Professional Learning

We are building a new support department for teachers and building administrators in Fife. Part of our work is to read and study.  At least a dozen books have been utilized to this point.  Books on digital leadership, EdTech, visible learning, data, close reading, The Daily Five, EdCamp, autism, transformational teaching, ditching the textbook, project based learning, grit, successful teachers, successful principals, and an innovator’s mindset.  We’ve scoured twitter, utilizing a variety of hashtags.  We’re subscribed to blogs.  We’ve met with colleagues from neighboring districts.  We’ve hosted professional development opportunities.  We’ve done a lot of study on open educational resources.  And so on and so on.  I want to share the name of the resource that has had the most profound impact and the proof it has had such impact.

Kindle Cloud Reader is my reading tool of choice.  I can read anywhere.  I can highlight.  I can make notes.  I can share that which I have highlighted and noted.  One book has absolutely dominated.  I highlighted 195 passages and made 11 separate notes in this particular book.  The next closest book has 29 highlighted passages and 3 notes.

The book is The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros.  This book spoke to me as a teacher and administrator.  As a learner.  As a dad.  As leader.

Here are just a few of the passages that have shaped and altered my thinking.  Most are from the author, but not all.

“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” -Albert Einstein

“Inspiration is one of the chief needs of today’s students. Kids walk into schools full of wonder and questions, yet we often ask them to hold their questions for later, so we can “get through” the curriculum. We forget that our responsibility isn’t solely to teach memorization or the mechanics of a task but to spark a curiosity that empowers students to learn on their own. To wonder. To explore. To become leaders. We forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.” -George Couros

“The structure and type of learning that happens in many of our schools does not fulfill the needs of the twenty-first-century marketplace. When students graduate, many of them are good at one thing: school. They have mastered rubrics, they know how to ace tests, and they have figured out how to work within specific parameters. But the world is not a series of rubrics! To succeed, they will need to know how to think for themselves and adapt to constantly changing situations.” -George Couros

““Look at the world today; it’s amazing!” Think about it: we have the world at our fingertips, the ability to connect and create with people around the globe through so many different mediums. Yet what do most schools focus on when talking about technology? “Cyberbullying” and “digital safety.” Yes, these are important concepts that should be discussed, but we need to go way beyond that. We are spending so much time telling our students about what they can’t do that we have lost focus on what we can do. Imagine that if every time you talked about the ability to write with a pencil, you only focused on telling kids to not stab one another with the tool. What would you really inspire in your students? Creativity? Unlikely. Fear? Almost certainly.” -George Couros

“I’m defining innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative. That means that change for the sake of change is never good enough. Neither is using innovation as a buzzword, as many organizations do, to appear current or relevant.” – George Couros

“What is often misunderstood is that the higher up any one person is in any organization, the more people they serve, not the other way around.” -George Couros

“Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?” -George Couros

“Would I want to be in a community where I was the principal?” – George Couros

““The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”” -George Couros

“The three most important words in education are: relationships, relationships, relationships. Without them, we have nothing.” -George Couros

“One quote from the blog post about a student’s perspective of her class really shook me. “I asked my tenth-grade host, Cindy, if she felt like she made important contributions to class or if, when she was absent, the class missed out on the benefit of her knowledge or contributions, and she laughed and said, ‘No.’” Can you imagine going to a place every day where you felt your voice didn’t matter? I was struck by this takeaway in particular. It made me realize that so many students share this experience of having almost no autonomy and very little opportunity to directly choose their learning experiences.” -George Couros

It is easy to lock yourself in an office, connect with people on Twitter, and appear from your room with some great idea or new thing. If you want to be an innovative leader, your role isn’t simply to come up with new and better ideas but to involve your staff in that mission. If you have lost focus on and connection with the people in your building, even if you offer new ideas, they might not be embraced by those you lead. When people know they are valued and safe in trying new things, they are more likely to strive for something new and better.” -George Couros

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

John Dewey is quoted as having said, “We do not learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience.”

“…throwing a bunch of high-tech devices into a classroom, with no shift in mindset on teaching and learning, is cosmetic. There’s no depth, no real change.” -George Couros

“Today, isolation is a choice educators make. Our connectivity and learning opportunities have changed in recent years, and, thankfully, many teachers are taking advantage of those changes to benefit themselves and, more importantly, their students. We have access to information and, equally valuable, to each other.” -George Couros

And finally, “When we know better, we should do better.” -George Couros

This is a small smattering of what moved me.  Thank you George Couros for your thinking, words, and work.










Author: Jnelson

Jeff Nelson Fife School District Assistant Superintendent:Teaching-Learning-Innovation 39 years as an educator. 16 years teacher 3 years assistant principal 12 years principal 8 years Assistant Superintendent BA, Washington State University MAEd, Washington State University Previous member of AWSP Legislative Committee Previous member of UW Tacoma PEAB, Administrative Certification Established and maintained Fife’s first website for 7 years Present work includes establishing the first Teaching/Learning/Innovation department in the Fife School District. Examples of responsibilities include: teacher/administrator professional development, assessment, TPEP, curriculum/materials review, 24 credit requirement, technology levy leadership, teacher/administrator bargaining. Initiatives underway in Fife, as a result of new TLI Department: AVID, OER, Curriculum and Materials reviews, Student Perception Pilot with CSTP, Google Expedition Cofounder of Educational Internet Communications, LLC. Marketed and sold one of the first online grade checking programs in the US. Consulted with Seattle Educational Internet Company for 2 years.

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