Tag Archives: george couros

Anticipating the Future

The future depends on what we do in the present.

Mahatma Ghandi


Our district is exploring our vision of Learning by Design. We are examining how manipulating the variables of traditional structures, simple & complex tools, and learning strategies can deepen the learning experience for students.We create these important conversations through the Engaging the Digital Learner Series. The event is designed to expose our educators to different ideas, new frames for thinking, practical applications of innovative practice and inspirational speakers.

This past week our evening was punctuated with inspiring stories from four teachers who shared the ways they are experimenting with their practice. From “trying on” new teaching strategies, such as SOLES or Maker Spaces, to believing that anything is possible and preparing students for a future in physical education, each of these teachers shared their thinking and their challenge for us as individuals. Our keynote presenters, George Couros (District Principal of Innovation from Parkland SD) and Superintendent Jordan Tinney, had us anticipate the future as they examined new ways of learning and leading.

The educators in the room represent teams of three from some of our schools. They sit at tables with other teams and engage in structured conversation in response to the presentations.  Table seating remains constant each evening so relationships can develop, informal networks can be established and community can be built. When you have over 5,000 teachers in your district, creating opportunities for connecting allows us to humanize and personalize the organization.

Each evening is live streamed (we had a teacher from Singapore following along and tweeting into our #sd36learn stream) and the videos are included here. Our purpose is to share our learning with not just our own community but with educators across the world so we can all learn from each other. There are no district borders to separate our commitment and passion to make schooling for our students the best it can be.

Laura Mayer, grade 6 teacher from North Ridge Elementary School, shares her story of  her experimentation with Self Organized Learning Environments. Sugata Mitra’s research Hole in the Wall formed the original ideas behind SOLES. You can find his TED talk here. Laura takes a deeper dive into wonder and inquiry with her students using the SOLE framework.

Glenn Young, District PE Helping Teacher and District Athletic Coordinator speaks on Motivating the Future Learner in Physical EducationGlenn explores the power of motivating young learners through the integrated use of instructional technology in the PE context.

Marilyn Carr, grade 5 teacher from Harold Bishop Elementary, shares her belief that Anything is Possible. Based on the book by the same name, Marilyn urges us to encourage our students. This would be the first time we have an Ignite presenter conclude her story by actually singing a song!

Jeff Unruh, grade 7 teacher from Pacific Heights Elementary tells his story of Learning to Share: A Twitter Discovery. You can also learn more about Jeff in this guest post, Guess What? That’s usauthored by George Couros.

What does great leadership look like to you? What are the implications for future change? These are just some of the questions posed by keynote presenters George Couros and Superintendent Jordan Tinney as they talk about Anticipating the Future and “going elbows deep into learning.”

Learning by Design, our district’s vision, happens when we take the time to listen to the stories of others who inspire us to be intentional architects and designers of deep learning experiences for the students in our classrooms.

Note: Thanks to all our presenters for sharing your hearts and minds with us.

Guess what? That’s us!

: The post below is reprinted with permission from George Couros and Jeff Unruh, a grade 7 teacher at Pacific Heights Elementary School. Jeff is the teacher that we are visiting and I am the colleague identified in the post. I had invited George to come to our district to do an environmental scan of our journey into innovation. I was interested in having “outsider eyes” and a “critical friend” provide me with feedback on our on-going work to improve student learning. This is what George wrote:


A Higher Chance of Becoming Great? The “Twitter” Factor

IMG_5158I walked into the room and I could tell right away.

This was a teacher I had never met and knew very little about, but the atmosphere in his classroom was great.  As I walked with my colleague, I asked her the question, “Do you think he is on Twitter?”  I wanted her to make an educated guess, and her thoughts were the same as mine; definitely.

How did we know this?

IMG_5148As I walked in, I saw unique seating spaces, posters all over the wall that focused on “taking risks” and encouraging students to think different.  The walls were also covered in information about “Genius Hour” and their recent “Maker Faire”.  At the time, the students were also learning how to play chess with a master player, who also happened to be a grandparent. Notice that there was no technology mentioned above, but just about a different learning environment.  There were multiple, amazing opportunities for learning in this classroom to reach students where they were at, and tap into their strengths and passions.

