Power of a Growth Mindset


Last year was my first year teaching technology in an elementary school. As I followed the district’s technology curriculum, and I realized that I would be teaching keyboarding for four weeks in the fall and two weeks in the spring. I was baffled as to what could actually be accomplished in the six half-hour sessions I had in which to “teach” keyboarding. The application we were using was one that the district had purchased, and it allowed me to track each student’s progress, but my expectations were low. I added student information to the program, and set goals for each class based on their grade levels, as I was instructed to do. Students logged in that first day and tried to do their best work, but before long, they were frustrated and didn’t want to practice anymore. The goal was “too hard”. “I can’t do it” was what the kids kept saying. They knew what they were supposed to do, but were quick to give up. I immediately found myself adjusting individual goals so that they would have something more realistic to work for instead of giving up and going through the motions. But we honestly didn’t accomplish much. We were all relieved when the keyboarding unit was finished and we could focus our attention on more fungoal-chart digital tools.

This year, when preparing for the keyboarding unit, I tried a different approach. Instead of setting student
goals in the program, I set the class goals low, so everyone could achieve. And then I did something that would encourage them all to keep working hard. I let them set their own goals. I started by creating charts on labels that I fixed to the back of notecards. I distributed them at the start of every class.

Goal 1 was the attainable, class goal. A majority of students were able to achieve it during the first class. When they surpassed the goal with 90% accuracy, I put a sticker on the chart and the student and I decided together what the new goal would be. Typically, we aimed for three more words per minute than their best score. We wrote it under Goal 2, where students could remind themselves what they were working toward.  The difference in how students responded was amazing! Even when they were unable to achieve their goal right away, they quickly learned that each time they completed their practice exercises, their speed and/or accuracy improved. They got excited. I could hear them talking to their bannersneighbors about how close they’d come. And the big reward was the flag they earned after they achieved their third goal. The “perseverance pennants” boasted the students’ names and growth and were hung around my classroom for all to see.

Some of the less motivated students were still resistant to the idea, afraid of failing. So I worked with them one on one, explaining that they only way to become good at keyboarding was to practice. None of us are born good at typing YET, but the more we do it the better we get. I watched them type a couple of the practice exercises and showed them how they were improving each time. Eventually, they were able to get that goal sticker, and then they were hooked. One of my typically unmotivated students actually told me “I can do this!” (I love those reminders of why I became a teacher!)

Here’s what I’ve learned through experience:

  • Individualizing learning goals to something that’s attainable actually motivates students!
  • Including students in the process of setting their own goals makes the process more personal, and reminds them that they’re working for themselves, instead of for a teacher.
  • Making learning fun, by adding a challenge or gaming element can engage students like nothing else!

Looking back on the keyboarding unit, which I completed in early October, I now realize that I was creating a learning environment that promoted a growth mindset. The data that resulted from this new way of teaching keyboarding is remarkable, showing increased typing speeds of as much as 20 words per minute within one month. Many of the students even wrote down their account information so they could use the web-based application at home. It made me consider how I teach other units in my classroom, and I’ve found myself making efforts to promote a growth mindset in other ways.

As a technology teacher, I have struggled with teachers who don’t feel comfortable enough with technology to introduce it as a learning tool in their own classrooms. It’s what inspired my  innovation plan, which focuses on how I can encourage other teachers to join me in creating learning environments that promote a blended learning environment.  I’ve come to realize how similar their mindset is to that of my students who focus more on their end results than their process. There are a number of students and teachers  in my school who shut down at the suggestion of doing something they don’t know how to do. They don’t want to fail.  Those are the people I focused on as I designed a 3-column table for a unit that incorporates cloud based learning. I also used created the same unit using Fink’s Understanding by Design (UbD) template. Through all of these designs, I’ve made an effort to create an environment in which students are not afraid to fail, but are open to the idea of just learning.  I’ve considered the following points as I’ve created my lessons, and I recommend them to those teachers who are making efforts to reach their students.

