The Psychology behind helping students to ‘Connect the Dots’ to the Future


As Steve Jobs once said:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.

In many ways, these ‘Dots’ that end up connecting our lives, are not unlike the Digital Footprints that we will leave for ourselves in this age of mobile technology. If we believe this to be true, then our job as Teachers is important to help students to develop the skills and knowledge that will help them create the most positive ‘dots’ that they will end up connecting someday. Many of these ‘dots’ will be visible through the digital footprints that we all leave behind us when we use the Internet. It is important to teach our students the Higher Order thinking skills, tools and other essential life skills that incorporate our new world of mobile technology, learning, and connecting with others.

With sound Pedagogy in mind, the privacy and security of our students must also remain at the forefront of our practices. Why put our students publicly on the internet when we do not know where this information will end up one day, or how it will serve them in the future? We need to respect the privacy and security of our children. This includes any internet related activities that publicly share their faces, names or other identifying information. It also needs to encompass sound BYOD and Digital Citizenship policies within our schools.

However, this does not mean that we should shy away from student use of the Internet, Blogs, and other forms of social media. In fact, we should embrace this reality, and actively embed key skills throughout our everyday curriculum.

So this brings me to the question:

What is the Psychology behind creating the ‘Dots’ and ‘digital footprint’ of our future?

Teachers can help students to create the best possible outcomes and future paths for students, and there is a Psychology behind creating these new paths that have never been created before. Higher Order thinking skills are essential to help students think about how they can set themselves up for the best possible outcomes.

Cognitive Psychology can be applied to looks at how students may be conditioned to behave consistently in various situations. When people behave consistently across situations, it usually leads to similar patterns of consequences. Similar thought patterns lead to repeated behaviour patterns.

So According to Cognitive Psychology, I think that we as Educators can do the following to help students create positive thoughts and behaviour repertoires:

1) Help students to self-monitor themselves. This includes the use of sound self-assessment practices, and appropriate feedback with various forms of assessment including formative and summative tasks. This also encompasses Reflection and metacognition. Once students develop an increased awareness of their thoughts and what they are learning, Educators can help students engage in appropriate learning activities.

2) Educators and students collaboratively creating and engaging in appropriate activities and rich tasks that promote learning of key skills.

& finally,

3) Students and teachers alike, continually and actively challenging what you think you know about what you are teaching and learning.

Key Psychological principles can also be applied to show how we can build and strengthen neural pathways with frequency, intensity, and engagement with tasks to improve cognitive functioning, and higher order thinking skills. Educators can model effective practices with Technology and social media, get students involved in deeper levels of learning with and through technological tools, and choose tools that are both motivating and engaging for students. Much of this can be co-created and designed with students to promote the highest amount of engagement.

On a final note, our Primary Responsibility is always to Students and Parents: 

  • Respect the rights and dignity of the student first!
  • Interventions and educational instruction strategies need to remain consistent with the abilities and circumstances of the students
  • Make it a primary responsibility to work collaboratively, and devise an integrated plan for reasonable promise of success for the student, school and parents.

While there are many variations on lessons that Educators can use to promote learning, the Psychology surrounding how we think and what we can do to improve our thinking skills remains stable. We can harness this knowledge and put it to practice to help students make the best decisions they can in their lives, so that one day, they hopefully feel successful when they look back at the ‘dots’ they will connect, many of which will make up their Digital Footprints.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



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