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What can you do in practice?

So, what changes do we need to make to our current practice so that we too can adopt similar Digital Mindsets? Notice the language used by these headteachers (taken from the previous post in this series):

  • “I don’t hear my teachers talking about the difficulties that students are facing, I hear them talking about what they are doing about those difficulties”
  • “I only ask that they look at the students in front of them and think about how they are moving those students on”

Their focus is on what the teachers are doing to encourage and empower the students.

Teachers with Digital Mindsets, start from the assumption that improvement is possible and use their energy to focus on how to achieve this.

One simple difference can be illustrated by comparing how two primary teachers working in the same school, in the same year group, on the same project, talk to their students. Look carefully for the subtle differences:

  • First teacher: “I want my students to show me what they have learnt. They can make a film, a podcast, a PowerPoint, whatever they want, but they have to be able to show me evidence of what they have learnt”.
  • Second teacher: “Once they have learnt it, the students are then going to consolidate that learning by explaining it, teaching it, to others. They’re going to choose to make a film, a podcast, a PowerPoint or whatever, and they are going to use that to teach someone else what they just learnt.”

Did you notice that even though the two teachers were teaching what looks like the same lesson, the way that they approached it made an important distinction about the students’ learning. For the first teacher it was all about the students regurgitating their new knowledge and understanding back to the teacher so that they could assess them. For the second teacher, the focus was on how the process could add to the learning; through consolidation, and having a real audience for their work. She empowered students to own their learning experiences, and through that ownership the Digital Mindset emerges.

Activity: Reflect on the differences between the two teachers above. In your next planning conversation with colleagues, listen carefully to your own language, and that of others. What do you notice about how you and others talk about similar classroom activities?

Key point: Small changes in emphasis can make a big difference.

Changing how we think about our students
How we refer to our students may infer how we view them:

  • Kids tends to infer othering or lesser importance
  • Children tends to infer naivety or vulnerability
  • Young people, tends to infer a lesser developed set of adult features

Different people use different vocabulary to mean and infer different things – some suggest positive attributes and others less so. But how often do we stop and think about what we are inferring about our view of children through our choice of words and phrases – such as kids, children or young people?

Activity: Listen to how you, your colleagues and your students’ parents talk about them. What does this suggest about how they view young people?

Key point: How you view your students impacts on how you interact with them and your expectations of them.

Changing how we talk with (not to) students
A lot of Digital Mindset stems from a simple change in how we talk with, and engage with, our students. A change in language leads to a change in mindset – talking with is different to talking to or talking at students!

Old way of thinking With Digital Mindset What is the change?
“show me that…” “how do you know that?” A move from the student proving to the teacher they know something or can do something, to being more self-aware about what they know and how confident they can be in their knowledge.

Part A: Using your smartphone, record yourself teaching a class, small group or working 1:1 with a student. How much of the focus is on the student showing ‘you’ and how much of the focus is on the student being empowered to become more self-aware about their learning, achievements and next steps?

Part B: Read this article  about how to improve your questioning.

Key point: Subtle changes in how you communicate with students can have a big impact.

In conclusion
Classroom teachers have lots of scope to be agentive – to make important decisions about their practice. Perhaps the most important change is in your stance towards your students – how you view them, how you talk with them (and how much you listen to them). Whilst many of these changes may seem quite minor they can have significant impacts on your classroom environment and students’ learning.

This series of blog posts was written by Fiona Aubrey-Smith and Peter Twining.

Posts in the series include:

1. Trust, Empowerment and Learning with Digital Technology
2. Trust and empowerment of teachers
3. What can you do in practice?
4. Trust and empowerment of students
5. But I can't because ...
6. In conclusion - expanding possibilities


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