Commander Chris Hadfield, Canadian Hero and Education Disruptor

Nothing is Impossible….

(If you can….READ the “comments below” the video in youtube )

I have spent the last year working at developing a program called the “Open Classroom”. I have been developing online projects that offer free content to students from anywhere in the world based on flexible access to different digital devices (computers and mobile devices). These projects can be used in online courses (virtual schools) and regular f2f classes (Blended learning). The goal was to create learning opportunities open to all students with no barriers.

Most of the feedback that I have received revolves around my inability to communicate my ideas:  “Verena. You are speaking a different language. I have no idea what you are talking about.”

This year, I have often felt like an alien on another planet trying to communicate with other people. I have been labelled a stranded evangelist, a teacher entrepreneur and I am often told that I think outside the box. My job description is, Learning Innovation Lead Teacher, which I assume means I am innovative.

Then – it happened….I was able to connect to the International Space Station.

I now have proof that others “can” speak my language.

Commander Hadfield is part of my PLN (Personal Learning Network).  He is part of my world. I follow him on Google and on twitter,  I retweet his pictures and I was on of 8398 people in his Google Hangout from the International Space Station:


According to his son Evan Hadfield,““I think that it would be fantastic when Dad came back to Canada people would stop and say I recognize him, I’m proud of him…and thanks him for whatever; to really understand who he is and what he has done for the country when he comes back. Then I would feel we’ve done a good job.”

Yes! He did a GREAT job! In three months I believe he has been able to disrupt education only in the way Sir Ken Robinson has been able to do.

Yes! I am comparing an astronaut to an educator! In fact, I believe Commander Hadfield has taken educational theory and proven that learning happens everywhere – and always has. Sir Robinson encourages the world to break down traditional classroom walls to learn by seeking our passion through creative and meaningful ways. Commander Hadfield modeled “how” to be creative and learn with others because of his passion.

The Top 7 Things that I have Learned from Commander Hadfield:

1. People need to feel connected.

Commander Hadfield connected and engaged the world through his tweets and that it is incredibly important to build relationships in online environments. He assured the world that being human is possible, and relevant, in a technology driven society.

Retrieved from:

2. We can all learn together as equals in a digital community.

It doesn’t matter what your “title” is, how “old” you are or where you are from – you need to be a part of a community.

Commander Hadfield answered questions   from students:


Retrieved from:

AND he connected with movie stars and politicians as well!


Retrieved from:

3. Your digital identity is essential in 2013.
“ With his high-flying past, Hadfield would be forgiven for having a gruff, no-nonsense exterior, and yet the Hadfield we have come to know couldn’t be further removed from this archetype. ” Retrieved from HERE

It is up to every person to consider how you want people to “see” you online. That includes what content you choose to share and how you choose to interact with others.

For example, the National Post created a possible diary based on Commander Hadfield’s experiences over a week, click HERE. (As a teacher I LOVE this example – just think of the possible spin-offs.)

He decided to host a question and answer session in Reddit from “his” point of view:


Retrieved from:

4. DIY (Do It Yourself) and self directed learning is essential.

In order to create a network of learners, we have to figure out some things for ourselves. Using videos and “how to” guides give learners the time to learn at their own pace and in their own way.
How do you Brush Your teeth in Space?

5. “Rich” valuable free content can be found on the internet.
Most of the content that was “created” in space – was sent out through youtube, twitter and other social media content sources. This gives learners an opportunity to have equal access to all digital content. Equal access is a first step to breaking the digital divide and an example of an Open Educational Resource (OER).

6. Making connections to “authentic” social media and technology is instrumental in order to learn in 2013.

Harlem Shake:
Earth Version:

Space Version

Hadfield Version:

7. You need to be curious to keep learning.

You don’t have to be a tech geek or interested in space to connect and learn with Commander Hadfield. You have to be curious.
My primary school daughter came home from school and asked me for that “song” about the ISS. She wanted the lyrics. Her class was going to learn how to sing it. I found the lyrics and video on youtube and then told her that Commander Hadfield was still in space and that he had written it and sung with some “earthlings”. Then she started to follow his adventures….It’s all about baby steps, making connections with every person in their own way. One step at a time. Making learning relevant.

But why Commander Hadfield  the biggest disruption to hit education – even bigger than MOOCs? (Yes @Audreywatters I am prophesying that Commander Hadfield is a bigger disruption to k to 12 education than anything else on May 15, 2013)

He showed the world that he is passionate about who is is and what he does. He advocated for creativity – by being creative. He is able to integrate a wide variety of interests, skills and ideas – into a common platform. He pointed out that science is not just about a process- it is about the journey. Most importantly he proved that being yourself and connecting with others can lead to change. Oh – and he asked his son to help him because he knew that you can’t do great things all by yourself 🙂

This ode to Commander Hadfield ends with my heartful thanks to a new Canadian Hero who has changed my world.

