Thursday, February 17, 2011

Curious Couros

Last week we had the opportunity to Skype with George Couros, a principal from Stony Plain, Alberta. He had some really curious observations about student learning that really peaked my interest. His main goal was to give us as teachers some student perspective. For example, he asked the question, "How well are students learning when they play XBox360 on their huge TVs at home after school and then we try and get them to learn by getting them to read from textbooks older than their parents?" This got me thinking that while the curriculum content that we as teachers are required to teach is fairly static, the process of teaching will dictate how successful students are learning the material. In a world that is ever changing, an authentic process, using tools that the real world uses, is the only way that makes sense.

Another question that came up as part of our Skype conversation that really stuck with me was, "If we are going to use social networking sites and online blogs as part of student learning, under what names students should publish online material?" George advocates that students DO NOT hide behind fake names online and he has good logic behind this decision. He asked, "Are students responsible for the things they say online, just as if they had said them in any other context?" The resounding agreement is YES. Students should be held accountable for what they say online and encouraged to build a positive image, just as we encourage them to build a positive image in school. If students use their real names online, they will be held accountable. In George's school, most students use twitter as a way to communicate both in and out of school. I thought this was a great idea because for a number of reasons. First off, teachers could ask students to tweet their answer to a question brought up in class. Students would need to learn the skills to articulate their ideas in 140 characters or less, cutting straight to the point. Secondly, they have the opportunity to follow fellow classmates and see other opinions and perspectives. Thirdly, students can follow experts in the topics they are studying and get real world answers quickly, instead of dusting off a textbook with information that may be fifty years old.

Since the presentation, I have been following George Couros on Twitter (@gcouros). By tapping into his expertise and adding him to my learning network, I am hoping to continue to learn about how to make the process of learning relevant, authentic, and engaging to students. His presentation has made me curious about how to implement this into my classroom. If I continue to reflect, my curiosity is driving my learning. So, in essence, this presentation has made me a Curious George! In general, curiosity drives learning. This leads me to my job as a teacher and my goal as I move into the classroom; I want to create a classroom that makes all students curious like Couros through an authentic process that engages them.


George Couros said...

I love the "Curious George" analogy. That was actually going to be my twitter name ;)

We have had a lot of success with our students posting as themselves and they have started to create accountability to the name. To date, we have not had any issues (knock on wood) with cyberbullying as we have really been proactive in how we teach kids to treat each other online.

If you stay connected, you will be on a wonderful path in your teaching career. You have no idea the impact this would have made on me as a teacher when I first started. The amount of information out there is amazing; your biggest concern is filtering the amount of knowledge you are about to embark on.

Looking forward to connecting :)

Mr.D said...

That's a great idea Shaun. I like your pun with the Curious George stuff, and your pictures. Pictures often say 1000 words, so here's a picture. Never mind, I can't post pictures here.

I agree that teachers must stay connected, and Twitter is one of many ways available to teachers to stay connected and build a learning network! Furthermore, we can get students involved in online activities as well.

Online accountability is something that i think is starting to develop. Some people have been sued for defaming comments. I think as teachers, we should start teaching students proper ways of interacting and using the internet.


Tim said...

Hey Shaun I agree thats its all about keeping kids interested, motivated and keeping the work in the classroom relevant. I also really think that it is SUPER important that we get students to create that online community and push them to act possitively and appropriately online.

PS: Congrats on beating Manitoba this weekend - good luck at the nationals!