The 4-H Online Record Book-A Growth Mindset Perspective

Posted: February 8, 2012 in Monday Morning Message
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“An innovation is one of those things that society looks at and says, if we make this part of the way we live and work, it will change the way we live and work.”

In November 2011, I took over management of the new 4-H Online Record Book (ORB). It is an amazing tool that unites deeply rooted 4-H traditions with modern technology, providing youth the opportunity to learn record-keeping and 21st century skills, simultaneously. To date, over 2000 youth, volunteers, and staff across the state are using the system. But progress doesn’t go without its own set of challenges…

I have been a part of many, many start-up projects over the years – from businesses, programs and initiatives, to systems, platforms, and tools. I’ve become convinced that those who successfully navigate through these kinds of things, whether as developers or implementers/users, are those who have a growth mindset. Here are a few ways which having a growth mindset has helped me navigate the launch of the 4-H Online Record Book.

I am growing my knowledge of 4-H every day. Coming from outside of 4-H, my knowledge of the organization and its uniqueness was very limited. When I took over ORB, I gained the opportunity to learn more of 4-H and its culture. Growth mindset has helped me take those learnings and apply them to other aspects of my work.

ORB has increased the challenge of my work environment. I tend to get bored very easily when I am not pushed. My job here at 4-H has a wonderful and challenging work environment that has allowed me to explore and continue to learn. As a result of working on ORB these past few months, I have been able to increase my knowledge of technology, to learn a new social media platform, and to reach out to a supportive knowledge base. The challenges that I am presented with in ORB vary from day-to-day and have kept my job fresh and exciting.

The ORB project has honed my ability to find creative solutions to challenges by incorporating the new information I have learned. Andrew Bosworth, Director of Engineering at Facebook coined this, “hacking life”, which is basically 21st century terminology for discovering out-of-the-box solutions. Working on the ORB project has forced me to think differently in my role and has given me opportunities to see 4-H through different lens and from different perspectives.

Here are a few suggestions on how we can all embrace a growth mindset when using ORB:

  1. Be positive! Go into it with an attitude of wonder and discovery rather than shock and dread. Our attitude affects our situation more than we realize, and whatever we express is highly contagious to those around us.
  2. Look at the challenges as opportunities, not obstacles. Technological start-ups tend to have many glitches when launched, which programmers call “bugs”. When people start using a new system, there is usually a surge in the number of identified bugs, since the pool of people who are “testing the system” has increased. Even though we did an extensive beta-testing period, ORB is no different. As a user, you have the opportunity to choose to get frustrated, take a break, and channel that frustration in a positive direction by filling out a bug report, which then enhances the system and helps us all develop improvements to the system.
  3. Use ORB as a way to challenge yourself to learn new things.  For many of us, this type of social media technology is unfamiliar and scary -that’s perfectly normal. ORB is a fun and safe way to learn new skills, grow and stretch. As you are learning the system, make sure you have a good support system around that you can go to for help. This list could include Scott Mautte at the state office, some key leaders who are social media savvy in your county, and of course, some youth who probably have the whole thing already figured out anyway.
  4. Assume best intentions. When you fill out a bug report, send an email, or otherwise communicate what issues you are having–we hear you and are responding to you and working with the programmers, every day. Please rest assured that the remaining bugs will be squashed, swatted, squelched, smashed, and otherwise eliminated from your experience as quickly as we can. We will reach a point very soon when there will be few bugs, your star rankings will populate properly, and you can print out your Record Book!

During his speech on how 4-H had impacted his life at the Opening Assembly of the 2011 CA 4-H State Leader’s Forum, Bosworth shared what most distinguishes Facebook from its peers. He shared that “it is a real will to take something that was good (social media) and something that people use every day and were perfectly happy with and say, it’s not good enough.” The Record Book is an amazing tool that has helped young people learn the skills of record keeping, reflection, and goal setting. The Online Record Book is a great opportunity to build on this by allowing youth to develop much needed 21st century skills that will enhance their journey on the path towards reaching their full potential. This platform also gives us yet another opportunity to flex our brain and operate out of a growth mindset.

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