My New (Space) Learning Hero

When I was ten, I desperately wanted to be the first female astronaut. I had it all carefully planned out: a degree in astrophysics, train to be an Air Force Pilot, then BAM! I’d be on the Space Shuttle.

Sally Ride destroyed that dream when I was 11. I simultaneously worshiped her and despised her.

Christa McAuliffe showed us that teachers could contribute to the space program. I was 13 years old on the day of the Challenger Launch. Completely devastated by the loss of the crew, I think that was the day my space dream truly died.

Now I have a new space hero: Col. Chris Hatfield of the International Space Station. He has masterfully used video and social media to invite us into his world on the ISS and teach us about zero gravity. He tweets with William Shatner and answers school children’s questions about life on the ISS. Most importantly, he connects with us virtually in a way that makes us feel like we know him. It’s the same way we feel like we know Jay Leno or David Letterman. Hatfield talks to us like we are friends.

Of course this is only possible because of current technology, but also because of his willingness to learn these new tricks. He’s no Millennial, but he sure communicates like one.

I’ve written before about harnessing the power of the virtual classroom to bring experts to the masses. It’s not just about using the tools, but knowing how to connect with the audience. It’s not about presenting. It’s about conversing. When you bring the audience into the conversation (either directly or by allowing them to submit questions) it becomes a richer and more meaningful dialogue.

Accessible Experts = Learning Heroes.

10 Tools Challenge (1-5)

I had a really difficult time coming up with a list of 10 tools. I used Jane’s list of Top 100 Tools, but I already use a great number of them and others required subscriptions. I’m sticking to 100% free tools and apps for this challenge. I also fretted that new tools would debut this year that I’d like to include and I didn’t want to be married to a specific list. As a compromise, I chose 5 that I promise to review. The other 5 I’ll discover over the year. Deal?

Here is the list of 5:

  1. Pinterest. Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m just now getting around to Pinterest. I thought it was just DIY and wedding planning, but I can see potential for gathering classroom resources and asking students to contribute. I’m also using it to plan a kindergarten Valentine’s Day party.
  2. Flipboard. This one really intrigues me and I think it will help me clean up some clutter of buttons on my phone and tablet home screens. It’s a customized one-stop shop for your news and social networks. It’s also visually stunning if you can trust the demo.
  3. Open Badges. I love having quick, visual ways to scan information. I also really miss my Girl Scout sash and all those badges. People love earning badges and will go a little farther just to get one. It’s motivation to learn by status and recognition.
  4. Pocket. I am forever emailing myself links to read later. They clutter my inbox and end up getting deleted during angry inbox cleaning sessions, never to be read. Pocket is a bookmarking service that delivers content in an organized way to your phone or tablet and stays the heck out of your inbox.
  5. Avatar Generators. I love sharing avatars in virtual learning environments. Many people don’t photograph well and dread sharing photos. Avatars are fun and can be customized to reflect hobbies and interests. I’ll review a number of avatar generators and share what I create with each one, features, etc.

For each tool or app I share I will try to demonstrate how it can be used in the virtual classroom. It’s possible I’ll find something that I can’t tie in, but is so great I just have to share. I’ll be clear if that’s the case. Stay tuned. I’ll review Pinterest and share my boards at the end of February.

Take Jane Hart’s 10 Tools Challenge in 2013

10_tools_challengeThe idea: choose 10 tools you’d like to investigate to use personally or professionally and try one out (roughly) each month this year. You could take the challenge yourself or follow my investigations.

If you choose to participate, I suggest following Jane Hart’s guidelines, summarized below:

  1. Select the 10 tools now or as you go. Make it something personally or professionally useful. Here is Jane’s list of Top 100 Tools to inspire you.
  2. Write an initial blog post or tweet to kick it off. Optional: leave a comment on Jane’s bog, Learning in the Social Workplace, to let her know you are participating.
  3. Write a monthly post featuring your tool review.
  4. At the end of the year, write a reflection post summarizing the experience.

Look for my list of ten next week and my first review in February!