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Promises to My Learners as a Maker Educator

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I used to teach a graduate course in professional ethics for the educator. One of the assignments I did is have these inservice educators develop a list of promises to their students. I asked them to make it poster size so they can post these promises in their classrooms. Here is an example: 10 Amazing Teacher Promises for the Beginning of School.

As I prepared to teach a summer school/camp on maker education (see http://www.makereducation.com/summer-camp-schedule.html), I decided compose a list of promises to my learners as a maker educator.

  1. I promise to make the making environment positive, joyful and physically and emotionally safe so you feel safe enough to take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, and test things out.
  2. I promise you to provide you with resources and materials to help you create, make, innovate.
  3. I promise that I will respect and support your own unique ways of thinking, learning, creating, and interacting with others.
  4. I promise to work with you to create learning experiences that are personally relevant to you.
  5. I promise to support and help you understand and navigate the ups and downs, the mistakes and failures, and the trials and errors associated with making.
  6. I promise to give you time and opportunities to collaborate and share with other makers (of all ages).
  7. I promise to provide you with positive feedback on things you can control—such as effort, strategies, and behaviors.
  8. I promise to encourage you to critically think, formulate questions of your own, and come up with your own conclusions.
  9. I promise you that I will not intervene with your learning process unless you ask me to do so.
  10. I promise to support you as you embrace the joy in creating, playing, innovating, and making.

promises as a maker educator

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 27, 2015 at 3:01 am

Making MAKEing More Inclusive

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Update/Addendum: Last evening I traveled to Albuquerque with a friend to see the makerspace there and attend their monthly meeting. It is a very well-appointed makerspace and there was good attendance for the meeting. I discussed with my friend on the drive back home my concern with the homogeneous demographic make-up of those in attendance. They were mostly white men and women who seemed to have a comfortable income. I stated that given that this makerspace is fairly well established with a five year history, the folks running the space should now be more proactive in increasing the diversity of their membership and becoming more inclusive. My friend took issue with my comment, saying that this is not their purpose. She basically said that the makerspace is what it is, that becoming more inclusive is not their purpose, and that they doing fine with those who they are currently serving. I talked about initiatives like Black Girls Code which does outreach for the goal of providing skills to a population who might not gain these skills without this type of outreach. She saw no reason for this makerspace to change their status quo. We ended up agreeing to disagree but I did get motivated to revisit and update this post . . .

The maker movement and maker education, in my perspective, are such great initiatives – really in line with what student-centric education should be in this era of formal and informal learning.

Maker education (often referred to as “Maker Ed”) is a new school of educational thought [at least in terms of having an “official” educational label – JG] that focuses on delivering constructivist, project-based learning curriculum and instructional units to students. Maker education spaces can be as large as full high school workshops with high-tech tools, or as small and low-tech as one corner of an elementary classroom. A makerspace isn’t just about the tools and equipment, but the sort of learning experience the space provides to students who are making projects. (9 Maker Projects for Beginner Maker Ed Teachers)

Social media has helped me see more of the big picture and become aware of some of the problems associated with the maker movement. The two I discuss in this post are:

  1. Maker movement initiatives are often driven by more affluent white males.
  2. The maker movement is too often being associated with the tech stuff – 3D Printers, Arduinos, littleBits, Makey-Makeys – stuff that less affluent schools and community programs can afford.

Maker movement initiatives are often driven by affluent white males.

When the language, culture, and tools of the current makerspaces, maker faires, MAKE publications are examined, they tend to be less inclusive of females, older adults, and people of color.

