It is fairly common to hear couples that speak on the same topic at conferences. It is less common to have siblings pursuing and presenting on the same area of study. This year I had the good fortune to hear both of the Couros brothers speak. Although I follow both of them on Twitter, @gcouros @courosa, read their blogs (The Principal Change by George and Open Thinking by Alec), face to face contact is still best case scenario for me. George Couros came to speak with Jordan Tinney at a PDK Vancouver (UBC Chapter) dinner meeting: ” Report Cards and Communicating Student Learning: Leadership and Learning in a Changing World “. He awed the Vancouver, B.C. audience with his forward thinking about the mindset of innovator’s (2015, The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity 2015 release) and implementation of a wide variety of progressive tools and strategies to stimulate curiosity and make learning visible, including various digital portfolios. This was the first PDK- UBC Chapter meeting where people were tweeting from outside the room. Interest in the topic and his 92.2 K Twitter following were undoubtedly part of the reason. When I learned his big brother, Alec Couros, would be joining Vancouver administrators in Whistler for our Fall Conference, I was not sure what to expect. His job as a professor at the University of Regina indicated ivory tower, but his 94.7 K Twitter following, tweets and blog posts indicated something more dynamic.
To my delight, his session was every bit as engaging and informative as his brother’s session with Jordan Tinney in Spring. The session started providing a theoretical frame as to why educators need to establish an online presence and be the authors of their own story. He also spoke to our responsibility to define respectful discourse on the internet and teach our students about appropriate posting before any damage is done. Then he emerged into a whole range of ways to engage our students in their own learning using technology and available APPS. Dr. Couros provided opportunities for online engagement via a Twitterchat and references so we could go back and play with new tools at a later date. Educators with varying degrees of comfort with technology and differences of background knowledge on social media walked out of the room excited about their new learning and with a manageable path they could navigate.
Both of the Couros brothers were able to inspire their audience with not just an openness to change but an excitement about the potential of change. Their willingness to “boldly go where no “one” has gone before” (Do I need to cite Star Trek?) is energizing for some. That is not to say that people who embrace change are not without fear. With any change in life, there is risk. Continuing on the “tried and true” path is the safest route and perhaps shields us from possible criticism for the questions we can’t answer or for not getting it “right” the first time around. However as reflective practitioners, our role is to identify what we do well and what we could do better. How do we welcome and better facilitate the learning of our students with diverse cultural and linguistic profiles? With varied academic strengths and needs? With questions we can’t answer? With varied mental health? With varied trust in the school system? With delight in the experiences and energy our students bring into the classroom? The Couros brothers were both able to shed some light on the possibilities. They also provided the encouragement, background knowledge and manageable steps to keep us moving forward, not just for the sake of change, but for our students who will need to navigate in a world quite foreign to the one we grew up in. Thank you, gentlemen 🙂