The Plan


As I’ve introduced my 3rd-5th grade students to Office 365 this year, they have spent the past two months creating and sharing documents and presentations with me and their classroom teachers. Occasionally, as students are working in my class, I’ll open their cloud-based work and help them edit a document they’re working on. They are always pleasantly surprised when they see information being added, questions being asked, or mistakes being fixed in their own documents. They enjoy the fact that they can work with a teacher instead of for a teacher.  Success in learning shouldn’t be about the answers, but the student’s process in solving the problems. Understanding the significance of how they make things happen changes the mission of an assignment. This brings me to my next suggestion… 

Lose the Red Ink

Teachers need to eliminate some of the right answer/wrong answer assessments from their lessons. Grades should be based on what students learn, not what they answer correctly. Lose the red pen and quit indicating the “wrong” answers with X’s and check marks. Use fun colors and ask questions that give students opportunities to explain why they responded the way they did. Give them a chance to defend their responses by demonstrating how they came to their conclusions. And if they can come to the realization of what they did wrong all by themselves, credit them for what they’ve learned! Anyone can find the answers! We should be teaching them to think!

Blend Learning

A part of my job is to manage the apps on the 360+ iPads in my school. I spend a lot of time looking for applications that help our students learn independently. I get most excited about those that are adaptive, and that are game-based (and free).  When provided with a game-based activity, students aren’t afraid to fail. They expect to fail, even repeatedly, before they figure out what they’re doing wrong and find success. I’ve found a number of game-based apps that provide students with opportunities to improve their learning independently. I’ve scoped them out to grade-appropriate classroom devices, and I’ve encouraged teachers to provide time for students to work independently or in centers.

I’m a firm believer in using technology as a learning tool. It’s the basis for my innovation plan, and a great way to promote a growth mindset. Students are capable of learning independently and need to be encouraged to do so. Teachers who provide opportunities for students to learn from resources other than the instructor promote a growth mindset. They can put the power to learn in the student’s hands, making them comfortable with failing as a means of succeeding.


When I taught at the high school level, students would often approach me to tell me about something incredible they’d learned on the computer. Sometimes it was about an app they’d discovered and used, and sometimes it was about a webpage or graphic design they’d created. I began working those victories into my lessons. If the student was comfortable presenting it himself, I’d let him do so. If not, I’d make sure to let the class know who was responsible for the information I was sharing. It gave the independent learners a true sense of accomplishment to be the focus of a lesson, and it inspired other classmates to work independently to make their own discoveries. It also made for some great discussions between the students, as they learned from one another.

At the elementary level, I didn’t expect there would be as many such opportunities but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. One of my fourth grade students started his own journal in OneDrive and shares his folder with me and his teachers so we can read his work. Sharing that idea with his classmates encouraged many of our gifted writers to do the same.

Independent learning doesn’t require technology. It comes from success and failure. It can happen outside the classroom, on a vacation, or a family outing, on a soccer field or even from getting a new pet. When a student feels that he or she has learned something important enough to share it with a teacher, (good or bad) that learning needs to be celebrated. In fact, taking time to celebrate independent learning regularly would encourage students to take notice of learning opportunities as they present themselves.  A growth mindset needs to be cultivated not just in the classroom, but everywhere.

I once heard a teacher remind her third-grade students to “have a growth mindset”, as she brought them to my computer lab for standardized testing. I remember thinking to myself that it was a silly thing to say to a group of kids. After all, the phrase shouldn’t be a part of an elementary student’s vocabulary. The practice of having a growth mindset should be a natural one. We’re all born with an ability to learn from our mistakes, and the only thing that would inhibit a growth mindset would be for someone to make us feel bad about our failures and mistakes. And yet that’s exactly what traditional teachers do when they base student grades on right and wrong answers. The best teachers model a growth mindset and remind students that while they haven’t yet mastered a subject, they are getting there! They are willing to learn from their own mistakes, which is the key to the success of my innovation plan. Lose the fear! Be adventurous. Explore! The worst thing that can happen is that something will be learned!


Fink, L.D. (2003) A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Significant Learning Plan

In my previous post, I approached my cloud-based unit of instruction based on L. Dee Fink’s 3-column table. I began by setting a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”, which summed up what I wanted my students to be able to do as a result of the unit. This overarching goal allowed me to plan with the end in mind, while focusing on six categorical learning goals. I created activities and assessments that indicated my students’ understanding of the unit, using each of these six categories as basis for instruction.

