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Oct 20

Chris Smeaton

Why George Couros?

Last week our school division had the pleasure bringing in George Couros @gcouros as our keynote for our annual division wide professional development day. Now before you write off the experience because it appears to be another sit and get event, let me explain that George was our keynote and provided a number of breakout sessions as well. However, beyond the keynote, we had over 40 additional learning opportunities for all of our staff to self select. Equally impressive, I believe as Superintendent of Schools was the vast majority of these learning opportunities were led by our own staff. Furthermore, to fully achieve self direction, our day also included an open spaces section for any staff to come together on topics of their own interest. The evolution to our present professional development day is well supported and appreciated by our staff and provides for excellent learning!

Now back to the title of this blog post- Why George Couros? I first “met” George a number of years ago when I first entered the foray of social media. Like most interactions on social media, this meeting was online and not face to face. Given that I am someone who truly believes that the factory model of education must end…NOW, I was most impressed with his message, which even as a “believer” pushed me well beyond my own comfort zone. My first face to face meeting was less than comfortable. Presenting at a national conference with a colleague of mine, Lorelie Lenaour (@llenaour) on our school division’s journey into 21st century learning, George was in the audience. Although fairly confident about what we were doing in our system and on our presentation skills, his presence was still pretty intimidating. I’m happy to say we passed, as George came there as a learner and not an evaluator.

Since that time, George and I have connected a few more times in person but most often through social media. Each interaction with George causes me to reflect on my own learning and on my leadership role. He pushes me, not through aggression but rather by tapping into my own sense of professionalism. He understands my responsibility and more importantly my desire (as a teacher) to continually develop my expertise, hone my skills and refine my learning.

Even though George is a technology guru, he fully understands that learning is best achieved through supportive and trusting relationships. These relationships are developed through connections between teacher and student. In his view, technology is a necessary platform for enhanced social connections. We can no longer be digitally illiterate because we risk further alienating our students and promoting increased boredom in our schools. “No technology has an impact on learning on its own; it all depends on how it is used.” (Nesta 2012) The challenge for us in education is not if we use it technology but how we use it!

So why George Couros? Well, his presentation is highly engaging, full of personal anecdotes and emotionally charged. But it is his message that is of utmost importance. George is about making our schools different. He is focused on students engaged in their own learning. He wants students to be knowledge creators, He desires for students to have a voice in their learning. And he knows that the only way to develop a system like that is through the people in the educational system. A prophet is never well received in his own land and so why George Couros? Because he comes as a prophet with a message needed to be heard by all educators. He comes with a message for innovation, creation and voice!

Well done George Couros!

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