Growth Mindset

100 Miles

Titus Norwood and myself

Let me start by telling a story. I have never been a runner. Pushing myself to do anything physical in my teenage years was like asking me to pull weeds – just something I was not drawn to by any means. I had no desire to be physically fit, but I still wanted to look decent. I joined track and gymnastics in high school, hoping this would spawn a “new” me. I took the lazy way out and did not give my best effort. As a result, I broke both of my ankles and it set me back even more. Now I could resort back to my Subway and pizza-eating habits I so craved. In college, I tried out for cheerleading and a girl fell directly on my neck, knocking me to the floor. I could barely walk for a week after that and I gave up on try-outs. Throughout this journey, my only “WHY” was that I was trying to look good, not feel good. I was trying to keep up with others as opposed to set goals for myself. All the wrong reasons helped me to stay in the wrong place. Eventually, I had two babies after graduating college and fell backwards even more down the slippery slope. I knew that I was going to be forced to look at why I was doing what I was doing, although I really did not want to. To preface all of this, how was I going to try this when I could barely even keep up with my two kids at such a young age. What I learned is that one step at a time is all I need to see at the moment. Small goals, small steps would eventually lead to consistency. I would get used to this and start liking the results, or so I told myself. So, round and round and round the track I would go, very slowly. I was not worried about those folks that ran faster than me or the kids at the track that could run up and down the bleachers and not break a sweat. I decided one day that I would set a goal for myself, a distance goal. Starting at 165 pounds (baby weight), it was very difficult. For a month, I could barely get around the track 4 times. Then by the second month, I was doing additional exercises with the 4 laps. By the third month, I was running more than walking and doing additional exercises. By the fourth month, I was doing two miles and additional exercises. By the fifth month, I was running 3-4 miles and started to venture away from the track and into running the great outdoors. All the while I was focused on distance. When I stepped on the weight scale, I watched the numbers slowly fall and even recorded it. One day, after about 5 months, I reached a goal weight that I had not seen in a long time. It was because I had shifted my FOCUS, my WHY. My WHY morphed from wanting to “keep up with the Jones’ ” to “I want to eat clean and instill a life change for myself and my family.” As a result, I was able to run 5 miles without stopping and consistently lost weight until I reached my goal weight. I even promised myself that I would be sure and run a 5k this year. Everything shifted when I spoke to myself in terms of goals and how they would impact me. I had set my sights on what I really wanted to do and weight loss became a by-product of that. It was when I shifted my focus from what I wanted to unearthing my WHY is when I started meeting my goals, and this transformation happened. I am now at the point that when I go out for a run, I am exercising mental fitness as a way of allowing me “think time” and clarity to what I am doing in all aspects of my life. While my WHY may shift in this way, I am grateful for discovering this so early on so that I could build and grow my WHY into other WHY’s. This is true because before I realized what I was doing, I ran over 100 miles in 5 months and found a partner along the way. This journey into physical fitness led me on a journal into mental fitness and I was able to run farther and exercise mental fitness at the same time.

Behavior, Failing Forward, COVA, Growth Mindset

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Innovation Theory

Diffusion of Innovations
The Law of Diffusion of Innovations provides an explanation about how the spread of ideas actually “spread.” Sinek (2009) states that early adopters are not necessarily innovators, but they do follow innovators after a method has been tried. These folks will try a new idea if, and only if, it has been tested first, hoping they will suffer the least consequences. This reminds me why most early adopter owners of iphones and android devices wait 2 weeks before they download a software update. They will eventually download the updated software after all of the kinks have been worked out and noted to the company. They perceive lesser risk involved. Likewise, these folks are not of the same mindset as innovators that will go to any length to be the first one to get a new device. The other side of the bell curve shows the laggards. The laggards are instinctively and rationally driven. They do not believe in owning the best and newest products; they believe in rebuilding or acquiring better parts for what they already own.

