Meet a Tech-Savvy Educator: George Couros


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George standing 3George Couros is a familiar name to the NCCE family.  As the keynote speaker of NCCE 2013 many of you know his passion for education.  As the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, George continues to be a passionate  voice in the education community.  We recently had a chance to sit down with George to discuss his thoughts on being a tech-savvy educator.

Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Current job(s): Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning, Parkland School Division

Current computer: MacBook Air

Current mobile device(s): iPhone 5

One word that best describes how you teach or work: Passion

What apps/software/tools can you not live without? For me, my number one software that I use would be Google Apps.  I honestly don’t know what I did before, and struggle thinking what others are missing.  It is the easiest to connect.As for social media, my blog and Twitter have had the biggest impact as I have the opportunity to learn and connect with so many other people, while also having a space for deep reflection.  I have learned more using those two spaces than I ever had in any other formal “schooling” that I have ever had.

For a personal app, Tripit is one of the best for traveling.  It makes my job a lot easier and is like having a travel assistant.  I love it!

What browser do you use regularly? Google Chrome…fast, easy and personalized.  It is the best.

What is your best time-saving trick? Get up early in the morning and exercise.  I am much better throughout the day when this happens and I get WAY more done when I take care of myself and my health.  Probably not the answer you are looking for but it is my truth.

What is your favorite avenue to connect with social media? Twitter is the best way for me to connect.  I can share my learning while connecting and getting help from others.  The amazing thing about it is that if I am thoughtful about how I use hashtags, I do not have to worry if I follow someone or they follow me.  The best answers can come from anywhere.  It is something that I glance at every day but also feel comfortable ignoring some times.  In the end, Twitter saves me time and helps me to do my work better.  A lot of people think the opposite.

When you are not living the glamorous work life, what do you like to do in your spare time for fun? Who has time for things outside of work? 🙂   Honestly, I have focused more on balance this year and enjoy sitting at home, going for a run, spending time with my dogs, and my family.  I have always said that the best teachers have outside interests and I am trying to model that by example as I lost touch with that in my own life.

As a tech-savvy teacher, what everyday thing do you feel you excel with/at versus other teachers/administrators/mentors? I wouldn’t say that I “excel” at something others don’t, but I do have other talents.  We all bring different strengths to the table.  I think that the ability to leverage a network is something that has really helped my career as I have the opportunity to connect with people all over the world.  This is something that not everyone can do, but it is something that everyone should learn to some extent, no matter their career path.  It is invaluable to whatever you are trying to accomplish.

georgeWhat is the best teaching advice you have received? Focus on relationships.  I really believe that if you only teach the curriculum to students, you have failed them as a teacher, but if you work with students, build a strong rapport, and help them to be good people, their opportunities will be endless.  I used to focus on teaching the subject but now I always focus on teaching the child, and understanding not only where they need to develop, but more importantly, where they excel.  If you have no rapport and build no relationship with a student, you will never learn this.

What are you currently reading? I just read Danah Boyd’s “Lives of Networked Teens” and I would highly recommend it.  I am currently reading “Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change” and it is phenomenal.  I think both books are musts for educators.

Who are your influences in the education community? I am lucky that my biggest influence is my brother Alec.  He is brilliant but he also pushes me and is willing to have conversations with me to help push my thinking.  Since he is my brother, he doesn’t hold back.  Sometimes that can be tough to take, but I know he wants me to be better.Dean Shareski is also a huge influence.  It is not what he says, as much as how he acts.  He builds rapport with people and his focus on inspiring people to help them make change is something that has impacted me greatly.  After you listen to Dean, you want to make a difference, you don’t feel like you have been dropping the ball.Don’t tell either of them this though 😉

What fantastic tech-savvy educator would you like to refer to us? Jeremy MacDonald is doing fantastic things and I think he is just at the point where he is going to really make a huge impact on a school division.  Jennie Magiera is brilliant.  Holly Clark is as well.  I could listen to any of those three speak for hours and get ideas while being inspired.  They are great teachers first that just know technology.

Any parting thoughts you would like to share with our readers? My best advice people trying to create change with technology is to be able to articulate how their work improves relationship and learning first.  If you can get people to understand that, they are more likely to move forward.  If they see technology as just technology, they aren’t going anywhere.

George at TEDxBurnsvilleED

[Meet-a-Tech-Savvy Educator is a regular feature on the NCCE Blog.  Know someone we should feature here (maybe you)?  Contact us!]

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