Mindset, skillset, toolset
When we design learning, we are always considering how best to enable knowledge acquisition for learners. In the context of the Digital Technologies curriculum, there are some specific aspects of knowledge that we need learners to acquire. While knowledge is a vital part of developing understanding, it is not the only aspect of learning that we can make explicit. In the Elemental Learning Design Model, we also talk about the skillsets, mindsets and toolsets that learners can develop. While great teaching has always included the development of skills, it is often implicit in the learning activities we have designed. By making this type of learning explicit, it becomes much more transferable between topic areas, subject areas, year groups, and even school and work.
Collaboration is a prime example. We often design collaborative learning, but do we focus on how and how well learners collaborate and where else they can improve the skill of collaboration? When we talk about a 'resilience mindset', is this seen as something we can improve and work on as learners? When we learn how to use a spreadsheet, is the application of this tool seen as unique to maths and science or can we use a spreadsheet to make art or analyse literature? By breaking down the artificial barriers between learning areas, we empower learners to build their learning toolboxes and apply their learning in many different situations.
This table illustrates some examples of the mindsets, skillsets and toolsets you may come across in lesson exemplars on this site and in your own learning design. The Australian Curriculum General Capabilities provides an excellent framework from which we can draw elements of mindset and skillset; this table gives a small number of examples.
Mindset – a way of thinking that a learner can choose to adopt. A learner may not wake up feeling optimistic, but they can adopt a positive mindset when needed.
Empathic – this mindset allows you to see the world from someone else’s perspective and understand how they may be feeling and how they might be acting. This relates to the Australian Curriculum Personal and Social Capabilities Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Social Management:
recognise emotions, recognise personal qualities and achievements, express emotions appropriately, appreciate diverse perspectives and negotiate and resolve conflict
and to the Australian Curriculum Intercultural Understanding, Interacting and Empathising with Others.
Reflective – by adopting this mindset, learners take a step away from their learning and reflect on their progress and areas for improvement as a learner. This is different from demonstrating knowledge and understanding of a topic and looks at the individual learners in a more holistic manner. This relates to the Australian Curriculum Personal and Social Capabilities Self Awareness:
understand themselves as learners, develop reflective practice
and to the Australian Curriculum Critical and Creative Thinking, Reflecting on Thinking and Processes.
Algorithmic – by adopting this mindset, learners are able to approach a problem by looking for an algorithmic solution. This requires a well-planned, logical approach to problem solving. Among others, this relates to Australian Curriculum ICT Capability, Creating with ICT, 'generate solutions to challenges and learning area tasks' and Australian Curriculum Critical and Creative Thinking, Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas, generating ideas, possibilities and actions and analysing, synthesising and evaluating reasoning and procedures.
Other mindsets (some of which overlap) may include:
- Growth (see Carol Dweck’s work)
- Analytical – breaking things apart
- Evaluative – making judgements
- Designer – problem-finding and solving
- Connective – looking for links
- Resilient – ready to move on after failing
- Curious – actively looking at the world with curiosity and asking 'Why?'
- Inquirer – asking questions to find out more
- Metacognitive – thinking about our own thinking
Skillset – while knowledge set is knowing about, skillset is knowing how to do something. Some skills, such as writing code in Python, may be useful in specific situations, while others, such as communication, are useful more generally.
Collaboration – this skill is needed in any situation where a learner is working with others towards a shared goal. This relates to the Australian Curriculum Personal and Social Capabilities Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Social Management:
recognise personal qualities and achievements, become confident, resilient and adaptable, understand relationships, work collaboratively, develop leadership skills.
Communication – this skill relates to a learner’s ability to communicate their thinking in different media to an authentic audience. This relates to the Australian Curriculum Personal and Social Capabilities Social Management 'communicate effectively' and to the Australian Curriculum Intercultural Understanding, Interacting and Empathising with Others.
Planning – this skill relates to a learner’s ability to set out a logical plan with goals, milestones and a process. Among others, this skill relates to Australian Curriculum Critical and Creative Thinking, Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas, generating ideas, possibilities and actions and analysing, synthesising and evaluating reasoning and procedures.
Other skills may include:
- Identify key ideas – ability to focus on the important ideas
- Clarifying – ability to clarify complex information
- Organise and process information – compare, contrast and organise information from a range of sources
- Goal setting – the ability to generate milestones and work towards goals
- Leadership – the ability to provide leadership to other learners that has clarity, communication and empathy at its heart
Toolset – there exists a plethora of tools, both physical and digital. While learners build up their toolsets, they also need to develop the skill of discernment so that they choose the correct tool for the job.
Collaborative learning space – there are a number of different digital and analogue tools that allow for real-time collaboration, for example, Google Docs, Office365, padlet, butcher’s paper and write-on whiteboards. Knowing the technical aspects of each technology is important (how do I share a Google doc?), but more important is that learners recognise when a collaborative learning space is a good tool for learning and which mindsets and skillsets might be useful in this situation.
Presentation tools – learners will develop an understanding of the pros and cons of different presentation media while, at the same time, developing an understanding of the necessity to communicate clearly, succinctly and in the best format for the intended audience. Some presentation tools might be slide based (Google Slides, PowerPoint, Keynote), multimedia (Glogster, thinglink, other websites), infographics (canva) or a printed document.
Coding media – learners will learn to use a range of tools to build algorithms, from hand-drawn flowcharts, through to block-based coding and specific coding languages. Developing specific technical skills in these coding media requires an understanding of algorithmic thinking and a capacity to discern which of the tools is the most appropriate in any given situation; it may be quicker and as effective to hand-draw a flowchart to communicate an algorithm without having to build a full code base.
Other tools may include:
- Cameras (still and video)
- Graphic organisers (paper and digital)
- Post-it notes
- Google search
- Video conferencing
- Pens and paper