The Principal of Change George Couros

Stories of learning and leading
Updated: 1 hour 32 min ago

Small Change, Big Difference

20 September, 2017 - 07:14

I try very hard to push myself to get into better shape, and I will have to admit, the struggle is real.  Getting older, slowing metabolism and a lack of routine in my life from being on the road has thrown me off a healthy regimen. Not excuses, but the reality I face and that I try to deal with to get into better shape daily. That being said, I am still trying, and won’t stop.  Sometimes though, I talk about how good of shape I was once in and hear myself like I am Al Bundy in “Married With Children” talking about his athletic accomplishments in high school.

Ugh…I need to stop that.

But the other day I walked into my gym and was warming up by walking around the track, and saw the new spin bikes the club had just purchased.  Here was the bike:

Now the bike was not that much different, but if you notice, there is a little tray added above the handlebars.  This simple modification caught my attention.

I got excited, took my iPhone out of my pocket, went onto YouTube, and found the first spin workout on the site, and 25 minutes later, I was dripping sweat from the hardest workout I had put myself through in years.  It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. My mood lifted, and even though my legs have been sore for the last few days, it is because that one workout led to better ones throughout the week.  As someone who had played team sports for years, I was reminded how much harder I worked when I am “coached” and pushed, which led to a great workout via someone pushing me on YouTube.

But what made the biggest difference was not the bike, but the cheap, little tray at the top. Being able to place my iPhone and watch a video is something I had wished for, and now it was here and made all the difference.

This is why I write about innovation being about “mindset”, in  “The Innovator’s Mindset“.  When many people think of innovation, they think of some massive idea like “Uber”, or inventing the “iPhone”, etc.  When this comes to students, the simplest tweak in any idea can make the biggest difference to a student.  I remember one student who could not focus on anything, but when she wore headphones, she was in a total zone.  It was incredible to see the difference. For some students, this would do more damage than good, but for her, it was everything.

Sometimes the smallest change can make the biggest difference to our students and ourselves.  Being innovative in education doesn’t mean you have to change the world, but sometimes the innovation, is by changing their world.

Categories: Planet

Two Things That All Parents Want for Their Children

18 September, 2017 - 06:58

I have been using the above to really help my focus in workshops with not only parents but educators, to get them on the same page.

You often hear many educators say that parents want the same experience for their children that they had in school, but I disagree. I really believe that parents want kids to have the best experience in schools, and they see their experience as the best, because they don’t know any other experience.  Showing parents, and more importantly, having them experience what their kids are doing in school, can shift thinking.

If you are having students blog, why not have parents have a blogging night?

If you are promoting maker spaces in schools, have parents come in and experience the same thing?

If you are doing BreakoutEDU with your students, have them come in and do it with parents?

It is much easier to bring parents in on these experiences than ever before because these opportunities are much more participatory.

My belief is that parents want these two things for their kids (minimum); they want them to be safe and they want them to have every opportunity for them to be successful.

Yet, when I ask the question of many educators and parents, “Have you ever heard a child say that they want to be a ‘YouTuber’?”, they laugh.  Why not help create the opportunity instead of squash the aspiration?

I can understand that going into some of these spaces can be scary, but ignoring them isn’t going to help. We also have to understand that our childhood is not their childhood.

Just like other parents, I want my daughter to be safe AND have every opportunity in the world.  I just have to understand that the time she is growing up in looks a lot different from the time that I did.

Categories: Planet

Questions of Compliance or Empowerment?

15 September, 2017 - 09:21

This visual is from a great post by Katie Martin titled, “Creating a Learning Orientation Versus a Performance Orientation“:

Two things here that are quite powerful.  In my 2010 post, “What Makes a Master Teacher“, I talk about the difference between “Learning Goals” and “Performance Goals”, and list that criteria for a “master teacher”:

6. Focuses on learning goals as opposed to performance goals – Reading “Drive” by Dan Pink, he talks about the difference between performance and learning goals.  A performance goal would be similar to having students wanting to receive an “A” in french where a learning goal would be a student wanting to become fluent in the language.  Many students are smart enough that they know how to meet the objectives of a rubric and still not grow much in their learning.  A master teacher sets the goals based on learning not on receiving a grade.  This type of assessment is not about understanding what a students knows and reporting on it, but it is a tool used for learning.

These questions that Katie shares are perfect for this type of learning.

The other aspect here is the shift from compliance to engagement to empowerment.  A key word to know if a student is “empowered” is that they have ownership over their own learning.  In the “performance orientation” questions, everything is focused on what I have to do for someone else, where the “learning orientation” questions are about individual growth and development.  It is a total shift in focus and ownership on the growth moving forward.

