When considering the differences in mindsets, as presented by Dweck, the benefits of adopting a growth mindset to supplant a fixed mindset are rather obvious. When the learner is struggling with a task or concept, the holder of the fixed mindset is content to throw up his hands and proclaim, “I just don’t have the mental capacity to grasp this.” That is the end of the conversation, and one would not expect much learning to take place following this conclusion. Alternatively, if the learner has activated a growth mindset, the task IS achievable, the concept attainable if he/she continues to work hard, try new strategies, and seek input from others. Ultimately, this growth mindset frees us to master more ideas at greater depth (if we are willing to work at it) than being confined in a fixed mindset allows us to do.
Having been fully convinced that adopting a growth mindset is advantageous in academics—not to mention that it is healthier in other aspects of life—the question becomes: how will I ensure that I embrace and implement it properly in my life and career so that its benefits are enjoyed by those I encounter? If I take an honest assessment of my mindset up to this point—while I can point to examples of growth—I would have to say I lean more toward a fixed mindset. One exception to this is in the area of technology. I have always approached computers and software with a sense of excitement and wonder. Even though I have often been frustrated by a piece of hardware not working properly or a nettlesome application, I am usually driven to keep working at it until I figure out the problem.
Being of an age that I can fully appreciate the world-transforming effects of the computer age, a wildly important goal for me is to learn and develop new ways to leverage the power and versatility of technology systems to impact education. Integrating technology into education does many things, but two I’d like to point out are that it 1) it equips teachers with an array of tools to reach students; 2) presents students with infinitely more opportunities to have autonomy in their education—a key element to better performance according to Daniel Pink. If a growth mindset is exhibited through the tactics of strong effort, trying different strategies and seeking input from others, as Dweck asserts in “Carol Dweck Revisits the Growth Mindset,” technology integration is an invaluable means of aiding these tactics. By utilizing technology, students can control the what, when, where, why and how they choose to learn.
If we are seeking to incorporate Universal Design in Learning in our curriculum and instruction to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn, which obviously we should be, it is important to have the tools to make that possible. Technology can provide those tools. Specifically, technology offers tools that can stimulate all three networks in the Universal Design for Learning:
- Recognition Networks—How we gather information. As Dr. Harapnuik mentioned in our first meeting, we have access to all the information in the world in the palm of our hands (our cell phones).
- Strategic Networks—How we organize and express ideas. Technology offers a multitude of forms and venues for presenting ideas.
- Affective Networks—How we get engaged and stay motivated in our learning. When considering the order of importance of the three networks, I would say the “why” of learning—the Affective Networks—is most important. It doesn’t really matter what we learn or how we learn if we are not motivated, challenged, and excited to learn in the first place.