The Tipping Point
The tipping point occurs at which the growth becomes a need and moves ahead at an extraordinary pace. This is why it is essential to get the key influencers on board with your belief systems. Don’t try to incentivize others or manipulate them; allow them to formulate their own thoughts and beliefs and see how they relate to your own. Otherwise, you will attract only temporary folks, so watch your aim.

DOI as a Theoretical Framework
Rogers’s (2003) DOI framework posits that the rate of adoption of a strategy is determined by perceptions of the adopters as they consider the attributes of the innovation. One of the primary perceptions that lead to adoption is that of relative advantage, or the idea that one product or strategy is superior to another.  In the field of educational technology, Rogers’s (2003) DOI theory has frequently been used to determine teachers’ perceptions of new information and communications technology programs. In a study by Vanderlinde and van Braak (2011), a questionnaire to identify attributes of the new curriculum was administered to a sample of teachers using Rogers’s DOI framework. They found that the teachers did not specifically support or reject the new curriculum with relation to the learning environment conditions. However, the resulting information was helpful for administrators and decision makers in that it explicated the complex issues of new technology implementation. Though relative advantage of an innovation is important, the perceived drawbacks of the adoption (e.g., complexity) also play a role (Rogers, 2003). Therefore, perceptions of the complexity of integration can be a potential barrier to technology adoption. In a study conducted by Anthony (2012), the goal was to use activity theory as the framework for determining classroom systems and their influence on the integration of new technologies. Over a 3-year period, two classrooms were evaluated in the same school district in the area of teacher preparedness, institutional conditions, and the combination of the two. Findings from several studies have suggested that teacher perceptions, as well as student attitudes and beliefs, influenced the integration of new technologies and the perception of success by using technologies. Furthermore, Anthony found that effective technology leadership also played a large role in enhancing instructional experiences for the participating teachers and students. Anthony concluded that an integration system specifically designed to combine institutional goals with teacher perceptions and beliefs toward the adoption of technology could be the best way to integrate new technologies. Thus, a DOI framework is very appropriate of BYOD and one-to-one technology-integration strategies. 

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.

Vanderlinde, R., & van Braak, J. (2011). A new ICT curriculum for primary education: Flanders. Defining and predicting teachers’ perceptions of innovation attributes. Educational Technology & Society, 14, 124-135.

Anthony, A. B. (2012). Activity theory as a framework for investigating district–classroom system interactions and their influences on technology integration. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 44, 335-356.

Professional Learning, CSLE, Growth Mindset

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Failing Forward

The First Step to Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell (2000)

“Realize there is one major difference between average people and achieving people.”
The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.

Failing Backward Failing Forward
Blaming others Taking responsibility
Repeating the same mistakes Learning from each mistake
Expecting never to fail again Knowing failure is a part of progress
Accepting tradition blindly Maintaining a positive attitude
Being limited by past mistakes Challenging outdated assumptions
Being limited by past mistakes Taking new risks
Thinking I am a failure Believing something didn’t work
Quitting Persevering

The Impossible Question

“If your perception of and response to failure were changed, what would you attempt to achieve?”

Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learnings quite as much from his failures as from his successes.  – John Dewey

Behavior, Failing Forward, Growth Mindset, Feedback/Feedforward

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Passion or Pity?