In this post, I approach the same unit using the UbD model of instruction. Like the 3-column table, UbD is based on a backward design; that is, the ultimate goal of the unit provides a starting point for determining the steps and lessons necessary for achieving it. But a significant difference between the two is in the process of teaching the unit. While the 3-column table consistently places the focus of learning on the ultimate goal, the UbD model calls for breaking the unit into smaller goals which ultimately work together to get the job done. This is the version that I prefer to use when designing my lessons.

My UbD breaks my cloud-based unit into three sub-units, each of which focuses on a feature of Office 365, and the students’ recalling of previously learned features of Microsoft Office.  I appreciate the UbD model as a planning tool because it calls for attention to detail and focus on more specific goals and objectives than Fink’s model. In my experience, there is much to be gained by approaching larger tasks through a series of smaller ones. Not only does it allow for more realistic and precise goals, but it provides for a more constructive process as students build on previous learning to discover new skills, all working toward the same big goal.

Stage 1 – Desired Results
Established Goals


Learners will analyze the functional uses of Office 365 as a means for organizing, creating, communicating and collaborating in the learning environment.


Learners will apply previously learned skills using Word to create a Word document in OneDrive.


Learners will create a table and format a document for the purpose of organizing data in a research activity.


Learners will consider the technology available in their classroom learning environments and outside the computer lab.


Students will discuss and demonstrate the benefits of using cloud-based documents in a classroom-based research project.


Learners will use the cloud to discuss in small groups the ways in which cloud-based computing could benefit them in a career-based environment.


Students will work collaboratively to create a presentation about an assigned topic.

Students will be able to independently use their learning to…


T1 – Use OneDrive to create and share Word documents and Powerpoint presentations.

T2 – Use OneDrive to collaborate with others online.

T3 – Use various online resources to gather and share information effectively.



Students will understand that…


U1 – OneDrive can be used as a creative, organizational and collaborative tool.

U2 – Formatting a document can make it more effective



Students will keep considering…


Q1 – Who is my audience?

Q2 – What is my purpose?

Q3 – What tools should I use?

Students will recall/know…


K1 – They can access OneDrive files from any Internet accessible device

K2 – They can create the same Office documents online as they can on their classroom computers.

K3 – How to be responsible digital citizens

Students will be skilled at…


S1 – Accessing OneDrive files

S2 – Sharing OneDrive files

S3 – Creating works collaboratively

S4 – Formatting documents to make them more effective.

S5 – Choosing the tools needed to most effectively complete a task

S6 – Demonstrate digital citizenship.



Stage 2 – Evidence
Code Evaluative Criteria
All transfer goals




All Meaning Goals











Students will show that they really understand by evidence of…


Students will transfer their learning into real-world applications of Word and PowerPoint. For example,

1.       Task: Students will upload a previously made Word file into OneDrive and edit it in Word online.

2.       Task: Students will create a PowerPoint presentation and share it with teachers/students.

3.       Task: Students will use a new online Word document to organize research information.

All Meaning Goals


All Skill and Transfer goals







Digital Ethics


Students will show they have achieved Stage 1 goals by…

1.       Identifying their audience and explaining choices in formatting and design in their work

2.       Identifying Word and PowerPoint formatting tools

3.       Show evidence of discrete skills and overall fluency in using OneDrive

4.       Demonstrate digital responsibility and ethics when collaborating online.



Stage 3 – Learning Plan
Code Pre-assessment based on previously made documents and classroom experiences.






































Learning Events


Student success at transfer, meaning and acquisition depends on previous knowledge of Microsoft Word and formatting tools. Instruction will take place and be assessed through a system of increased independence in three sub-units.


Sub-unit 1

o  Log into Office 365.

o  Access OneDrive and upload a previously made file (Word document).

o  Edit the uploaded document demonstrating use of formatting tools.

o  Discuss (compare and contrast) online and offline versions of Word.

