Night Flight to Venus?
Resolutions. Oft-pondered, yet frequently tossed aside like a bride’s nightie a few months in as new information is processed and new priorities emerge.

SpaceRace is a very small business. We like it that way, because being small lets us concentrate on the things we’re good at (creative strategy-making, web development, hare-brained ideation) and avoid the things we stink at (babysitting, delegation, accounting). Taking stock of our business goals has never involved seeking ways to get bigger. We have a strong stable of collaborators whom we respect and trust, and a manageable client base whom we feel we can truly serve with the rocket power we possess. Our utmost goal is to be happy, and for that we have to love what we do. Every year our resolution is to love it just a little bit more, and we do that by looking ahead to what’s possible and pointing our rocket belts in that direction (see image at left).

But just because we’re ok with our size doesn’t mean we don’t have active learning goals. And the dawn of a brand spankin’ new year is a great time to take stock of what we’ve learned and what we really want to learn and experience next.

For me, that’s a giant 365 day slow-cooker of skills, books, events, discussions, and socks.  It’s the SpaceRace HOT LIST for 2013, and this week (January 2 – 6) is dedicated to telling you all about it:

A book:

Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human
He’s one of my favourite authors because, for the love of Pete, he makes so much sense! With an emerging focus and interest in advocacy work, I am eager to hone and spit shine my techniques of persuasion. He’s also been particularly clever about pre-marketing this much-awaited new title – inviting pre-ordering folks a chance to participate in a New Year’s Day webinar (it rocked), providing cool workbook templates, offering signed bookplates, and putting out a lot of other really great content to support the book. These “First Mover” opportunities have helped build value in the ideas of the book, generated excitement, and created a tribe of pre-selling Pink fans. Book marketers, take note.
Here’s a particularly clever review from NPR.

A skill:

I defer to the talented SpaceRace Jimmy in most matters of design and image manipulation. Although I’m often the critical eye – because I know what I like and what I like is usually good (usually), I am too easily frustrated to develop a solid skill foundation in Photoshop. It pains me to no end, as I was the kid who cut out heads and photocopied them on to other people’s bodies, and I did it often and well. Yet any attempt I’m made to become proficient at PS has resulted in tears of agony and childish fist-banging. In 2013, that’s going to change. How do I know? Not even 2 weeks ago a friend asked me to paste their colleague’s head on to Astroboy’s body. And I did it. The time is now.

An event:

It’s really hard to nail down the event I’m most looking forward to in 2013. I’m headed for SXSWEdu in March, based on last year’s experience being completely positive. And fun. And game-changing. And I love Austin. This year I’ve extended my badge so I can also take in Interactive and Film.
I avidly follow EdSurge, and look to their event listings as a premium guide to all worthy ed-tech happenings around the globe. Beware – it’s guaranteed to give you a severe case of FOMO.
But the events I’m looking forward to the most are the ones I’m hoping to launch in my own backyard: a Creative Mornings inspired motivation series for early risers in my awesome mountain town, and a series of Ignite-style province-wide events to bridge the communication barriers between schools and parent communities.


These ones.

A Discussion:

I registered for Alec Couros’s EdTech MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) partly because I wanted a first-hand MOOC experience, but also because I was excited about the topics that will be discussed with a promising cohort of interesting people outside of my current circles. #ETMOOC will cover and converse about social/participatory media, blended/online learning environments, digital literacies, open education, digital citizenship/identity, copyright/copyleft, and multimedia in education. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? There’s time to register, if you act quickly.

And in the interest of the ultimate resolution – BALANCE – it’s time to grab the kettlebell (thanks Kasie!) and head upstairs for some Soviet-inspired exercise. (and get better sleep)
More of the 2013 Hot List tomorrow. What’s on yours?

