As an educator and a leader, my vision is that learners will be empowered to effectively use technology to explore, create, and interact with content through meaningful, self-directed, and personalized learning experiences. Thomas and Brown (2011) describe a new culture of learning that has shifted our knowledge and understanding of what it means to learn. The vast amount of information and range of mediums now available to learners because of new and emerging technologies continues to shift and expand what is possible in meeting the diverse needs, interests, and abilities of learners. This new culture of learning is characterized by not only the constantly increasing amount of information available but the “bounded and structured environment” (Thomas & Brown, 2011, Ch 1, para 6) that is needed for learners to be supported. The learners in the 21st century need educators who are knowledgeable and skilled in facilitating these bounded and structured environments where this new culture of learning can be cultivated and supported.
“As adults, [these students] will be engaged in learning that has the following capabilities: Leverages research results from learning science and brain science, Includes adaptive and immersive technologies, Offers quality instructor content’ (Knowles, 2015). The technologies being introduced and developed today are going to make all these qualities commonplace in the future, but it will require my students to develop and shift their mindset about learning to embrace growth and change” (Kuartei, 2015a, para 7).
My vision supports learners to achieve their own visions and learning goals because they will not only increase their capacity for learning in this new culture but their ability to effectively utilize technology in adapting to their changing goals, environments, and priorities related to being a successful lifelong learner. Empowering learners to explore, create, and interact with content through technology, allows them to continue self-directed learning processes beyond the bounded and structured environment to address real world situations in a personalized way. Through this vision, I will support learners to adopt a growth mindset and think critically about their own learning experiences as well as their contributions and impact on their greater community of learners.
Based on Carol Dweck’s research on fixed and growth mindsets, Heggart (2015) suggests that the same theories could apply to teachers in their own success and performance in their practice. He points out through research by Dweck and others, that since mindsets can develop a positive sense of empowerment and “predict motivation and achievement” (para 11), teachers can adopt and apply a growth mindset by being supported to model it, to try new ideas and strategies, to reflect on their practice, and to benefit from formative feedback.
On an individual level, educators and leaders adapt to change by adopting a growth mindset, not only about their personal and professional development but also in their fostering of a culture of change where members of their teams or organization also benefit from growth and change. Through this growth mindset, educators and leaders are then able to guide, model, and support effective and meaningful learning and change within their organization.
Since this new culture of learning is characterized by constant change, Fullan (2014) makes a case that “a recent remarkable convergence of theories, knowledge bases, ideas, and strategies that help us confront complex problems that do not have easy answers” (p. 3) has made it necessary for a new approach to leadership through a culture of change. He presents a framework (Fullan, 2014, p. 4) for the five components that make leadership possible in this environment of constant change.
Educators and leaders alike adapt to change by deepening their understanding and practice of these five components: establishing a moral purpose, understanding the change process, building and strengthening relationships, and cultivating knowledge creation and sharing, as well as enabling coherence making by all members of an organization. Within this framework, educators and leaders have the capacity and support to adapt the changing needs, interests, and priorities of their organizations.
By focusing on the moral purpose and gaining a deeper awareness and understanding of the change process, educators and leaders are able to facilitate and adapt to change in a positive and constructive way that benefits all stakeholders of an organization and furthers their mission. When educators and leaders build and strengthen relationships with and among members of their team, they ensure that adapting to change and adopting change that is meaningful and effective becomes the responsibility and goal of each individual within their organization. By encouraging and supporting knowledge creation, sharing, and coherence making at all levels of the organization, they also ensure that multiple perspectives are represented, a culture of change is embraced by their team, and individuals will take ownership over their success and that of the organization.
Thomas and Brown (2011), also argue that “(i)n a world where context is always shifting and being rearranged, the stability of the what dimension of knowledge also comes into question. Only by understanding the where of a piece of information can we understand its meaning. This perspective also reshapes the notion of expertise. In the new information economy, expertise is less about having a stockpile of information or facts at one’s disposal and increasingly about knowing how to find and evaluate information on a given topic. Again, this is a where question, both in terms of where the information is found and in terms of where it is being deployed to communicate something” (Chapter 7, para 10).
Within any organization, for educators and leaders to successfully adapt to (as opposed to manage) change, they must develop capacity among team members for understanding the context within which the change process takes place; expertise is no longer “held” by some but collectively shared and utilized by all. Effectiveness in the change process comes when educators and leaders are able to pool the expertise, skills, and knowledge of individuals within the group and apply them in the right context of a given situation. Fullan (2014) describes this as, “leaders need to be conscious of how multiple motives are interconnected – competing, complementary, co-existing, etc. – how are they related to one another and work together” (p. 25). To be an effective and inspirational educator and leader, one requires the abilities and capacities for understanding the complexities involved in adapting to change. This allows the organization to adopt a positive culture of change and to implement the necessary strategies and tools for learners to be successful.
As an educator and a leader, I have a responsibility to continue to grow and improve my understandings and ability to design effective learning experiences and environments that allow learners (and others) to adapt to change. Integrating technology is an important strategy in this process and one that allows the learner to effectively adapt to change and self-direct their own meaningful and personalized learning experiences.