Spaces and ‘Maker’ activities are promoted as being inclusive, open spaces. However, this type of rhetoric tends to ignore social inequalities that impede access and participation, where privilege, oppression, and domination over some groups of people are not acknowledged (Dunbar-Hester, 2014). If technical tinkering, STEM, and digital fabrication are the economic forces that will empower Makers, and women and people of color are not participating in these activities in a visible way, that power will remain unequally distributed.  It is possible that the maker movement will have a transformative effect and create opportunity for upward mobility but we must acknowledge the fact that the idea of “making” is a privileged idea. (Power, Access, Status: The Discourse of Race, Gender, and Class in the Maker Movement)

The Maker movement has grown large enough and influential enough that it’s time to turn a critical eye to the culture of the community, what we want it to be and what it really is,” declared Dr. Buechley. The most striking statistics Buechley shared focused on the race and gender of the Makers on its covers. Of the 40 people featured, she found that 85% have been men and boys–and none were people of color. The current editorial staff has a similar ratio–87% men, and also no people of color. “Are you serious!? MAKE, you can do better. It’s your responsibility to do better,” Buechley exclaimed. (Watch Dr. Buechley’s talk at https://vimeo.com/110616469) The notion that one does not need to talk about gender, race, sexual orientation, class, etc. because what matters is how well you can hack largely disregards privileges that people have in society and constitutes part of the explanation for why there are so few women, queers, and people of color in hackerspaces. But women aren’t the only ones who have felt marginalized and isolated at mainstream hackerspaces. Many men have also found the culture exclusionary or aggressive and are also also seeking safer spaces. (Is the Maker Movement About Hacking Society—Or Just Hardware?)

Here are some additional quotes, articles that discuss the need for a maker environment more inclusive of gender and people of color.

I know that the Maker Movement is working to be more inclusive and I challenge its leadership to do even more to include every kid in every community in its programming. I challenge each of us to support not just our own daughters and sons in Making but the girls and boys in all communities. (Welcoming All Girls in the Maker Movement: Let’s Make it Happen)

Maker and hackerspaces are meant to be places to build, tinker, and fix things, but that process won’t flourish without a friendly, inclusive environment. (Is the Maker Movement About Hacking Society—Or Just Hardware?)

The idea of inclusion is not only important for community organizations or schools serving underserved populations. Every makerspace should be aware of their capacity to serve all people: children and adults, all genders, all backgrounds, and those who are interested in the arts, engineering, or both. Even in the best-resourced maker environments, there should be constant vigilance about the assumptions that are made about the people who might want to use them. (Making for All: How to Build an Inclusive Makerspace)

The maker movement is too often being associated with the tech stuff – stuff that less affluent schools and community programs cannot afford.

Changing Perceptions About the Stuff

3d Printers, Ardinos, litteBits, Makey-Makeys, GoSpheros, Lillipads, . . . oh my! These technologies are seductive especially seeing all the press they get on social media, blogs, and Kickstarter.  Given all of the media coverage, an educator new to Maker Education may get the perception that it is all about this kind of high tech stuff. For less affluent schools or after-school programs, it may seem that maker education is out of their reach given budgetary restraints. A maker education program can be fully implemented with minimal cost supplies. Cardboard boxes, recycled materials such as water bottles, detergent bottles, and other plastic throwaways, tape, glue guns, scissors/knives, and markers in conjunction with learners’ imaginations, creativity, and innovative ideas can be the stuff that makerspaces are made of. Presentation2

In addition, there are lots of making resources that are inexpensive. Here is an image of the circuit kit I prepared for my week long maker camp for over a dozen kids. It cost less than $100 with careful shopping via ebay and the local dollar store. It contains LEDs, batteries, alligator clips, copper tape, magnets, paper clips, and electrical tape. It served these dozen+ kids for five half days of making.

IMG_1126

Changing Perceptions about What Activities Are Considered Making

In addition, to using cheaper materials, we need to expand our perceptions about what constitutes maker activities.

In an analysis of every MAKE magazine cover since the first issue in 2005–36 in all–Buechley found that the photos portrayed a “very narrow definition” of Maker activities. The themes have skewed heavily towards electronics, which have been featured on 53% of covers, followed by vehicles (31%), robots (22%), rockets (8%), and music (5%).  What’s missing, she said, are examples from the world of ceramics, costume-engineering, and weaving. She pleaded with the audience to reach out to a more diverse group of makers and include all types of kids. “You gotta do more than robots,” she said.  (MAKE’ing More Diverse Makers)

Changing Perceptions: Making Is About a Mindset and a Process Not About the Stuff