From the time I was a youth, I believed that there was a special approach, or prescriptive formula, or only one way to do things. I believed that the right way was always going to be more difficult because it took energy, time, blood, sweat, and maybe even tears. For so many years, I believed I never had what it took to do something the “right” way as perceived by others. But, one day, I asked myself, what really is the right way anyway?  The answer is, there really is no right way to do anything unless it is something that follows a script. The right way goes back to what you believe and why you believe the way you do. I used to think that my own energy level would help me sort of “pass” through the more difficult times when I felt nervous or uninspired. However, I learned that there is a very distinct difference between energy and charisma. Energy is motivating but charisma actually inspires (Sinek, 2009). I am in the process of finding the balance between both characteristics. When working with my digital learning and leading students, energy motivates them in the first course or two, but my charisma will hopefully inspire them to build their own meaningful connections and map their learning journey throughout the program. When it comes down to it, I might be motivated to come to work for a paycheck and therefore, I have to allow energy depart from my body but that is not the same thing. What inspires me to go to work is the ability to help and inspire others to be change agents and discover learning in new ways that is ultimately for themselves. I have learned that learning is an emotional process and must appeal to the heart. The head won’t go where the heart hasn’t been (Harapnuik, 2015). For this reason, I encourage students to find their why that will set the stage for what they are truly passionate about. Passion cannot be bought, measured, or obtained, it must be something that occurs within our heart. This leads me to Angela Duckworth’s video on GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, as she describes the very core of where humans develop passion for life and its circumstances.


Thib Talks, Behavior, Growth Mindset

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We believe that we must inspire and prepare our learners to lead organizational change using technology innovations as a catalyst for enhancing learning.
To do this, we create a significant learning environment (CSLE) that gives our learners choice, ownership and voice through authentic (COVA) learning opportunities.
We prepare leaders who can lead organizational change and drive innovation in a digitally connected world.

Core Proposition
Choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning

Student-Centered Learning, Professional Learning, Research, ePortfolios, Pedagogy, Failing Forward, COVA, CSLE, Constructivism, Social Constructivism, Growth Mindset, Feedback/Feedforward, Self-Directed Learning

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Defining your Passion

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy WHY you do it.” – Simon Sinek (2009)

Why should anyone ask “why?”
Let’s start by telling a story about a company. This company has a simple purpose – to provide services, products, and prices that are parallel to none. When a 10 year customer service supervisor is asked by an outside representative what the company stands for, there is an uncomfortable pause. Then a hurried and uncomfortable recitation of the purpose. The supervisor is asked WHY the company exists to which the rep responds that there is a vision and mission statement, but nobody really knows what that is. These questions are asked in an attempt to turn the company around and break away from only making marginal profit gains into making a profit. As Simon Sinek (2009) knows all too well, if we do not have a clear understanding of our cause, our belief systems, even the right answers can steer us wrong. What sounds like a right answer isn’t always right. When the rep was able to recite the purpose of the company, but really did not understand or believe what she was saying, the credibility was lost. When asked whether others in the company are aware of why the company exists, no one was really sure. Let’s examine another scenario. A school has established a clear vision and mission statement, but also has core principles and values that they do not steer from. The same question is asked by the outside representative. assistant principal responds, “We believe in inspiring kids to explore what interests them (cause). To do this, we give our learners choice and agency within their own personalized learning space (process). Learners design their own learning journeys and build products that they never conceived they would build (result). Sinek calls this the Golden Circle and states that “people don’t by what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Sinek points to research studies that state over 80% of the Americans are not working their dream job and he poses the question  – What if we lived in a world where 80% of the people loved their jobs? This is WHY starting with the right questions in anything you do is relevant to understand your own purpose and belief systems. If we are asking the wrong questions, even the right answers will not guide us in the right direction. This begs the question, would we rather follow someone that has a clear cause and purpose or someone that simply knows how to do something?

What do I know anyways?
Sinek posits that “people don’t by what you do, they buy why you do it?” As humans, we rationalize our behaviors providing reason after reason about what we perceive to be true about our decisions and our assumptions. For example, if you go to the store and are looking to purchase soap and you find that the exact same ingredients are found in Dove as they are in the Equate brand, which product do you buy? Do you base your judgement on trust or perception? The reality is, you probably have no idea why you buy the Dove soap. I can tell you that you value the brand, not the soap. There is a trust factor that resides within us when we perceive something to be valuable, sometimes because it is promoted by someone or something we view worthy. What happens if our assumptions are not entirely clear? We start rationalizing the tangible features and we begin to default to our original thinking when we cannot analyze or understand why we do what we do. The soap is softer, whiter, and though a bit more expensive, worth it. We think it is better quality when in actuality, it is not.  Let’s connect this idea to the classroom teacher. What if teachers taught by design and not by some curriculum standard that was default to every learner? What if students had a choice and a voice in the way they learned the same standard? What would this mean for the learner? What if students are asking the questions? Alan November (2013) will tell you in his book that if teachers are asking most of the questions, the teacher then owns and manages the learning. If students are asking the questions, they are actively involved in the authentic opportunity, right? But, what do I know anyways? If we standardize learning into a one size fits all method, we are not accounting for any variability at all (Rose, 2016).