In supporting learners (and others) to adopt a growth mindset as lifelong learners, I will empower them to adapt to the rapidly changing culture of learning that Thomas and Brown (2011) have described. This growth mindset will change their perceptions of learner and enable them to understand how to adapt their learning skills and processes in various contexts, situations, teams, and organizations.
“Research has shown that the mindsets that students hold about their intellectual ability can have a significant impact on their motivation and success in school. When students have a growth mindset, in which they believe that intelligence can be developed (for example through effort and instruction) they seek more learning goals and challenges, see effort as a positive behavior, are more resilient in the face of failure, and achieve higher academic outcomes. A number of studies have demonstrated that interventions can influence a student’s mindset and enhance academic outcomes. Other research has demonstrated how educators’ mindsets influence students’ mindsets, and how a growth mindset in educators results in higher performance for their students” (Mindset Works, 2012).
By fostering a learning mindset and environment where learners have what they need within and around them, we can increase or improve their confidence, motivation, and to find their unique voice and perspective within a community of learners. An important aspect of my approach to building resiliency and a supporting a growth mindset, is through integrating technology into the bounded and structured environment where the growth mindset learners explore, create, and interact with content. For learners to not only participate but thrive in this new culture of learning and be able to successfully adapt to change, they will need the appropriate technology tools and effective pedagogies for support.
My integration of technology is not necessarily focused on the type of technology that is introduced or used but rather in how the use of technology empowers the learner to explore, create, and interact with content. The emphasis is placed on how the technology will enhance the learning and allow the learner to direct themselves closer to a personalized experience that has relevant context, is meaningful, and leads to a deeper understanding of content and related ideas and concepts. I use Vygotsky’s Social Constructivist learning theory (GSI Teaching and Resource Center, 2015) in my approach to empowering students; by facilitating learning in this way, learners are then able to adapt to their environment and changes that are taking place within their own learning process as well as within their learning community. “I am a learning guide for my students, and while I might share my lived experiences and personal reflections when appropriate, my role is to assist students in learning to do that for themselves. In distance learning, the constructivist approach can be very effective to bridge the ‘distance’ in the dialogue between learner and content and learner and other learners. Scaffolding in K-12 distance learning can help ensure meaningful learning, while active learning, learning by doing, and collaborative learning could be used at any age or grade level for a wide range of content” (Kuartei, 2015b, para 4).
Technology can effectively complement these types of learning environments and give learners a relevant, social context for creating and sharing knowledge as well as coherence making. Ford and Lott (2009) point out some important research about technology use in social constructivism, “(a)ccording to Desai, Hart, and Richards (1998) instructional design is a critical factor in the creation of effective online instruction. There must be a significant investment of time and effort on behalf of the instructor in order to create a successful e-learning environment.” Ford and Lott (2009) share research indicating that advances in various forms of media have significantly impacted a learner’s ability to “create, record, store, distribute, access and retrieve information” (para 17). They argue that teachers are no longer keepers of knowledge and that students have other means for knowledge creation and sharing – highlighting the importance of social context and interaction within social constructivism.
Content, dialogue, and context take on a whole new meaning through the use of technology and have dramatically contributed to the new culture of learning through digital tools and environments. By integrating technology tools as well as digital learning environments, I can create opportunities for learners to create their own context for meaning and to contribute to a community of learners in the classroom, in their local communities, or in virtual environments.
On a broader scale, this ability to connect with and learn within a greater community and context, allows learners to take ownership over their learning process and provides valuable opportunities to encounter a greater diversity of thought, concepts, worldviews, ways of communicating and ultimately a better understanding of complex factors that define the change process. Learning through this social, interactive, technology-rich environment can empower learners of all ages to embrace and adapt to change in relevant and personalized ways.
Ford, K. & Lott, L. (2009). The Impact of Technology on Constructivist Pedagogies. Theories of Educational Technology! [wikibook]. Boise State University. Retrieved from: https://sites.google.com/a/boisestate.edu/edtechtheories/the-impact-of-technology-on-constructivist-pedagogies-1
Fullan, M. (2014). Leading in a Culture of Change. Somerset, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
GSI Teaching and Resource Center. (2015). Social Constructivism. Berkeley Graduate Division: UC Regents. Retrieved from: http://gsi.berkeley.edu/gsi-guide-contents/learning-theory-research/social-constructivism/
Heggart, K. (February 3, 2015). Developing a growth mindset in teachers and staff [weblog]. www.edutopia.org. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/developing-growth-mindset-teachers-and-staff
Kuartei, J.K. (2015a). Facilitating a learning environment unlike the one I grew up in.[weblog]. Retrieved from: https://rockislandtechie.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/facilitating-a-learning-environment-unlike-the-one-i-grew-up-in/
Kuartei, J.K. (2015b). Learning theories in online learning [weblog]. Retrieved from: https://rockislandtechie.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/learning-theories-in-online-learning-courses/
Mindset Works, Inc. (2012). Create a Growth Mindset Culture and Increase Students Achievement [weblog]. Mindset Works, Inc. Retrieved from: https://www.mindsetworks.com/page/create-growth-mindset-culture-and-increase-student-achievement.aspx
Thomas, D. & Brown, J.S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change [Kindle book]. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.