Are you changing your mind?

Patrick Larkin wrote a piece yesterday about how his mind has changed over the past six or seven years; when he first read Collins’ Good to Great, he (as I did) essentially skipped over the technology as acceleration chapter.

I was happy to put technology discussions on the back burner and have one less thing to worry about. Fast forward to Burlington in the present and I have a different view of Chapter 7 from Good to Great

As a presenter, I am always looking for the most effective conversation starters for my audiences to break things up and mix in more dialogue, and earlier this month I stumbled into what seemed a very valuable one, asking small groups to discuss, and then share out, how their own views have changed and are evolving over the past six to eight years.

Watching these groups, I could see that the question wasn’t an easy one– which is something of a good thing, because sometimes conversation starters are just too easily answered– but once people started reflecting further, and discussing the topic, you could see deeper thinking emerge, and there came along greater recognition that indeed, for most of us, our minds and attitudes are changing– though not in any one direction.   It struck that me how useful it is for us to be more aware of, more meta-cognitive about, how they are changing.

It is my belief, and I know that of many others, that the Web 2.0 and the new networked world of online connecting, sharing, and learning associated with it is creating a deeply significant and permanent shift in the way the world processes information and much more.  This is like the revolutions that writing and then the Gutenberg printing press brought, but massively more accelerated.   In such times, in such fluid and transitional times, if our minds aren’t changing, if our world is dynamic but our minds static, what does that say about us?

The more aware we are of how our own ideas evolve and shift, the more likely we will be able to stay limber and continue evolving and developing our ideas further and faster as the revolution continues to sweep upon us.

The story I shared in my presentation was about my own deep skepticism, even opposition, to bringing in a laptop cart to the PS-8 school I headed when the idea first came up,probably sometime in 2004 or 2005.   My opposition was based, in part, on my experience visiting a good friend who then headed a middle school division in southern California.   While there he showed me the laptop cart taking up a great deal of space in his cramped office, and said it was popularly known as the “Death Star.”   Rarely did it leave the office, rarely did it go into use.

I thought of the opportunities more computer availability would offer, and I wasn’t impressed.  Either they would give teachers more time to teach computer skills, such as keyboarding or office suite applications, which seemed limiting, or they’d be used for what seemed to be dumbing down work-book like computer learning activities– click on the right answer and the rabbit gets to go further toward the carrot!  Yay! Not.  It wasn’t for me.

Of course, that all changed for me over the course of 2006-09, as the learning opportunities of the web and web 2.0 offerings arose, and as I learned new things from workshops I attended, schools I visited, and books I read.   But it could easily have happened another way: I could have allowed that thinking to rigidify, and not opened myself up to new possibilities.

A second example is something I have written about this week (Invisible or Intentional?)– that I am changing my mind from viewing technology best by the metaphor of oxygen in that it is invisible but ubiquitous to a metaphor of a hammer– what we intentionally choose to use if we have a nail in front of us, but which we intentionally choose not to use for a screw.     In the past I have often poo-pooed the issue of attention/focus.   Students are often distracted by their own day-dreams, or by their own doodling: if digital tools are distracting them, then it is because we as educators are not successfully engaging and motivating them.  I don’t think quite the same way about this anymore, and it is important that I allow myself to change my mind.

We as leaders of learning have a responsibility to model our own learning, our own “growth mindsets,” and the ways we are changing our opinions if we are to expect our colleagues and our students to open their minds more widely, to experiment and take risks, and to develop their own growth mindsets.

How has your mind changed?  How do you share your changing views?   How are you inviting your colleagues to reflect on their own journeys of understanding and change?

 Photo creative commons licensed by 
 Some rights reserved by Marvin (PA)


  1. I have changed my mind many times, and I continue to learn and grow with my PLN. I read a lot of books and they are usually recommended by educators in my Twitter network. I agree with you I’m not so sure all teachers are able to handle the distraction laptops can be in class. And even if I believe in engaging and motivating lessons, that is not always the answer. We need to continue reading and working on how to help our students focus and learn. Howard Rheingold’s NetSmart is a great eye to start. I enjoy reading your posts!

    July 28, 2012
  2. […] We as leaders of learning have a responsibility to model our own learning, our own “growth mindsets,” and the ways we are changing our opinions if we are to expect our colleagues and our students to open their minds more widely, to experiment and take risks, and to develop their own growth mindsets.  […]

    July 28, 2012
  3. One sign of a good book is that it transcends demographics and Good to Great resonates with folks in many disciplines. I know it rang true for the DLP_DSM team and to this day we each have a ‘hedge-hog’ on our desks as a reminder to keep focused on our ‘one thing’ that will move us from good to great. Teachers are resourceful and generally creative folks – that any teacher would be hesitant to implement change simply because it involves technology makes me sad. Technology is here to stay and today’s savvy learners will expect and demand that their information be delivered digitally. Just as TV didn’t wreck radio, and radio didn’t ruin the magazine business, technology will not cause the end of motivated self-learning. If the information is packaged, delivered, and presented correctly, we have a chance to engage more learners than ever before, and keep them learning for their entire lifetimes – it just takes acceptance and a good hedge-hog theory.

    July 28, 2012
  4. chris thinnes | @CurtisCFEE said:

    Thanks again, Jonathan, for another inspiring and provocative post. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think of how my experience of parenting has fundamentally changed my perspectives on learning and teaching. Were it not for my witnessing and sharing my son’s experience of school, I would not have have started to inquire, discover, or explore certain matters of all learners’ engagement in my working environment.

    First, I used to belittle the input from non-educators (read, ‘parents’) in the lives of the children I taught. Now I understand families to be the experts on certain dimensions of learning I might not have the opportunity to witness in a school environment — and, obviously, the witnesses and supporters of so much social, emotional, and intellectual development that takes place outside of school. To say nothing of the insights about passion, intuition, and sometimes worry parents always bring to the table about the learners I help to support for a few short hours each day.

    Second, I also “often poo-pooed the issue of attention/focus” in regard to children’s developing capacity to sustain attention, inward and outward. Now my son’s 14. And I see it. ‘Nuff said?

    Third, I always knew–first as a learner, then as a teacher, now as a leader–that it was essential to provide a meaningful connection to her/his learning, if not a voice in its design as well. But I understood this as an abstraction, and a philosophical commitment, that I leveraged as best I could as someone with such principled beliefs. Only when I watched my own son disengage from his ‘core classes’ in a ‘traditional’ middle school, and invest himself passionately in his project-, performance-, and challenge-based learning experiences in electives and extracurriculars, did I realize the potential of a sweeping, rather than an incremental shift, in the fundamental design of teaching and learning . . . and its power to transform a child into an active citizen, friend, and problem-solver.

    A back-burner idea of mine was to create a ‘task force’ or some other sort of collaborative to gather those educators who are also parents in my school community, together at the table with those parents who have also been involved in our profession, not only to share their similarly themed experiences of the ‘twin hats’ of parenting and teaching, but to offer a collaborative voice in those initiatives designed to foster a more healthful parent-teacher and home-school partnership, for the collective benefit of all the members of our community, most obviously and importantly the children.

    July 28, 2012

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