Digital Mindset - A necessity for teachers.

Success in the world comes from being able to use the environment you live in to get what you want and need. That requires learning.

In all past times gaining access to knowledge and skills was difficult. Before writing it depended on who you could talk to in your community. Before books became affordable there were trade guilds that helped their members gain knowledge and skills while restricting access by others. Printing and libraries started to spread knowledge more widely in the last two centuries but as recently as 25 years ago access to knowledge was still expensive and privileged. Our schools gave access to a limited amount of knowledge but real success depended on the access to knowledge and skills gained beyond school.

Just 25 years ago the majority of the population appeared satisfied with the limited access to new knowledge that they had. Most knowledge was still on paper. CD-ROMs were a recent invention. Few had email connectivity. The only connected information services were broadcast systems such as Prestel and Minitel. The internet had only just been born. For most people new information arrived in magazines on topics of particular interest. There were only limited digital tools. Recording and broadcasting were only possible using analogue devices and methods.

I will call the mindset everyone operated within at this time an 'analogue mindset' to distinguish it from a digital mindset and to stress the limitations which applied. It was instilled into young people that the route to success was good exam scores to gain access to post-school training, from which would follow the job that would define their success in life. The message was that learning required teachers.

A relatively few people were not satisfied with their access to information and the teaching/training of the institutions they attended while young. Through considerable personal effort and often personal expense, they overcame the limitations of the analogue, pre-digital world and discovered and practiced new approaches in their chosen fields, gaining greater success than most.

The world has now changed.

Since the mid 1990s accessible knowledge has been exploding on the internet. From 2005, just 15 years ago, it became possible to learn new skills from other people through videos on Youtube.

It is no longer possible to be successful in life with only the knowledge and skills gained from school and post-school training. In every field of endeavour success depends on being up to date with the latest ideas and approaches. If you are not up to date your job is likely to be taken by someone who is. Continuous learning has become vital for all.

What this means for educators is that it is no longer sufficient for your pupils just to be successful in exams. It is necessary that they emerge from your school with a digital mindset - an unstoppable urge to find out what they need to know, and be able to do, to be successful. A mindset that tells them this is possible and achievable, that gives them the competence to use digital connectivity and tools to the full. The conviction that they can learn a great deal themselves but can also find numerous other people to help them when help is needed. Thousands of 'teachers' in all walks of life are sharing what they know and can do in videos and forums - as sharing is a natural part of a digital mindset. Those who have a digital mindset know how much sharing helps them.

For teachers this requires becoming more self-aware of your own digital mindset, that you use in your personal life even if not in school. Then it demands experimentation with ways to help your pupils develop their own digital mindset.

Most of all this change in the world demands that schools and teachers must not inhibit young people from developing their digital mindset. Many schools currently are by denying pupils access to digital devices and connectivity during much of their in-school learning, and by not acknowledging and rewarding the ways pupils endeavour to use their digital mindset to learn.

This change in the world also settles the age-old question of whether the purpose of education is to 'fill the vessel' or to 'ignite the fire'. Pedagogical approaches that 'fill the vessel' are at times necessary but 'igniting the fire' must now be pre-eminent. Young people must be taught to love learning, to learn deeply, broadly and continuously, with a growth mindset and a digital mindset. Periods when their minds need to be filled with knowledge to be regurgitated will then be willingly accepted with far less stress.