Finally, in the same vein as it’s about the pedagogy, not about the technology; making is about a mindset and the act of doing, it’s not about the high tech stuff. As I discussed in The Intersection of Growth Mindsets and Maker Education:

A maker mindset involves having a can-do attitude and a growth mindset – a belief that your capabilities can be developed, improved and expanded.  It’s not just a matter of what you know, it’s a matter of taking risks and perhaps failing and learning from those failures.  It’s a matter of being open to exploring new possibilities and developing your full potential. (The Intersection of Growth Mindsets and Maker Education)

If making, the maker movement, maker education is viewed as a mindset, as a process, as a way to be creative and innovative; then the types and kinds of materials don’t matter. What matters, first and foremost, is the act of making.

mindset

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 20, 2015 at 11:55 pm

The Creativity Mindset

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I absolutely love all of the emphasis on mindsets these days. There are growth mindsets (which I discuss in The Educator with a Growth Mindset: A Staff Workshop) and maker mindsets (which I discuss in The Mindset of the Maker Educator). Mindsets are simply defined as “the ideas and attitudes with which a person approaches a situation.” Mindsets imply that mental and attitudinal states can assist one in being successful with a given skill set. I believe this to be true for engaging in the creative process, that a creative mindset is a prerequisite to being creative.

Creativity is a process in which the elements of mind consolidate in a completely new manner and something original comes into existence, a form of behavior in which a person resists routine answers, tolerates, and even seeks out the ambivalence, insecurity and vagueness that may serve as a basis for a new order (Gyarmathy, 2011). (http://www.academia.edu/2506344/Creative_climate_as_a_means_to_promote_creativity_in_the_classroom)

To be highly creative you first need the right creative mindset. Having the outlook, attitude and beliefs that empower and support you to be as creative as you can. (http://www.mind-sets.com/html/mind_power_programs/creativity_mindset.htm#sthash.ihA6Ng2q.dpuf)

A creative mindset gives meaning and value to how you approach your life, creative endeavors, and pretty much everything you do. Having a mindset for creativity opens you up to opportunities and possibilities because you are able to relish the creative process and embrace innovative thinking. Creativity is how we make our lives meaningful and by valuing your creativity, owning, and honoring it, you will move into a life that is purposeful, truthful, and feels free. (http://www.awakencreativity.com/a-creative-mindset/)

Some of the characteristics of the Creativity Mindset include:

  • Believes in One’s Own Creativity
  • Embraces Curiosity
  • Suspends Judgement – Silences the Inner Critic
  • Tolerates Ambiguity
  • Persists Even When Confronted with Skepticism & Rejection
  • Taps Into Childlike Imagination; a Child’s Sense of Wonder

creativity mindset

Believes in One’s Own Creativity

Central to a creativity mindset is the belief that one is and can be creative. It becomes self-statements that revolve around, “I can be creative.”

You have to believe that your creativity has meaning. You have to believe with all your heart that if you don’t express your creativity that you are not living up to your full potential, will never experience true happiness, or find the ultimate meaning of your existence. (http://www.awakencreativity.com/a-creative-mindset/believe-in-your-creativity-part-one-of-a-creative-mindset/)

Tina Seelig writes in inGenius that “in order to find creative solutions to big problems, you must first believe that you’ll find them. With this attitude, you see opportunities where others see obstacles and are able to leverage the resources you have to reach your goals” (p. 180). (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creative-synthesis/201404/when-it-comes-creativity-attitude-is-key)

Embraces Curiosity

Creative people want to know things–all kinds of things– just to know them. Knowledge does not require a reason. The question, “Why do you want to know that?” seems strange to the creative person, who is likely to respond, “Because I don’t know the answer.” Knowledge is enjoyable and often useful in strange and unexpected ways. (http://www.virtualsalt.com/crebook1.htm)

Suspends Judgment – Silences the Inner Critic

The ability to hold off on judging or critiquing an idea is important in the process of creativity. Often great ideas start as crazy ones – if critique is applied too early the idea will be killed and never developed into something useful and useable. (note – this doesn’t mean there is never a time for critique or judgement in the creative process – it’s actually key – but there is a time and place for it). (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/05/09/9-attitudes-of-highly-creative-people/)

Many new ideas, because they are new and unfamiliar, seem strange, odd, bizarre, even repulsive. Only later do they become “obviously” great. Other ideas, in their original incarnations, are indeed weird, but they lead to practical, beautiful, elegant things. Thus, it is important for the creative thinker to be able to suspend judgment when new ideas are arriving, to have an optimistic attitude toward ideas in general.