Thank you for showing the world that anything is possible by being yourself. If we can have a Google hangout on the International Space Station and brush our teeth in space we can do it on earth as well!

By sharing his experiences with the world – he has proven himself to be a leader in education!

Here’s what Hadfield told CBC interviewer Jian Ghomeshi about why he’s so passionate about helping earthlings to understand his space journey:
“This is something not only personally amazing to be part of, but it is a new thing within the human experience. And it’s way too good of an experience to keep to myself. It’s something that I think is really important to share. Ever since my first space flight, 17 years ago, I’ve been trying to describe to people just how incredible it is to see our world this way, and what it means to us as a species to start leaving Earth. And now I have the time–this isn’t a shuttle assembly flight–this is living in space and so I have the time to try and share it with everyone. And so I’m doing everything I can to ensure that people really get a sense of what it means and what it’s like.”
Retrieved from:

So I ask you all – how has Commander Chris Hadfield changed your reality? Is he promoting a disruption in education? Why or why not?

33 thoughts on “Commander Chris Hadfield, Canadian Hero and Education Disruptor

  1. Joyce Grant

    Great post. I think that what Hadfield has done is entirely worthy of analysis and further study–he truly has found the “sweet spot” in learning where “curiosity” meets “education.”
    We hope that you’ll notice that it’s what we’re doing as well, on We provide free, kid-friendly news each day, with teaching curriculum connections.

  2. admin Post author

    I like that idea- where curiosity meets education. I will certainly pay more attention to . What a great resource! Thank you for the reply. V:)

  3. Jeannine St. Amand

    Hi Verena,
    Commander Hadfield has changed my reality in several ways but what has remained most vibrant is the change in perspective his pictures from space have provided me. To see the curve of the earth, the lack of borders and boundaries, frozen lakes in barren sand, and the symmetry/asymmetry of thousands of years of wear on the earth’s crust — these have all served to remind me of how small we are while reaffirming what great things we can accomplish.
    I do believe Commander Hadfield has disrupted education because he has disrupted our culture. Technology tools made his daily connection to earthlings possible. His love of learning, his passion for science AND music, and his genuine communication skills brought alive our potential. Imagine what we can do when we embrace outside the box thinking, passionate educators, our innate curiosity and connect to one and other to learn! To infinity and beyond!!

  4. Clint Surry

    Great post! And wrt to speaking alien to others out there, its a common affliction experienced by those pioneering into new territory or disrupting territory that they had previously framed. Keep it up! Education and the world need some disruption. Conversations need to be started…People need to have a voice, or create a voice, and then USE the voice…contribute to the conversations…be active and participate…mentor others…be mentored by others…grow together.

    Great post and keep it up! Each new voice you help add grows until the roar demands change.

  5. admin Post author

    Thanks Clint – Coming from one alien to another you words of encouragement keep me inspired!

  6. admin Post author

    I totally and absolutely agree with everything in your reply. It was such a wonderful surprise to have him step up to the plate and watch him become a hero – from afar. I say “afar” and yet it feels like I know him. I’ve noticed that often happens with “digital” celebrities, you feel like you know them – but you really don’t. Or do you? Anyway – thank you for your reply and I am happy others felt the same way!

  7. George Couros

    Hey Verena,

    Interesting post and I think that there are lots that we can learn from Commander Chris Hadfield but I am going to push back on a few things.

    There are lots of people that now “speak” this language and are seeing the power of this type of learning. I think that leading by example and helping people connect is much more powerful than telling them. When people experience something they are more likely to understand.

    The other thing that I question is that when we talk about people like Commander Hadfield and Sir Ken Robinson and use them as example of “disrupting education”, we have to be careful of who this alienates. Commander Hadfield did not just bring people into the space program because he used social media, but largely in part of his personality. How many guitar playing astronauts do we know of? Sir Ken Robinson is a large personality but do you think that his message would resonate with as many people if he was boring? He is charming and funny, and that is why people listen to him If we make people think that they have to aspire to the likes of these larger in life personalities to become disruptors, I think we could do more harm than good.

    There are lots of educators out there that are doing some really great stuff in their own quiet way to make a difference. They lead by example in what they are doing with kids and helping to create better learning environments, not by being these larger than life personalities.

    I hope that every educator had the opportunity to connect with Commander Hadfield as this was a great learning experience for kids and adults, but I think that it was largely in part of the attention that he got from mainstream media that pushed this, not necessarily only what he did on social media.

