More Mindset Than Skill Set

“Give it a second…it’s going to space!” Louis C.K.

Here are some thoughts that often run through my head when I get a little frustrated with people complaining about how technology never works for them:

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>I don’t magically walk by your computer and all of a sudden works.

I don’t just know this “tech” stuff.

I also can’t fix anything that has electricity running through it.

Just because I am good with technology doesn’t mean I am the “tech guy”. My focus is on leadership, teaching, and learning.

In my career, I have always been comfortable sitting with others that are eager to learn technologies and how they can implement them into their teaching. Although I have found a huge benefit of using technology to improve teaching and learning, I never really started using computers until my first year of teaching. In fact, I never took one technology course in university. Ever.

But that doesn’t mean I just “get this stuff”. It has been a lot of time of playing around, making mistakes, but also being comfortable that not everything works on the first time. My technology has failed in presentations, and luckily, since I am a teacher and more importantly a learner, I figure something out. Sometimes it is how to go all “MacGyver” and create a different solution. Sometimes it is just finding a solid plan B.

As I grew up, my dad with a limited formal education, was the master of buying weird technologies. I remember that he bought a horn for his car that you would punch in numbers and it had an assortment of 99 different songs that would be played through the car horn. Never saw that before and never saw it again but it was pretty cool. He also bought the first VCR in the town I grew up in, which was two pieces, weighed probably over 50 pounds, and cost over $2000. He loved playing around and trying new things, whether it was with technology, or in the woodshop.

Seeing that has definitely influenced the work that I do, but also my brother as well. We are way more tech savvy than my dad ever was, but he still wants to play around with every technology that comes out.

My 82 year old dad on FaceTime with his grandkids about a week after he received his iPad. Picked it up pretty easy 🙂

What I learned from my dad, is that it is not about your skill set, but more importantly, your mindset, when trying new technologies (that is actually with any learning isn’t it?). Playing around and actually finding enjoyment and satisfaction in problem solving is something that many “techies” have and my dad has this quality in spades. He will pick up a technology one day and not understand it. So the next day, what he does, is he picks it up again. Guess what happens if he doesn’t get it? He picks it up again. Consistency, effort, and the need to just”figure it out”, leads him to better results.

Learning something in a workshop and then not touching it for a month is probably not going to lead you to the desired results. Where has that ever worked? I don’t remember playing basketball, shooting free throws one day, and then coming back and being able to dunk 4 months later. To get better, you have to practice.

This is not to say that I don’t love helping people use technology to improve their teaching and learning; I love it in fact. What I hope for though is that once I do my part and give you all the support I possibly can, you do your part, and continue to learn. I am more than willing and excited to come back and help you if you want to get better, but I am going to ask you, what have you done in between? Eating salad once a month is not going to improve your diet. (Believe me, I try!)

Too much to ask?


  1. Dave Blodgett said:

    Amen! As a teacher-turned-techie, I have always considered myself a tinkerer — the astonishing net result being that I am labeled “expert”, “tech wiz”, etc. I am certainly neither, but I DO have the attitude that if I don’t know the answer, I can probably find it in pretty short order, or maybe figure it out with a little exploring and help from friends. Trying to convince many of my teaching colleagues of this has been tough — they have decided that I have the skills and knowledge they will never possess. Self-fulfilling prophecy — and frustrating!

    October 10, 2012
  2. morganlaird said:

    Just because I am good with technology doesn’t mean I am the “tech guy”. My focus is on leadership, teaching, and learning.

    I like that quote! I find that if you are not afraid to use technology you are the tech person. I want to move towards helping other teachers feel comfortable using technology in their classrooms (and getting even better at it myself!), not fix the broken computer! As always, great article.

    October 18, 2012
  3. […] last week, George Couros, a principal whom I recommend everyone read or follow on twitter, posted commentary on mindset vs skillset which echoes Dweck’s research very nicely. As I read through his post, I found myself […]

    October 23, 2012

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