Tolerates Ambiguity

Ambiguity tolerance may be… the “willingness to accept a state of affairs capable of alternate interpretations, or of alternate outcomes,” (English & English 1958). In other words, ambiguity tolerance may be central to creative thinking. (http://knowinnovation.com/tolerating-ambiguity/#sthash.XqxhaQh3.dpuf)

With the toleration of ambiguity, creativity gives way to new ideas, stimulates the acceptance of others’ viewpoints, and thus raises tolerance, understanding and cooperation. (http://www.academia.edu/2506344/Creative_climate_as_a_means_to_promote_creativity_in_the_classroom

Persists Even When Confronted with Skepticism & Rejection

Creative people who actually see their ideas come to fruition have the ability to stick with their ideas and see them through – even when the going gets tough. This is what sets apart the great from the good in this whole sphere. Stick-ability is key. (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/05/09/9-attitudes-of-highly-creative-people/)

Most people fail because they spend only nine minutes on a problem that requires ten minutes to solve. Creativity and problem solving are hard work and require fierce application of time and energy. There is no quick and easy secret. You need knowledge gained by study and research and you must put your knowledge to work by hard thinking and protracted experimentation.  (http://www.virtualsalt.com/crebook1.htm)

Taps Into Childlike Imagination; a Child’s Sense of Wonder

When children play, they often do so in very original ways. However, with the responsibilities of adulthood, this playful curiosity is sometimes lost and conventional responses often result. In a control condition, participants wrote about what they would do if school was cancelled for the day. In an experimental condition, the instructions were identical except that participants were to imagine themselves as 7-year-olds in this situation. Individuals imagining themselves as children subsequently produced more original responses. Merely being primed to think like a child resulted in the production of more original responses on a subsequent measure of creativity. (http://psycnet.apa.org/?&fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/a0015644)

Learning to ask ‘why’, ‘what if’ and ‘I wonder…’ are great questions to build into your life if you want to be a more creative person. (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/05/09/9-attitudes-of-highly-creative-people/)

Look at the clouds outside your window. When you were a child, you would probably find yourself looking at the clouds and seeing all kinds of shapes and figures and developing stories. Many adults, however, look at clouds and see them as nothing more than the threat of rain. Psychologists call this “functional fixedness”–we see things for their main function and thereby circumvent our imagination. To think creatively, we need to stop thinking, “What it is…” and instead think, “What could it be?” (http://www.inc.com/suzanne-lucas/the-5-attitudes-that-stifle-creativity.html)

Creative people are comfortable with imagination and with thinking so-called weird, wild, or unthinkable thoughts, just for the sake of stimulation. (http://www.virtualsalt.com/crebook1.htm)

I wholeheartedly believe that both educators and learners in any educational setting need to have a Creativity Mindset to grow, flourish, and feel accomplished with their learning.

In order to teach creativity, one must teach creatively; that is, it will take a great deal of creative effort to bring out the most creative thinking in your classes. (http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching-resources/classroom-practice/teaching-techniques-strategies/creativity/techniques-creative-teaching/)

There are some conditions that the educator can establish to facilitate a Creativity Mindset. Coleman and Deutsch (2006) summarize guidelines for fostering creative problem-solving, which also underlie the importance of optimal environmental conditions. These include:

