by David Hill
George Couros’ presentations are known to be emotional, humorous, all while pushing people to escape conventional, rational reasoning and thinking.
Couros is a leading educator in the area of innovative leadership, teaching and learning. His presentation in front of about 750 educators from throughout northwestern Minnesota on Thursday, Aug. 31, at Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls focused on change and innovation, and it pushed people to think outside the box.
The only constant, year after year, is change. Couros noted that kids seem to handle it well. If a teacher or parent needs help with new technology, kids are first to embrace it and can explain it. Couros challenged educators to embrace change, connect with kids’ hearts, and create opportunities for kids to unleash their talent and potential.
Couros believes meaningful change happens when educators first connect to kids’ hearts.
Although schools are moving forward, change is always something that many struggle with.
Couros said adults often get caught up in the barriers, the difficulties and nostalgia. They often object, saying, “That’s not how I learned.”
Their objection is that it’s difficult to learn is ludicrous. Isn’t it their job to learn? he asked.
Schools often create a culture of rules or of “don’t,” which often has the opposite effect. Educators and administrators want students to comply. Why not create a culture of “yes” instead? Why not create an environment that empowers students and provides opportunities, instead?
Couros asked, “Do you want students to learn because of you or in spite of you?”
Couros said he doesn’t know any teachers who come to school every day and want to suck. They want to inspire kids to grow and learn. They want kids to not just be engaged but to be empowered. He asked, are you showing them what’s possible?
Many focus on perceived negative aspects of technology – kids not communicating with each other, kids with their heads in their devices, even while they’re walking and at the dinner table. Couros noted that it wasn’t that much different in the past – people just had their heads in newspapers and magazines.
Couros said technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational, but many teachers are afraid of it, and focus on its negative aspects and write it off because that’s not how they learned.
Times have changed. The changes have been so profound, Couros said he couldn’t imagine what changes lie in store for mankind. The changes have been so profound, kids today have no idea what technology was just a generation ago. Because of that gap, Couros asked whether a disconnect is occurring that’s preventing learning.
Today’s students learn differently. They can turn to Youtube and see a video clip on just about every subject imaginable. Couros said when asked where they learn best, Youtube or school, guess what they answered?
Couros said he will never forget what a student once told him, “Social media is like water; you can either let us drown or teach us to swim.”
Couros also focused in on environment. Is Starbucks a better learning environment than your class?
Visit any Starbucks, said Couros, and students will be found plopped down in big chairs, texting, surfing, studying or just hanging out. Often, there isn’t a seat to be found. Why? Starbucks designed its stores to be more than a trip, they wanted it to be an experience. They’ve created an environment where students can comfortably work alone or in groups, can be connected and do their school work. What would it be like if kids wanted to go and stay in their classrooms? What would happen if some of the concepts from Starbucks stores were incorporated into learning spaces at schools? Environment doesn’t guarantee success, of course, teachers would still need to build relationships, and provide an interesting curriculum.
Embracing failure is a common concept in schools. Educators want to teach kids that success doesn’t come automatically. Couros, however, urged educators to encourage kids to embrace resiliency not failure because they might interpret embracing failure to mean to quit or give up.
Couros encouraged educators to think about change as an opportunity to do something amazing.
About George Couros
George Couros is a leading educator in the area of innovative leadership, teaching, and learning. He has worked with all levels of school–from K-12 as a teacher and technology facilitator, school and district administrator, and is the author of the book “The Innovator’s Mindset; Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity.” He is a sought after speaker on the topic of innovative student learning and engagement and has worked with schools and organizations around the globe.