Light Offerings

Digital Mindset of Teachers and Educators

Posted by jturner56 on September 11, 2017

We seem to be beset by advocacy of this or that technology for schools and teachers that is transformative, or at least inspirational. Yet in the classroom the pre-digital status quo dominates. This was brought home in the recent Larry Cuban post that talked of smartphones and the need for ‘distraction boxes’ for in-class storage. Why does this dichotomy of value endure across schools, in schools, and sometimes between one class and the next? Are we heading for a tipping point when one approach will be swept aside. As reported today, are ‘Inspirational’ robots to begin replacing teachers within 10 years?’

Some blame the debilitating culture of traditional print-based literacies holding sway over schools. Others standardised testing, ineffective pd, or plain teacher defensiveness. On the other hand, Lee (2016) points to the overriding need to normalise digital  approaches in all workplaces, including school. Are we helped or hindered by a plethora of single case examples of possibilities connected in many ways to particular vendors? Recent articles on entrepreneurial teachers with links to digital enterprises shed an interesting insight into views from outside and within.

For what Lee contends is an absolute necessity digital mindsets need to be at the fore. LearnInnovators (2016) identify such mindsets as a commitment to agility, collaboration and communication, handling ambiguity, pursing exploration and acceptance of diversity.

For teachers tending to look inwards none of this is fuel to challenge the status quo. Even if their personal digital mindset was open to this (Tour 2015), and this is debatable for some, the systemic demands of School as an institution would have to be overcome. Only by committing as educators to consider and engage with  wider contextual understanding can a positive proactive digital mindset shine through.

Leadership beyond this individual perspective is needed to unite, focus and add value, something sadly lacking in too many areas in education where defensive gatekeepers hold sway.

So we still debate even the fundamentals of the role of digital in education. Should it be used to amplify (with concomitant consideration of the dark sides)? Or is it about acceleration or transformation  without friction?

For the individual teacher perhaps its more about surfing the tidal waves that seem to wash over. For educators it may feel like a Bizarro (Superman ref) version of Plato’s Cave. Instead of trying to find true meaning in the shadows, there are now so many distracting shiny lights that meaning is just as elusive. Many who put themselves forward as light masters are merely the modern sophists. A commitment to critical thinking as more than just a buzzword for education might never have been so needed.

Perhaps a way to categorize where people are at might follow contentions like:

Level 0: Cave Dweller – leave me alone in my cave. Mindsets (Digital or otherwise) towards education are a personal choice and only that.

Level 1: Unidirectional –  here are tools and views….”if…only” you did what I contend

Level 2: Gypsy – in Plato’s Bizarro Cave, trying to make sense of the lights and their connections. Trying to look beyond.

Level 3: Ecological – Acknowledging complexity worth taking on. Understanding the Orwellian/Huxley juxtaposition of choices facing any approach to digital

Level 4: An Ethos of Learning and Action – that is both practical and worth building. Using Student Agency and Teacher Agency as bedrocks. A mindset of change is needed. Seeing educating and learning as both distinct and harmonious. Something philosophically defensible. An approach that can work through the micro-politics of school to add value beyond the personal.

Level 5: Transcendent – Developing a pathway through the cave for others to use. So few worthy of this. Perhaps Dewey. Perhaps we have not met a Digital equivalent yet, although many claim to be our John the Baptist.

I do think we are too much tied up in the western thinking of either this or that as a solution. It is our relationship with technology and what we can achieve together that should drive ideas and understanding. Within changing spaces for personal and systems. Chaotic times. But also ripe with opportunity.




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