  • Challenge the common myths that block creativity. Many ideas about creativity have developed in people’s minds that influence the procedure of creativity in a negative way.  Ken Robinson (2011) states that every person possesses a huge creative potential, simply by virtue of being human.
  • Create a time-space oasis for creativity. According to John Cleese (1991) the most important factor is to provide an appropriate physical environment and enough time to become absorbed in a task, then work persistently on the solution, this is called a time-space oasis, a necessary condition for creative production.
  • Formulate a serious but playful atmosphere. Humor and playfulness decrease anxiety and thus make us more open to new approaches.
  • Foster learner’s self -confidence to bear the risk of unusual behavior. Some self-confidence or assertiveness is indispensable if we want to come up with new ideas, so self-reliance should be enhanced to encourage people to be more willing to take risks and consider novel ideas. http://www.academia.edu/2506344/Creative_climate_as_a_means_to_promote_creativity_in_the_classroom)

As a parting shot, here is a short RSA Animate video on the power to create:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 15, 2015 at 1:44 pm

The Mindset of the Maker Educator: K12 Online Conference Presentation+Slides

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Here is my presentation, The Mindset of the Maker Educator, that I recorded for the K12 Online Conference:

Slidedeck for The Mindset of the Maker Educator:

Here is a direct link to my K12 Online Conference Presentation: http://k12onlineconference.org/?p=2934

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 8, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Growth Mindset: Personal Accountability and Reflection

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I am an adjunct faculty for several teacher education and educational technology programs.  I have been so for a few decades.  During that time I have noticed the changing nature of student behaviors and expectations regarding their class projects and assignments.  Students seem to expect perfect grades for not so perfect work.  I can predict that when I “mark down” a student, I will receive a complaint about that mark down (it happened just this evening) even with clear cut and concrete grading criteria like uses references to support ideas in blog posts, includes copyright available images.

I have been studying, blogging and presenting about the growth mindset (see The Educator with a Growth Mindset: A Staff Workshop).  When speaking of a growth mindset, a fixed mindset also needs to be discussed and described.  Fixed mindsets are associated with avoiding failure at all costs.  What I don’t see mentioned as part of a fixed, or maybe they be called toxic mindsets, are characteristics or attitudes like:

  • Mediocre is often good enough for me as long as I get the work done.
  • I expect my teachers to give me full credit for completion and submission of my work.  Quality is not a variable.
  • It is okay to just do “enough” work to minimally fulfill the requirements.
  • Good grades are what really matter to me.  I am not really interested in receiving qualitative feedback.

In response to these experiences, I developed a Personal Accountability and Reflection series of questions.  I will suggest that students use this “checklist” in order to develop and enhance their growth mindsets through personal accountability and reflection.

  • Did I work as hard as I could have?
  • Did I set and maintain high standards for myself?
  • Did I spend enough time to do quality work?
  • Did I regulate my procrastination, distractions, and temptations in order to complete my work?
  • Did I make good use of available resources?
  • Did I ask questions if I needed help?
  • Did I review and re-review my work for possible errors?
  • Did I consider best practices for similar work?
  • Is my work something for which I am proud – that I would proudly show to a large, global audience?

Growth Mindset_ Personal Accountability and Reflection

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 13, 2014 at 3:11 pm

The Educator with a Growth Mindset: A Professional Development Workshop

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I had the great privilege of facilitating a staff workshop on growth mindsets for the teachers and staff at Carlos Rosario International School and more recently at ISTE 2015.

Participants were given access to the slide deck in order interact with the slides and resources during the workshop.

What follows are the activities along with some of the resources used during the workshop.

It began with the viewing of a few “inspirational” videos.

Exploring the Characteristics of Growth v Fixed Mindsets

Online resources were provided and small groups (prearranged prior to the workshop based on teaching disciplines) were asked to explore and list the characteristics of both growth and fixed mindsets.

They provided with a link to this The Educator and the Growth Mindset Thinglink (which contains lots of linked resources). Note – I created the graphic first using Piktochart.

The Educator with a Growth Mindset-1http://www.thinglink.com/scene/549674394805338114

They were also given:

The participants were asked to bring their own devices.  This provided them the opportunity to explore the resources within their small groups:

2014-08-27_1047Each group created its own list of characteristics of growth v fixed mindsets:

DSC01392Then came an experiential activity called, Flip the Tarp.  On one side of the tarp, using masking tape and markers, they listed characteristics of fixed mindset.

