Friday, May 31, 2013

What can Astronaut Chris Hadfield teach us about learning?

Astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to command the International Space Station, returned to Earth this May after five months in orbit. 
In these five months, Chris tweeted beautiful pictures of our planet, shared many 'how-to' videos about life in space, and even performed live with 1 million students across Canada for 'Music Mondays' via a live webcast. He collaborated with Barenaked Ladies for I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing) and rounded off the journey with a melodious and poignant reflection with his cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

A clearer view of Vancouver on a sunny day - can clearly see 

the ferry terminal, airport and many boats in the Inlet. 

Photograph by: Chris Hadfield , NASA

He taught us about space, International Space Station and our planet. 
But what can Chris Hadfield, the astronaut, teach us about learning

Here are my top 5 take-aways from the journey into space and back, with Chris Hadfield:

  1. Make it funHe made learning fun! Without us knowing about it, he managed to teach us about life in space and we now know things that we never knew we needed to know! He used his conversational style, played his guitar, did somersaults in zero gravity and used simple language that people across ages and continents could understand and relate to. 
  2. Make it meaningful: His how-to videos and demonstrations were short, to-the-point and meaningful. They were good examples of independent learning objects. The videos were based on questions an average person could be thinking about and the content was just-enough. 
  3. Make it personable: All videos and photos shared by Chris were very personable. He did share all videos with the masses....but it felt like an intimate conversation, as if it was just him and you. It seemed like a dialogue even when it was a one-way communication platform. His charming commentary and smiling face added to the experience. Using social media tools like facebook and twitter, he captured the attention of many. 
  4. Make it problem-based: The videos were based on answering a question on how to perform simple tasks in space. These questions or problems were submitted by earthlings - children and adults - and included things like how do astronauts shave in space, how do astronauts brush their teeth, how do astronauts clip their nails and cut their hair,  how do they sleep, what kind of food do they eat etc. Chris also performed live scientific experiments including an experiment designed by 10th graders around what happens when you try to wring out water from a towel
  5. Make it count: Perhaps this is one of the most 'unknown' factors of the entire learning experience that Chris Hadfield and his team (including his son, Evan) created for us. There was a lot of planning and preparation that went into creating, editing and sharing these videos with the world. The preparation started 3 years before Chris went into space. He was given a video camera and practiced recording himself through his training. While he was in space, a team at Quebec was providing ideas for new videos and writing scripts for the videos he produced. A team also edited the videos he posted and polished them with enhanced graphics and sound. His son, Evan was managing his social media accounts and was the one to encourage him to plan and conduct a Reddit 'Ask me anything' session ahead of his mission into space. While it seemed like a simple, one-man affair, much planning, preparation and constant work was being done by many to make this learning experience count and to get all the international attention that it did. It wasn't the first time that an astronaut had shared pictures from space, but Chris and the team made it big and made it count!

I am sure as I review the videos and the photos one more time, I will be able to find many more things that I can learn from Chris. Also, the learning isn't over yet. Chris is continuing to tweet about his experiences after landing including all the scientific experiments being performed on him and how his body is getting used to gravity. So there's so much more to learn! 

If there's something you found interesting in the entire experience, feel free to comment below!

PS: Here are some interesting articles and images that capture the spirit of what Chris Hadfield taught us about space and everything else.