Sub-unit 2

o  Create a new Word document in O365.

o  Use formatting tools to insert a 2×5 table.

o  Label columns appropriately for research.

o  Record researched information in the table.

o  Share the document with teacher and partner. Partners edit one another’s documents.

Sub-unit 3

o  Create a new PowerPoint presentation in O365.

o  Use a total of five slides to share the information gathered in research.

o  Add images and design the presentation appropriately for the topic and audience.


Examples of design themes will be modeled and discussed, with emphasis on the significance of font, color and image choice.


Learning the beginner (and intermediate) tools of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Examples of successfully completed work are provided. Instruction on manipulation of design elements are used.


Skill development and real-world practice in:

Keyboarding Collaborating Communicating
Writing Design Digital Ethics
Internet Research Troubleshooting
Uploading/Downloading Organization
Creating Editing Formatting
Progress Monitoring


·       Formative assessment and informal feedback by instructor as students share their work.

·       Look for common problems, including:

o   Failure to name documents appropriately

o   Failure to share documents

o   Lack of contribution to collaborative work

o   Improper sentence structure/spelling

o   Inconsistencies in formatting/design

o   Improper use of digital tools

o   Issues of online respect, online safety and/or responsibility.




The unit planned in the UbD above contributes significantly to the success of my innovation plan. Employing cloud-based learning strategies prepares my students for a blended learning environment in their classrooms. But perhaps just as important is the fact that their teachers are becoming familiar with how the tools can be used effectively. The students’ successful sharing of documents with their teachers almost forces them to consider the benefits of sharing documents online. It also promotes their ethical and responsible use of the Internet as they collaborate with one another.

Including my UbD in the cloud and sharing it with my colleagues gives them ideas for how they can incorporate what the students are learning in technology through their own classroom lessons. In some sense, my UbD offers examples for blended learning that all of my co-workers can benefit from.

Fink, L.D. (2003). A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. Retrieved from Designing Significant Learning Experiences: Materials in Print website:http://www.designlearning.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Self-Directed-G…

Aligning Outcomes, Assessments and Activities


I’ve been fortunate enough to work in private schools and public schools, and based on my own experiences, there is a distinct difference between how lessons are designed depending on which environment you are working in. The single biggest distinguishing factor lies in the standardized test requirements that often determine the direction and implementation of a lesson in a public school. Often, I’ve witnessed public school teachers declining opportunities to integrate technology in their classrooms, out of fear that they won’t have time to address the mandated curriculum and key concepts on which their students will be assessed. The idea that technology could be used to teach it more effectively often isn’t seen as time-effective to them, most likely because of the work involved in redesigning the curriculum that has already been provided to them. In my private school environment, our curriculum committee was made up of teachers who worked with their departments to develop the curriculum each year.

Dee Fink’s “Self-Directed Guide to Course Design” discusses the idea of looking forward when designing lessons (Fink, 2003). Considering how a student will be able to use what we’re teaching in the future rather than what they remember right now is the key to making the learning effective. Offering them scenarios in which they may need to know the information later in life provides an authentic example of its significance. It is with this in mind that I design my units and lessons. I am a technology teacher, and in the area of technology, it doesn’t make sense to teach for today. Technology is constantly evolving, so the content of my lessons isn’t about specific tools. It’s about concepts, including the cloud, collaboration, communication, and creative production.

Below is an example of a unit designed with the future of my 4th grade students in mind. Beginning with what I want my students to be able to do in the future, I’ve created  series of activities and assessments that will prepare them well for what the future holds.

A year or more after this unit is over, I want and hope that students will be comfortable with using the cloud to communicate and collaborate effectively and respectfully with others.


The unit I am addressing below is designed for 4th-grade students at my elementary school. By the 4th grade level, students have mastered the ability to:

  • Create Word documents and PowerPoint presentations
  • Change font and size
  • Insert objects and images
  • Edit objects and images (rotate, resize, change color, etc.)
  • Insert tables
  • Align text
  • Use indentation
  • Select and use Office-based themes and designs

For the successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

  • Save and access new and previously made files from anywhere, using cloud-based storage.
  • Recognize and utilize the features and functions of communication and collaboration tools.
  • Create original works and learn strategies for editing, formatting and collaborating to create new artifacts.