Katie’s question, “Is there another way to solve this problem?”, reminded me of something I recently read on Will Richardson’s blog:

“Schools place an overwhelming emphasis on teaching children to solve problems correctly, not creatively.” 

How much creativity could there possibly be when we deem one answer or way, as the only correct path?

Let’s be honest…there is still a major part of the world that wants people just to be compliant.  People that are developed as self-starters and learn to develop themselves when no one is watching is a shift that needs to happen in our world, no matter if you work for someone else, or yourself.  The second set of questions are much harder to get students toward, especially if they have been “conditioned” in schools. But when did anyone ever say being a great educator was easy?

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3 Crucial Elements of Being a Change Agent

13 September, 2017 - 00:15

As I have voraciously read books on “change”, and have had many conversations on the topic,  these are three big takeaways that I always try to focus on.

  1. Show and model change in yourself.  It is easy to tell people to move forward, but it is hard, and more important work, to say, “let’s grow together”.
  2. Relationships are the foundation of moving forward. If people don’t feel that their strengths are valued, they feel you are trying to fix them. No one wants to feel they need to be “fixed”.  On the other side of the spectrum, if people know that they are valued and that you are there to help them get better, they are way more open to moving forward.
  3. Start the journey from where people are, not where you want them to go.  Too often the jump to some extraordinary vision is too overwhelming to many people, but smaller steps from where people are to help them move people forward, will help them build confidence and competence along the way. Help move individuals from their point “A” to their point “B”

As I continue my own learning, what I also know is that there is so much I don’t know.  Not every one of the ideas helps every person.  And not all change is good.  It has to be meaningful or it is change for the sake of change, and could cause more issues than solve.  I also know that as soon as someone says they have all the answers, they are already falling behind.  We can all get better.

Categories: Planet

“One” Is Not Enough

9 September, 2017 - 21:43

Before you tweet this quote (because many people will), I just want you to take a hard look at it:

“Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.” Urie Bronfenbrenner

I want to think about some of the math…

How many years does a child spend in school?

How many adults do they interact with?

Based on whatever numbers you come up with for the above, do we really think that “one”, or even five, is enough?

Me neither.

This is why I talk about the idea of “school teacher” vs. “classroom teacher” often.  In my belief, “classroom teachers” know their content amazingly well and are great with their current group of students.  But once they step outside of their classroom, the students they do not teach are “not their problem”. “School teachers” on the other hand, can do all of those things that classroom teachers do within their own classrooms and subject matter, but when they walk out of their room, every child in the school is their child. 

If you see a child walking down a hallway and you do not acknowledge them, that is an opportunity missed.  An opportunity that could have made all of the difference in that moment, that day, sometimes even life.

Always err on the side of positive. Kids need more than a “few” teachers that make them feel they think the world of them.

Categories: Planet

Innovate One Thing

8 September, 2017 - 09:19

Teachers work extremely hard and the job can be thankless some days.  Seemingly, more and more is being placed on teachers and educators, where they have moved from full “plates” but to full “platters”.

So why do I focus on “innovation” so much in education? Doesn’t this become just another “thing”?

The reality of our world is that we all have 24 hours in the day, but how you use our time is important.  How do we get the most out of it?  Innovation is not about doing “more”, but about doing things “better”.  Time, like money, is a currency, but I believe it to be more valuable. The more we get out of our time the better.

Here is an example…

Kids write in a journal to improve literacy. What I have seen many students do is that they will write into their paper journal, and teachers will take 20 to 25 of those notebooks home to write to each student. But when you look at this formula, who is becoming the most literate? The ratio favors the growth of literacy in the teacher over the student.

But what if you had the students write in a blogging platform and instead of the teacher commenting to every student, you have students comment on five other student’s blog posts? Instead of writing once, they will write a minimum of six times, but probably more, as many would want to respond to the comments they receive.  Yes, as a teacher, there will be some set up to make this happen, but long term, would you not save time and actually have students write more than what they were before?

Maybe this example is not relevant to you or your situation, or maybe you don’t have the access to make this happen to the point that would be beneficial to your students.  Innovation is not about someone else finding the answers for you, but about looking at your own context and finding your own solutions to move forward. Hence the reason I believe innovation is all about mindset, not skill set.

I challenge you (and myself), to look at just one thing that you are doing, ask “is there a better way?”, find that way, and see how it goes. Let that one thing, lead to another thing.

Don’t add time, just try to think different.  It takes some time to get there, but long term, the investment will pay off.

Categories: Planet
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