DSC01383On the other side, they listed characteristics of a growth mindset:

DSC01394

They were then asked to flip their tarps.  They were instructed to have all their team members stand on the tarp with the fixed mindset characteristics facing up.  Their task was to flip the tarp, with no one stepping off of the tarp while doing so, so that the side with the growth mindset characteristics were facing up.

2014-08-27_1124

After the activity, each group was asked to report to the larger group what they learned. Some of the responses included:

  • When we were given this task, we first said that there was no way to do it – a fixed mindset.  Then someone offered a suggestion, we built off of that and ended up with a growth mindset and finishing the task.
  • Each one of us had our own perspective about how to do this.  When ideas were thrown out, we developed other perspectives – thinking outside of our own boxes.
  • Sometimes we don’t realize our progress, that we are blind to it, but we have to trust that process.

To reinforce and personalize concepts related to the growth mindset, the teams were asked to choose from photos taken of them during the Flip the Tarp activity (uploaded into Google+ immediately after the activity), add a caption about growth mindsets, and add a few slides to a collaborative Google Presentation that was being shared and developed by the workshop participants:

The Educator with a Growth Mindset

The next activity was an educator self-assessment of growth mindset behaviors.  These can be found in the slide deck.  After reviewing these, Socrative was used to do an anonymous polling of these self-assessed items.

2014-08-27_0941They were then asked to identify one or two of these growth mindset behaviors that they would like to work on and improve during the next semester.  These were shared with their small groups:

2015-06-30_1108

Strategies for Facilitating Learner Growth Mindset

The final component of the workshop was having the teams examine and develop strategies for increasing the growth mindsets of their students.

The resources they explored included:

facilitating-growth-mindset1https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/being-a-growth-mindset-facilitator/

growth-mindset_-educator-edition-2https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/how-educators-can-assist-learners-in-developing-a-growth-mindset/

growth-mindset_-personal-accountability-and-reflection2https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/growth-mindset-personal-accountability-and-reflection/

IMG_20140813_151336002 http://mathequalslove.blogspot.com/2014/08/growth-mindset-and-sbg-bulletin-board.html?spref=tw

Then the groups developed strategies for working with their learners:

DSC01427

 DSC01429The teaching staff was left with this parting shot:

Slide61

Some Post-Workshop Teacher Feedback

  • I agree that it’s important to think about how we offer praise in our classroom and how that links to learning. I especially liked when Jackie said students should leave thinking their good learners, not that we’re good teachers. I liked her message and I agree that teaching our students about mindset can help improve their achievement
  • I agree with the idea of positive thinking. Presentation went quickly. Enjoyed the different activities.
  • it was great!  but it went a little fast. She kept moving when i would have liked her to explain some things a little more.
  • I like her message and she gave very good examples.
  • I thought what she shared were some good reminders and I look forward to being more purposeful about using her overall thoughts and more specific ideas as well.
  • I found the discussion portion useful.

 Six Month Follow-Up

We have kept the momentum going since your visit!  Our teachers have incorporated growth mindset concepts into their classrooms and lessons.  Posters praising effort and persistence can be seen in classrooms, teachers deliver growth mindset specific lessons, and teachers are more thoughtful and intentional about praising students who worked hard and made gains, however small they may be.  We have started attendance celebrations for students.  Attendance is something we struggle with as adult ed is non-compulsory.  Students are entered into a raffle for highest attendance and also most improved, again reinforcing effort.  Teachers are more intentional about sharing student data and progress with individual students.  In many of our classrooms now we have students tracking their own test scores and reflecting on progress in special sections of their notebooks.  I also think our school leadership has become more intentional about celebrating our teachers successes from big to small.

Becky Shiring, Professional Development Specialist at Carlos Rosario

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 29, 2014 at 2:17 am

The Educator and the Growth Mindset

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I am facilitating an in-service on Growth Mindsets for Educators.  I created an infographic, Thinglink, and Slide Presentation of resources that I am sharing below:

The Educator with a Growth Mindset-1 Thinglink that contains links to Growth Mindset Resources http://www.thinglink.com/scene/549674394805338114

Google Presentation

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 27, 2014 at 1:24 am

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