Monday, September 1, 2014

Meet George Couros

George with just a handful of the people he has impacted over the years. 

Where are you from and what do you do?
I am currently the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning for Parkland School Division in Alberta, but also consult and work with schools around the world.

How are you connected to Beth?
I met Beth through Twitter in 2010 and she gave me a great opportunity to be the “ISTE Newbie” which exposed me to opportunities that I could not imagine.

How did you get involved in educational technology?
I don’t know if I would even say I really ever got involved in “EdTech”, but I have always been interested in using technology in the classroom.  I don’t really think that qualifies me as an “ed tech” person, no more than someone who uses a pencil would be considered a “writing” teacher.  My role is to look at how to improve teaching and learning, and using technology is one way, but connecting through technology and getting ideas is the biggest thing that I have been interested in for the last few years.

How has being a networked educator impacted your life?
It has been absolutely amazing to connect with thoughtful and passionate people.  That passion is contagious and honestly added years to my career in the sense that I had thought about opportunities outside of education.  The sharing of ideas and the passion for what educators do has been infectious.  More importantly though, I have met some of my best friends in the world through the use of social media.  If I quit using Twitter today, it would still have had an impact on me for years beyond what I could imagine.

What is some advice you can give to teachers about how to start finding resources and building their own PLN.
A lot of people suggest other people to follow on Twitter.  I try to stay away from that.  Following a hashtag can connect you with some people that are interested in the same topic that you are.  Just because you follow a “math teacher” doesn’t mean they are going to share ideas about math.  But following #mathchat will connect you with ideas and then ultimately people that are wanting to improve their craft.  The connections will come through the shared interest in any topic.

What is a tool that has captured your attention at the moment? What do you like about this tool?
I think that I am really starting to think a lot more about things such as Instagram and Vine because of the ability to share short snippets of video.  Visuals are great, but telling a story through constricted amounts of time can actually lead to some really innovative ideas.  I am wanting to get more into “visual” sharing this year.

What is one piece of advice that you can give to educators who are just getting started with integrating technology into their classrooms?
Focus on getting to know kids first, seeing what they like, and then work from there.  Don’t force a tool on a kid that might hate it just because you think it is cool.  If a kid is into pictures, see how Instagram will work for them.  If a kid hates writing, maybe starting podcasts for them to share ideas is helpful.  Get to know the kids first, not the tool.

What are some things you hope to accomplish professionally in the next year or two?
We are working on implementing digital portfolios that students from K-12 will maintain and use throughout their entire time in our schools and hopefully after.  This is a big endeavour and we are getting closer to full buy-in, but it takes time.  I am hoping that every kid will have their own space to share their thoughts and learning while also creating a digital footprint that will hopefully leverage opportunities for them both during and after their time in school.  I believe that schools should help kids create things that are meaningful to them after they are in school, not just stuff for school.  This is one of those things in my opinion.

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