What do you believe?
Sinek says that we always do things for ourselves, but he is not talking purely in the selfish sense. We follow others because our values and belief systems line up with others. We do not go to a community decision making meeting to hear others speak. We go because we want to see how thoughts, opinions, and decisions will impact us. We want to find out whether others in the room believe like we believe and how we will be impacted. So, this goes back to the question, what inspires you? My inspiration is simple: to help others. To expand upon that, I want to help teachers impact children. I want folks to think for themselves, challenge assumptions and assertions, and know how to go back to the original content to clarify meaning. From this point, learners can develop their own thoughts and ideas, eventually helping them to solve problems and issues. The goal here would be to think independently in a system that is entirely dependent upon collective ideas. Since I started reading Sinek’s book, I realized that I am sort of a “HOW” person where tangibles are easy to create. I learned inadvertently that HOW is easier to develop than WHY. I found that I jumped back and forth between the two. Sometimes I became dismissive of my wildest thoughts because they were not tangible. Could I have then steered some of my students away from their wildly important goals because I was driven by HOW as opposed to WHY. What I have learned is that this has changed. I am now referring to myself as what my colleague says, a delusional optimist. In no other way can I attribute the WHY to a better word than me working through my overactive imagination and aspirations. While Sinek states that your WHY never changes, I would beg to disagree to an extent. While the entire purpose or cause of one’s WHY might not change, the wording could perhaps. Whose to say that we will get our WHY down to a perfect, crisp and clean purpose on the first go round. Iterations of WHY can easily be enhanced based on better words and better terminology that appropriately describes your experience. 

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Sinek puts it all into context here in this video. Your WHY is the start of everything that fuels why you do what you do…read a follow up post by clicking here: WHAT IS YOUR WHY?

Professional Learning, Behavior, Growth Mindset

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Do you live in an Innovation Culture?

Innovation Culture

Image from

Innovation Culture

“The innovation immune system is how an organisation deals with new ideas and can include strategies that kill innovation.” – Graham Brown Martin

When you are in the position to implement change, are you working with an infected culture of innovation? When disruptive innovations are first introduced, they can easily be considered a “disease.” How can you influence others and attract others that believe like you do? Consider these questions and others that can impact your ability to be an education change catalyst. Take a quick gander into the ideas and thinking of Graham Brown-Martin as he discusses an aspect of business that nobody really sees until AFTER they are infected.


Professional Learning, Thib Talks, Pedagogy, Disruptive Innovation, Growth Mindset


Learning Mindset

Learning Mindset

What is a learning mindset and how do we get there?
Here are some thoughts around learning experiences that show up thematically in my work as a higher education consultant and instructor:
#1  People need a learning environment in which they feel safe to make mistakes,
#2  Challenges and disruptions can be turned into an opportunity to bring about change,
#3  Deep learning occurs through meaningful reflection, dialogue, and collaborative interaction.

Do you have a fixed or a growth mindset?

Notes from the Video

“Don’t just praise students on their learning; tie it back to the learning and progress” (Dweck, 2014).
Talents and abilities are not “fixed” but can be grown and developed. The brain can be developed like a muscle.
Help students find their zest for learning. A fixed environment sets us up to have a fixed mindset.
When deep learning occurs, grades and test scores are a simple by-product.

Student-Centered Learning, Professional Learning, Thib Talks, Growth Mindset

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