From the Principal's Office: Transforming Our Schools by Changing Mindsets Not by Buying More Technology

“Teacher mind frames are the most important enhancer and barrier to students’ learning.” Alan Bain and Mark Weston, The Learning Edge: What Technology Can Do to Educate All Children

Our relentless pursuit for some magical formula that will suddenly transform our schools is a fruitless quest. There are no magical formulas or tools, and there are no heroes who will ride into our schools and school districts and suddenly save the day and turn our schools into magical places of learning and engagement. If transformation is to happen, we need to stop pursuing 1:1 initiatives, new standards, new tests, next generation tests, longer school days, and the other latest and greatest educational gimmicks and get down to the real reasons why we can’t change our schools. Authors Bain and Weston offer some good advice: look to the mindsets of the educators in our schools and districts. That's where the real obstacles lie.

According to Bain and Weston, “Technology will not force its way into classrooms; for decades, teachers and schools have shown remarkable kickback,” and if you walk into any district that has spent thousands or millions on technological toys, you will see what they are talking about. We look at all out technological toys and we ask ourselves:

  • “Why are our teachers not using these interactive boards?”
  • “Why are those iPads sitting idle in the corner of the room?”
  • “Why is it when I visit the classrooms in our school district I see little engagement with technology by the students, and mostly the kinds of teaching and learning that has been going on for the last 100 years or so?”

I think the answers to these questions are rather simple: we put all this technology in our classrooms and schools, but we forget that many of our teachers simply look for ways to use the technology to help them teach as they always have, rather than look for new ways of teaching with the technology. Their mindset is the obstacle. (Administrators have that mindset too.)

If you really want to know why all that technology sits idle, it's probably because it does not fit the way your teachers teach and the way they have been teaching for the past 100 years or so. Too much of that teaching is still teachers talking, students sitting and listening. In these classrooms, some teachers determine that if the technology won't help them do school like they have been doing it, then they don’t need it. They don’t see the need to change how they are teaching, even though half their class stares up at them in glazed-eye stupor.

If we really want to transform teaching and learning in our schools and classrooms, perhaps we need to pause from all the technology buying, installing, and training and focus on the “mindsets” that our teachers and administrators have. We need to stop “automating the 20th century ways of teaching and learning” and pursue whole new ways of teaching and learning.

cross posted at

J. Robinson has decades of experience as a K12 Principal, Teacher, and Technology Advocate. Read more at The 21st Century Principal.