This unit will teach students to think creatively as they develop their own documents and presentations. They will think practically as they make decisions in how to design artifacts that are appropriate for their audience. They will think critically as they analyze and evaluate information they gather in research of independent topics.

They will gain skills in sharing documents for the purpose of peer assessment and creative collaboration as they manage independent and team-based complex projects.


Throughout this unit, students will be integrating a number of skills to complete their work. These include:

  • Technology skills: keyboarding, student login information, file creation, text formatting, online research…
  • Curriculum skills: communicating effectively through writing, making inferences (research),
  • Personal skills: peer assessment, collaboration, designing


Students should learn that they can be successful contributors to group work and that tools are accessible that allow them to work with and share their success with others. They are not just consumers of technology, but should be producers as well.

This unit also allows students to demonstrate digital citizenship as they recognize and respect the opinions and works of other online contributors. Collaborative activity allows them to work together to more effectively communicate shared ideas.


It is my hope that students will understand the significant role they can play as contributing citizens in a digital environment. The tools they are learning today will help them to be more successful in their future careers, whatever they may be. The opportunity to create and share does not have to be limited to school work, but can be used to explore their own personal interests, such as creating a series of personal stories, or exploring and researching ideas that interest them.


I would like students to recognize the incredible opportunity that they have been given in the use of the Internet and cloud based storage. To be a good student requires their exploration of things outside the classroom and how they apply to them. In the subject of technology, it’s important for them to explore and find out what they can do with these tools. It is my hope that they will realize the incredible potential that OneDrive provides for them to be more independent and successful learners by allowing them to document their independent explorations or create their own works outside of school. It’s important that they see technology not as a school tool, but as a life tool. Learning to use it in a way that works best for them is really the key to their success.


Upon completion of this unit, learners will be able to communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using OneDrive and digital media. 

Learning Goals

Learning Activities

Assessment Activities


Learners will analyze the functional uses of Office 365 as a means for organizing, creating, communicating and collaborating in the learning environment.

Review, discuss and explore the uses of Office 365/OneDrive and “cloud” computing.

Model existing OneDrive accounts demonstrating accessibility of “shared” work and organization of student-owned work.

Upload previously created Word documents into OneDrive.

Create new Word documents in OneDrive naming them appropriately.

Access teacher-shared documents in OneDrive.


Learners will apply previously learned skills using Word to create a Word document in OneDrive.

Learners will create a table and format a document for the purpose of organizing data in a research activity.

Discuss how the cloud can help students to complete work more efficiently.

Insert a 2×5 table in a new document to be used as a graphic organizer.

Create a new document and name it appropriately.

Format a table, labeling each row appropriately as demonstrated by the instructor.


Learners will consider the technology available in their classroom learning environments and outside the computer lab.

Students will discuss and demonstrate the benefits of using cloud-based documents in a classroom-based research project.

Begin research based on classroom curriculum and record it in online document.

Demonstrate use of the cloud-based document outside the computer lab.

Record research findings in the graphic organizer.

Share the document with technology teacher and classroom teacher.

Continue research outside of the computer lab, using devices available in the classroom and/or at home.


Learners will use the cloud to discuss in small groups the ways in which cloud-based computing could benefit them in a career-based environment.



Discuss and research the benefits of using the cloud.

Use shared documents to collaborate and discuss careers in which the cloud may be used.

Access a document that has been previously created and shared by the instructor.  

Research career topics in Britannica Image Quest and locate images in which technology is being used.

Share findings (images and reasoning) with group members in the shared document.


Students will work collaboratively to create a presentation about an assigned topic.

Discuss in small groups, plans for creating a PowerPoint presentation about an assigned topic.

Teams will create and share a research document with a partner and the instructor.

Teams will create and share the PowerPoint file with a partner and the instructor.

Collaborate to create and design the presentation, using student research.  

Determine team members’ roles in the group project.

Use Britannica to research and record findings in a shared document.

Create a five-slide presentation, including images and demonstrating new knowledge.


There are about 100 4th-grade students in my school. They are divided into four classes, each consisting of about 25 students. Each group visits my computer lab for thirty minutes each week, where they log into their own personal network accounts on desktop computers and are guided via projection from a teacher station.

