Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What's Your Mindset?

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Greetings from near the Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky! I'm winding up a much needed vacation with my family, and starting to gear up for the start of school next week. My thoughts are wandering to how I can best serve teachers and students in my new position as Lead Technology Coach at the Center for Urban School Improvement at the University of Chicago.

About this time every year, my alma mater, Beloit College, reminds me that I need to be thinking about students in a more thoughtful way. For the past ten years, the college developed a list of cultural events that possibly shaped the "worldview" of its incoming freshman class. As the list developers Ron Nief and Tom McBride note in their introduction, this is not a list of events that happened the year these kids were born or intended to serve as commentary about the class's pre-collegiate education. It simply is encouragement for Beloit's faculty to think about the perspectives their new students will bring to learning.

As a person interested in educational technology, one item on this year's compilation particularly jumped out at me, "Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time." I think it's fair to say that there has been a fair amount of skepticism about these social networking sites, and it's interesting how this statement frames their uses. Our kids are writing their own stories and the writing process has been democratized. This is something we cannot ignore.

As this school year begins for me, one of my goals will be to think more about the set of experiences my students are bringing to learning and to consider this information throughout lesson planning and interactions with students and colleagues. The learning process is not only just about objectives, standards, and tests; it's about making learning personal and relevant to our students. So, I hope you will join me in contemplating our mindsets in the K-12 realm. A few questions come to mind: What do you need to know about your students in order to step into their mindsets? How important to the educational process is understanding your students' perspectives ? How do you go about getting to know your students? Post your ideas in the comments section of this post and let's have a conversation!

By the way, you may have noticed my map image in the this post. You can now embed Google Maps into web pages, just like you can with videos from Google Video and You Tube.