already have a Laptop Essentials wiki, but it’s already out of date. I’m hoping to merge it with our new checklist and make it more relevant. It’s been on my list of “projects” for some time now and hopefully I’ll get to it after our Semester Break!

I’ll add here that all of the changes we’ve made have been a direct result from conversations and thinking that happened at ASB Unplugged and #beyondlaptops, which we think is pretty cool. Never before have we been to a PD experience that has resulted in change so quickly!

Learning as a sport by jenn.davis, on Flickr

ICT and Learning

As AIS grows, so does our 1:1 laptop initiative in the Secondary School. Last August, at the beginning of this journey, I wrote that I was learning every day not only about my role as ICT and Learning Coach but also about best strategies to foster students’ growth as 21st century global citizens.

The learning continues.

At the start of our 2012 academic year, Mark Holland (Director of ICT) and I wanted to address one of the growing concerns we had at the end of 2011: that of supporting students new to AIS. From an ICT and Learning perspective, this meant ensuring students who had newly arrived to our school were digitally prepared and organised for learning.  Within the MYP, providing such support comes under the Approaches to Learning skill areas of Self-Management, Time Management, and Accessing Information. If students do not learn to function in these skill areas, they struggle to be successful. Our goal was to ensure that new students acclimatise to our analogue and digital environments and emerge well-adjusted and ready to learn.

Our first 2012 addition was to implement a rolling ‘laptop boot camp’ on a fortnightly basis. Every Monday Week A, when their classmates were in PGD [Personal Growth and Development] class, AIS’s newest arrivals would come to us where we would ensure they could do the ‘basics’ with their laptop: access wi-fi, log on to school email, set up OneNote, and so on. While this new system helped us identify new students and get the technical aspects of their new laptop to work, we soon discovered some flaws. Firstly, the amount of time in one lesson was not nearly enough needed to learn the basic organisational and productivity tools for success. Secondly, we discovered that by offering the ‘boot camp’ only once every two weeks, we were at times unable to connect with students soon enough. If they arrived on a Tuesday Week A, by the time we saw them nearly two weeks later, they may have had folders set up incorrectly, with no backup strategy, and had already lost several assignments. Lastly, we felt our sessions were too teacher-directed and we struggled to give the learning an authentic context. New students were arriving alone, often with others from different year levels they did not know, and disconnect was apparent. Learning is social, and our sessions were not.  It became clear very quickly that if we truly wanted success for our students, we needed to increase the frequency of our sessions, lengthen the time spent in them, and make them student-driven.

With approval from our Heads of Welfare, we made significant changes to ‘laptop boot camp’ in May:

  • Laptop boot camp is now student-directed; new students and their assigned buddies must attend. During the session, buddies lead new students through a check-list of learning points. They are free to ‘teach’ their buddies in whatever way works. Mark Holland and I act as facilitators and guide all students to ensure they are accessing, connecting, and organising digital information appropriately. By putting the learning in the hands of the students, we hope that it ‘sticks’ better and that it is more applicable to each student, as different year levels have different needs, and a one-size-fits-all approach does not work.
  • Laptop boot camp is now on every Monday and occurs during both periods 5 and 6. This means that new students and their buddies miss one academic lesson and one PGD or Assembly lesson. While we are cognizant that students need to be in class to learn, we feel that the collective welfare and organisational benefits of a student missing one class per year to help support a buddy far outweigh the loss of academic learning for that particular missed lesson. We also understand that there may be exceptions for scheduled in-class assessments.
  • Laptop boot camp is now a required part of a new student’s buddy sheet and is listed as another part of the checklist they receive from the school secretaries and/or their Home Group teacher when they arrive. We hope this means that our sessions will be an appropriate part of our already successful system of supporting new students and their families at AIS.

Of course, we will continue to look at our initiatives critically to see what other aspects can be adjusted to best meet the diverse needs of our students.

We look forward to developing even further as our 1:1 laptop initiative approaches its one year anniversary in July.

And the learning continues!

Adrienne Michetti
ICT and Learning Coach, Middle Years (6-10)

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Dec 062010

I’m not sure why I’m writing this.

Let me clarify.

After my unintended hiatus, I kind of got into a routine of blogging every Sunday — similar, I discovered, to how Kim Cofino blogs regularly. And I was happy to be writing again.

But now, here I am at 1:17am (okay, 2:30 after editing) and completely burnt out. I’ve stayed away from Twitter nearly all day (unusual for me as of late). The past 5 weeks, I’ve spent an average of 9 hours/day at the library. My wrists and elbows are sore, my back aches, and my brain feels like mush. But I must go on. I have no choice.

My thesis presentation is on Friday. The final document is due on Wednesday, December 15. I’m stressed and bogged down. I am not where I thought I would be at this moment, despite meticulous planning and organizing, and mountains of work already done. I’m insecure about my entire thesis project and fearful that once I present, people’s reactions will be, “That’s it? You’ve spent the last 4 months on this? Really?” I am afraid that what I have to show will not be representative of what I’m capable of doing. And this saddens me. I hate that this fear lurks inside me.

Here’s what I want my thesis (and its presentation) to demonstrate:

  • that I can apply learning theory and research to the design of a digital space intended for learning
  • that I can design a digital space intended for learning
  • that I know what tools and features support the creation of a community in a learning space
  • that theory and practice need a bridge
  • that designing learning spaces isn’t easy
  • that formal learning environments can still have a community element
  • that teachers need a community of practice to learn, thrive, and grow
  • that the teaching profession is dependent upon communities of practice if it is to develop and evolve
  • that the IB wants teachers to learn and grow together in a supported environment
  • that I don’t have all the answers, but dangit I have a few really good ones

And here is what I fear that my thesis (and its presentation) will actually show/say/demonstrate:

  • Dude, that’s one sad-looking website.
  • Is that all? You mean there’s no more?
  • Wait, don’t all websites have social elements these days? You did how much research to figure that out? Man, I coulda told you that in 10 minutes looking at one page of that “learning environment.”
  • Huh, what’s the theory again? and why is it relevant? Theory schmeary.
  • That doesn’t look like a place where any learning will happen.
  • This would be cooler if she designed something totally new.
  • That Adrienne doesn’t know how to design anything — she went to grad school for this?
  • Wow, the IB sure has strict professional development guidelines.
  • I don’t get it.

Put your money down, folks. Which side will win this battle — Thesis wants or Thesis fears?

So why am I laying it all out here in the open? I guess to make it real. That’s part of it. Another part of it, I think is to document what I’m thinking and feeling, so that I can look back on this and remind myself that sometimes insecurities make us stronger (at least I’m hoping that in the end of this I come out stronger!). I guess I’m also sharing with you in the hopes that you’ll give me some feedback, push me along, tell me what I’m doing is worthwhile, etc. — yeah, so maybe I’m fishing for a bit of an ego boost. That’s what happens when we get insecure, isn’t it?

I’ve been giving myself a pep talk the last couple of hours but it isn’t working so well. I think being sleep-deprived isn’t helping my mood. Sava‘s been trying to puff me up a bit too — her feedback has been tremendously helpful and I’m infinitely grateful. But she is also in the midst of designing her own projects, and I know she is stressed and tired, too.

It’s finals week for everyone.

Whose idea was it for me finish my thesis project in the weeks leading up to Christmas, anyway? That person needs her head checked. She’s obviously never before done a thesis project involving research and design.

What was she thinking?

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