SpaceRace Jimmy at TedOntarioEd
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Charles Dickens didn’t attend TedXOntarioEd last Friday (and thank goodness, ‘coz he’s dead, and kind of a downer), but his words rebound in my thoughts 7 days later. If you attended, you might be feeling a bit like I am. Now that the brilliance has sunken in, I hope that this is the best of times. The presenters made me feel that way. Yesterday’s disengaged, rebellious, and undeniably creative learners have grown into leaders, with, as the TED mantra goes, ideas worth sharing. Brave souls, navigating our connected, wired world. Democratizing the institution of education, developing professionally at no less than light speed, and it’s all happening before our eyes. Are you watching? You should. It’s time to tune in.
Despite the rare, occasional flash of brilliance and insight (spoiler alert), Canadian education appears to be lagging in innovation and clinging to policies built for the baby boomers and their predecessors. In some cases, early 20th century farming communities. The TDSB (Canada’s largest public school district) enforces an archaic and out of touch cell phone/smartphone policy, banning the very devices that can connect students and heaven forbid, with the right applications, engage them to experience and create content. The very devices that many predict will be our society’s main outlet of connectivity within a few short years. If you’ve seen teenagers, you know it’s already happening.
So I shouldn’t invest in an iPod Touch for my seven year old, then? Hmmm. I’m going to do it anyways. I’m going to do the opposite. I’m going to Costanza what the public education system mandates to my future participatory citizen.
First major lesson learned at TedXOntarioEd: the formidable and wonderful ideas expressed throughout mostly resulted from their perpetrators doing the opposite. The opposite of conventional wisdom, the opposite of policy, and the opposite of past practices from well-meaning educators.
Your child might have the good fortune to be taught by one of these leaders (and that’s a heavily stressed might, since ours has yet to come across anything resembling connectivity, creativity, or engagement in our local public school). Someday, she might encounter an innovative program or technology created by one of the TedX-sters. But it’s the worst of times because she might not. As a glass half-full kind of parent, I’m betting on the indies.
And that’s where I come back to doing the opposite. Conventional wisdom be damned, and flogged with a wet noodle.
Lee LeFever captured our unfortunate reliance on over-explaining concepts. Textbooks are guilty. Curriculum is guilty. Why can’t a science lesson about clouds be presented in a visual, concise, and distilled 2 minutes of fun? CommonCraft is a revelation, no matter what you’re trying to get across.
Jesse Brown’s BitStrips is the culmination/revenge of a classic comic kid, disengaged with his teachers and lessons. Jesse spoke of stilted creativity, and the necessity of faking attention (after learning to fake attention as a learning strategy) to get through the grindstone/milestones of his educational experience.
If conventional wisdom points toward the self-contained, closed door classroom, then consider Danika Barker’s forward thinking forays into using Ning to connect classrooms geographically, but also through English literature themes. The image of an enthusiastic student participant, garbed in Gatsby, was enough to make this writer long for a Marty McFly encounter and to go back and experience (okay, be) the Wife of Bath in engaging , relevant, social networked circumstances.
And one last big moment, in a night of many, was Alec Couros. I follow Alec, some would say avidly, on Twitter. He is my go-to for ed-tech. I’d nudge anyone who asked me to apply to his program at the University of Regina, just to experience the creativity and box-less thinking of the man (who does such a mean Trololo-guy impression that it stands alone in surreal comedy). And not just because I’m a Saskatchewanian myself. Despite some technology issues, Alec’s presentation struck its strongest note when demonstrating how he confronts firewalls. No YouTube allowed? No access to Facebook? This innovative educator actually goes out and purchases and enables USB drives on his students’ behalf. This, my friends, is the open web. This is the future, and the only hope, of education. *note* Here is Alec’s updated preso. Watch it.

There is much, much more to say about the event. Don’t even get me started on Tim Long’s lofty, but plausible claim that procrastinators shall inherit the earth.
The venue was impeccable. The glitches? Handled with class.

Well done, TedXOntarioEd. And thank you for swaying this participant in favour of the best of times…
I needed that.


The full report is ready for download. So are other local government action resources.