Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What is the Innovator's Mindset? #IMMOOC week 2

Image courtesy of
Two weeks in, and The Innovator's Mindset MOOC is one of the best things I've done since deciding to take control of my own professional development three years ago. One of this week's blogging prompts was to choose one of the characteristics of the Innovator's Mindset and reflect on what that means for you. As soon as I looked at the sketchnote, I knew I couldn't limit my reflection to just one.

1. Empathetic

Trying to look at school (and especially your own class) with students' eyes can be scary. Does it seem like a safe place? Are the things we do motivating and inspiring? Is there value in what we are doing? I start doing this by picturing myself as a student, but I also ask students for feedback. My goal in this area is to offer more opportunities for truly anonymous feedback so I can better understand how my students feel about my classes.

2. Problem Finders

This is how I approach life. Question starts with quest because I am always setting off to find answers or solutions. Helping my students see questions has been a focus of my classes for awhile. My biggest success here has been with three act tasks. Having my students generate questions in math has been a game changer. My attempts at curiosity projects (I've also called it 20% time and passion projects) have always started with student questions as well. 

Speaking of curiosity projects, that is an area where I have lingering questions and answers to seek. It never works out as well as I want it to. That should be a topic for another blog post.

3. Risk Takers

"How you ever gonna know, if you never take the chance?" That line from one of my favorite Garth Brooks songs sums it all up. Ideas are great, but you need to act on them to really make a difference. I'm comfortable telling my students that I'm trying something new and I'm not sure if it will work. We frequently talk about the value of mistakes in my class, and I strive for an environment where no one feels their pride or dignity is at stake when they take a risk. Hopefully the only thing lost in failure is time and pencil lead, but the lessons learned will more than make up for that.

4. Networked

Joining Twitter was the best thing I ever did for my teaching career. Being in constant communication with other teachers inspires me to do better and gives me a sounding board for all of my ideas. 

5. Observant

As a teacher, my best information comes from watching my students. I'm not sure my students are great observers, though. I need to take the power of asking "What did you notice?" to more of my lessons.

6. Creators

This goes along with risk taking. You just need to go for it and put your idea in action. The Idaho Kids Vote Book Award is probably my most pressing example of using hard work to drive an idea and action to fruition. It's rewarding to see something come of your idea. Again, this is an area where I need to give my students more opportunities. There are many things created in my class, but more of them need to come from student ideas.

7. Resilient

Without resiliency, all seven of the other characteristics would fall flat. When things don't work out like you want, you have to be ready to pick yourself up and move forward. Maybe it's time to reflect and create another iteration. Maybe it's time to consider it a lesson learned and try something else entirely. Whatever the next step is, you can't wallow in failure. 

Things move fast in my classroom, and I think some measure of resiliency comes from not having the time to bog down and lament. Still, this can be a tough one, especially in my advanced learning program. Many of my students are used to doing well at everything they try in school. My classes challenge them and it can be uncomfortable. When I see a student reaching the frustration point where they just can't be resilient, it's time to step in and help with strategies like taking a break or taking stock of the places where they were successful. Hopefully those lessons continue with my students to other areas of their life.

8. Reflective

I'm writing this, aren't I? My moments of reflection come after every class, and sometimes I manage to get them written down here. For some reason, I have been stuck on the idea that reflection only counts when it is written down. As a result, my students' reflection often gets lost in the mechanics of putting words on a page. I'm trying to make more frequent, shorter reflection a priority. I was able to visit a classroom last week where students rated their learning and performance on a four-point scale throughout the day and had to think about what had to happen for them to move to the next level. That quick reflection was a powerful tool I plan to implement.


  1. Now I see why we were just supposed to reflect on one on the characteristics. When my blog posts get this long, I often get too wrapped up in revision and editing. I saw that George was considering daily blog prompts next week. Whatever happens, my goal is to apply the quick, frequent reflection I desire for my students to my own blog next week.

  2. I really enjoyed reading about your three act tasks using real life maths questions. Do you have any other examples of using these? Could you use any video to create a question? Keep blogging, I am also at fault when it comes to the overly long blog post!