Adopting an Iteration Mindset

As we approach the Hour of Code Week, we must remember to implement this mindset of not having to be 100% correct, 100% of the time. Coding is about putting the process before the product.

I introduce you to the Iteration Mindset.

You see, in life as a whole, there are some things that we gain immediately, and other things that may take multiple attempts before we are able to attain them. Mental math has always been easy for me, no real challenge, I’ve never really had to iterate at it.

Since moving to Singapore a few years ago though, there has been one thing that I have had to iterate at a lot. There’s this one conference that I’ve been hoping to get the opportunity to speak at since moving here. Each year, they choose a few speakers from my school, and each year I put my proposal in, hoping to be among the accepted. Every December, I get the rejection email. No matter how kindly it is written, it’s still a rejection, it’s still a failed attempt at acceptance. When I got that first rejection two years ago, I could have thrown in the towel, and given up on the conference altogether. However, when one possesses an iteration mindset, quitting is not an option.

Year 2. I applied again. This time I changed the proposal only so slightly, thinking that maybe, just maybe, it would be accepted this time. December came around again, and yet again, I was rejected.

You see, the thing about rejection, and about failed attempts as a whole is that the true magic lies in how you react.

This reminds me of a popular saying in science,

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. — Newton’s Third Law

It also reminds me of that song that goes, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down”.

Chumbawamba “Tubthumping”

Year 3. In the case of this particular conference, my third time was the charm. I’m excited to announce that this March (directly after speaking at the ASCD Empower Conference in Boston), I will be speaking on Empowering Girls in Coding at a conference in Bangkok.

As we embark on the Hour of Code week next week, it’s important that we’re instilling a sense of human traits in our students. “To err is human” Alexander Pope says. Computational thinking is all about iteration, and having a level of resilience that helps the learner bounce back from seemingly ambiguous challenges. As learners, our success comes from understanding the process, and being able to verbalize it.

Coding is about learning how to work within the ambiguity. Oftentimes, there are many ways to reach the same conclusion. The iteration mindset allows students to safely take those multiple steps to solve a given problem.

What makes the Iteration Mindset so different from those other mindsets?

This is a great question.

Fixed Mindset focuses on abilities being fixed with no room for growth or improvement.
Growth Mindset focuses on the ability to learn.
The Innovator’s Mindset focuses on the creation of new and better ideas.

The Iteration mindset is a hybrid of the Growth mindset and the Innovator’s mindset. Focusing in on the resilience aspect of learning, and of finding new approaches to solving a given problem, or constructing a creative solution.

Modeling this for our students is important. It is especially important that we show our girls what this looks like. In many cultures, girls are raised to be “pretty and perfect”, affording no room for improvement. When we promote this image of perfection, we are stifling our girls’ abilities to learn from mistakes. Rather than turning an error into a devastating event, let’s work to redefine how we approach coding and problem solving, by adopting the iteration mindset.

When I go through the MRT turnstile, I have to swipe my MRT card. Sometimes, (like just a few minutes ago) my card doesn’t process, because I swiped it too fast. Occasionally, I forget to reload my card which holds as another reason for my lack of entry through the turnstile.

Slowing down, taking a step back, trying again, making sure that you have the correct pieces and correct quantities — these are all elements that help insure success passing through a turnstile. These are also great ways to approach the adoption of an Iteration Mindset when teaching coding.

Call to Action

For more information on how you can create a gender equity environment in teaching coding, check out my Kickstarter. I have finished the first draft on a book titled “Achieving Gender Equity in Teaching Coding” and am looking to have the final draft published in the spring of 2018. Help make this project come to life by contributing to my kickstarter campaign. Together, as educators, we can be the change that helps to close the huge gender gap that exists in today’s world. Let’s work together to make a better tomorrow for our students, today.