Employees and students within the district have Office 365 accounts. While students do not have access to email, they do share the same accessibility with other online applications as their teachers. In the past, students have saved their work to a network drive that could be accessed anywhere in the district. The fact that OneDrive makes their work accessible from anywhere makes it a much more effective means of storing their files.

4th-grade teachers vary in their willingness and ability to blend technology into their learning plans. Their classrooms share two laptop carts and an iPad cart, which are accessible as needed. Devices are typically used for research and assessments, but rarely creative projects or independent problem-based activities. My unit prepares students for future learning opportunities that are cloud-based, while making the process of incorporating OneDrive easier for their classroom teachers. In my efforts to create a more blended learning environment throughout my school, this unit plays


The incorporation of a new district-mandated curriculum includes a technology component, which has encouraged classroom teachers to employ more technology-based lessons in their classrooms. Students have access to curriculum tools and assignments online, which can be accessed at home via the district website as well as at school.

The district technology team has developed a set of grade level standards on which units and lessons are based. Our limited time with students on a weekly basis limits our ability to continue building on new skills throughout the week, so I am constantly trying to integrate classroom curriculum with my technology lessons in order to make connections in all subjects.


I see the subject of technology as a practical one. It is important for students to learn about those tools that will help them to learn more effectively and to apply what they’ve learned in a digital environment. The Internet is not just for consumers, but for creators, and the potential for students to become contributors in a world filled with technology is one they need to understand and explore. The biggest challenge that I face as a technology educator is in the interest of time and practice. While I’d like to think that students are learning skills that will help them learn in the classroom, that is not always the case. Many teachers are not as comfortable with technology as their students are. This unit introduces students to the benefits and knowledge needed for cloud-based works, relieving their teachers of the responsibility of doing so, hopefully making them more comfortable with practicing those skills in their own lessons.


My school is not in an affluent area. A majority of students are from low-income families, and breakfast and lunch is provided. Our student body is also mostly Hispanic, and at the 4th-grade level, there is one sheltered classroom.

Reading and writing abilities vary drastically among this group. Language barriers can play a role in the effectiveness of instruction, so students often help one another when understanding is in question.

Our 4th-grade students are curious, unafraid of technology, and excited to learn about new technology tools. However, many of them do not have access to computers or Internet at home, so there are no expectations of technology work outside of school. Students are encouraged to explore what they are learning at home, or at the public library if the opportunity does exist, but it is not required.


Technology is a fun subject for students, especially when they are being introduced to new tools. It is also one that is difficult to standardize, as it is constantly evolving and there are so many ways to accomplish the same task. I am a constructivist and enjoy watching students explore and discover learning opportunities independently. I encourage growth through student-centered goals and rewards, and I learn much about my students through the processes they choose in problem-based activities. I find learning to be much more effective in an environment where students can share and discuss with their neighbors. Quiet is not necessarily productive in my practical problem-based learning environment. This contradicts the philosophy of most classroom teachers, who aren’t comfortable with relinquishing control over the conversation and how concepts are being presented.  

As an English-speaking educator in a heavily bilingual school, I welcome students to communicate and help one another during class. The process of instructing is in itself a learning experience. Many of my students are very enthusiastic about playing a leadership role in helping their classmates. Allowing them to share with others provides many with a sense of pride and accomplishment, encouraging them to do their best work. OneDrive allows all of my students an opportunity to do so.

This unit of instruction is one that serves not only my students, but their teachers as well. The introduction and practice of cloud storage and collaboration provides students with a foundation that teachers could take advantage of in their classrooms. While many teachers are admittedly not as comfortable with O365 as they would like to be, the idea that their students know how to use it may provide some encouragement, and even ease their anxiety about making it a part of the classroom experience. Since my innovation plan is focused on creating a more blended learning environment throughout my school, I’m confident that this unit will play a role in making the shift at my school. The fact that students will be sharing the work they complete in the lab with their classroom teachers will provide their teachers with examples of the learning that can take place with technology as a tool. 


Fink, L.D. (2003) A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.