IMG_5160So when we asked the teacher if they were on Twitter, he mentioned that he was but he didn’t necessarily share that much online.  But it was his access to information that made things look differently in his classroom.  When I asked if he had seen an impact in his classroom from the use of Twitter, he wasn’t sure, but it was a type of “boiling frog” scenario.  The change could have happened so gradually that he did not notice the small steps that could have been made to where he was now.  Just being a “lurker” in that space though, had made a difference.

IMG_5140Now I am not saying that if you are NOT on Twitter, you are ineffective.  There might be several classrooms that look like the one I have briefly described that were designed by a teacher who may not be on Twitter, that receive their information elsewhere.  What I do know is that looked NOTHING like my classroom when I first started teaching, because honestly, I did not have the access to the same information that teachers do now.  Our opportunities have changed and people have taken advantage to benefit themselves, and more importantly, their students.

Isolation is now a choice educators make.  We have access to not only information, but each other. We need to tap into that.

Being on Twitter dIMG_5162oesn’t make you a great teacher any more than not being on Twitter makes you ineffective.  There are a lot of great teachers who do some pretty amazing things that do not connect online.

However, I do believe that having that access 24/7 to great ideas through the medium and the connection to other teachers increases your chances on being great.  If you really think about it,  how could it not?

Note: Thanks to George Couros, Jeff Unruh and Principal Sundeep Chohan for expanding our thinking. You will hear more from Jeff Unruh as our featured Ignite presenter at our next Learning by Design: Engaging the Digital Learner session. George will also be keynoting with Superintendent Jordan Tinney at that time as they look back at learning, look at the present, and predict going forward. It promises to be provocative. We will be streaming it live for those that want to join us.

The gift of a legacy


I actually simply refused to become an educator. It was more of an accidental detour on the way to another end point.  Simply put, I was not going to do what everyone else was doing: become a teacher. No way. I wanted to become a psychologist. I had lived with others who struggled deeply with emotional pain.  I had walked through the halls of a psychiatric ward to visit a close family member and it had left an unforgettable scar. I wanted to be able to relieve the kind of inner torment that traps people inside themselves. The requirement for entrance into a decent psychology program was three to five years of experience working with people. I went into education to gain that experience. It was simply a convenient, sensible and financial side-trip. And then the profession and the students grabbed me.  I even remember the individual names of many of those thirty-seven students in that wonderful Social Studies 9 class at D.W. Poppy. You see, when you teach you do not just improve the life of just one individual at a time—you can impact a whole classroom of learners.   And if you are in a position of leadership, you can have an impact on a whole school, shifting the culture, and making a difference to the lives of everyone in the building.  I was fortunate to be on staff with Mary Wright, a vice-principal at the time, and now former (retired) long time principal of Walnut Grove Secondary School—I watched her impact on the teachers, how it rippled out to students and I knew I wanted to be an administrator. As a psychologist, my potential for impact was small. As a teacher I could see a wider circle of influence. As an administrator, the ripples could move out even wider.  The end point had changed. It was no longer about individual therapy to relieve someone’s personal pain but the opportunity to create organizational health to maximize the learning of all—students and staff.

What is the legacy you would like to leave? This is the idea of being grounded in your work and having clarity of your personal vision. I have written about the rock on which I stand. You can read about it here. What does it mean, to leave a legacy? The notion behind legacy is the idea of leaving a gift. What is the gift of ourselves that we leave behind? The term legacy can be traced back to the 14th century.  At that time it meant the idea of  “a body of persons sent out on a mission.” Leaving a legacy is partly a mission we can do together. What is that mission? I really would like to transform education. It seems a bit grandiose of an idea but it has to start somewhere.  There is context to everything. I have four boys (grade 1, 4, 9 and 11). I would like them to be challenged in their thinking, to have opportunities to own some of their learning and to engage in authentic activities that connect to the real world.  If I can contribute by creating the space for teachers to experiment with their practice, schools to innovate with their structures, and truly deepen the learning experiences for students—I will be grateful. This is my mission. What is yours?

Note: Thank you to George Couros (@gcouros) for the wonderful impact he has had and continues to have on our district. His ongoing commitment to our learning is profound. Thank you for connecting and building relationships with all of us. You stretch our thinking and compel us to engage in new behaviors to push our learning, practice and influence forward.