    I do however know that I have learned from people that are already doing great stuff (like yourself) and we have to continue to empower educators to show that they do some pretty amazing things in their classroom already and that by them sharing it, we all become better.

    Just my two cents.

  8. admin Post author

    Agreed George…and…-
    I guess part of the piece is the “stranded evangelist” piece. As a parent – it isn’t enough when that “one” great teacher is making a difference in a school and we don’t know about it. I want to be sure that all educators are thinking like Sir Ken Robinson and Cmdr Hadfield. The argument is – well in every workplace not all people are alike (fair) and as you say, personality is a huge part of “massive” social media/ digital artifact campaign…. You know me – and you know that I have high expectations for all educators. While I appreciate that many educators are doing amazing things in their own classes – I want them to share and I want to know about it. While it is extremely important for that one teacher to be amazing with those few students – I advocate that part of teaching today – is teaching to the open classroom – and including the world where you can. Then I think other educators will consider connected/open learning as they can see the opportunities for any and all learners. (In so many different ways.)

    So I agree – and…..I encourage and promote educators to connect , collaborate and create with others to extend the classroom walls!
    Verena 🙂

  9. George Couros

    High expectations for all educators is important but I think that it is important that you think what using the term “stranded evangelist” may evoke in others. It may alienate many that you work with, and I will admit, made me feel very uneasy.

    Dean Shareski once said to me that it is not only about your message, but more importantly, how you make others feel.

  10. admin Post author

    Ok – now I think understand what you were getting at, from a more personal point of view.

    I would say that after one year – I no longer feel like a stranded evangelist. In my post, I was referring to myself not Cmdr Hadfield or Sir Ken Robinson as a stranded evangelist

    A big part of my transition “from” stranded evangelist has been – listening to others and trying to figure out what they are saying/needing/wanting. I needed to talk less, and listen more, which I think you were alluding to in your first post.

    I was extremely uncomfortable when I was labelled a stranded evangelist. The words, the idea, the feeling hurt me and made me feel even lonelier. I was lucky to have you and other friends around the day I was “labelled” the stranded evangelist. I remember even when I was feeling down – you pushed back then (like you are doing now ironically). Pushed back to get me to be honest with myself. Was it the stranded or evangelist that made you feel uneasy? Or the whole idea of me labeling myself?

    Cuz- I never thought of myself as a stranded evangelist ’til that day. And it really hurt. And I didn’t know what to do.

    What I do hear from your comments, and again this conversation is only happening because I know you, so I’m feeling a little odd being so honest about myself – it that we all have to be humble. We also have to consider how our actions/words and beliefs affect others.

    I ache because others labelled me something embarrassing in my point of view….


    I also ache because I see such opportunity and potential in Education and I don’t know how to promote the opportunities.

    I ache inside because my daughter lives in a world of worksheets. I ache inside because my son doesn’t get to do Lego. I ache because I choose to learn about alternative learning design over my garden. That’s me.

    I get it – watch how your words/actions and expectations may be taken the wrong way and may isolate (blackball) myself from people hearing me. I am crossing the line by imposing my beliefs and values on other educators and it makes people upset. I am apparently making people uncomfortable and I apologize.

    I can’t apologize for being me – and I am being warned. I hear you 🙂 I am a work in progress.

    All I can say to that – is get to know me. If you know me, and not my digital identity, then you will know that I have my heart on my sleeve. I don’t think that I am better than anyone else and I love a great conversation about the future of education.

    Getting back to my post – now I am confused. My post and the term stranded evangelist made you uncomfortable, and the comparison of Cmdr Hadfield or Ken Robinson to stranded evangelists? Is that right?

    My point is that they have both been effectively able to connect with world and promote the ides of “learning” not that they were stranded evangelists. By communicating and engaging with others (like Cmdr Hadfeild and Ken Robinson) I have been able to connect with more people as well. They are on to something!

    So – I think we agree? Communication and listening is the key to connection? Not standing on a soapbox and “telling” people what to do?


  11. Carolyn Durley

    George, I find your comments interesting for several reasons. The first of your push backs being that you identify Chris’ personality as being potentially alienating. I find that ironic coming from someone who although I have never met, is obviously charismatic. Would people listen and follow you on Twitter if not for your personality?

    Secondly, you mention that it is not due to Chris’ presence on Social Media that made him so accessible but rather his coverage in mainstream media. Again I find this strange. I do not follow mainstream media, my only source of info is Social Media and I am 100%, a Chris Hadfield fan.

    Lastly, I am most concerned when you react to Verena saying she felt like a “stranded evangelist”. I am not sure why this would make you uneasy? I think I feel more uneasy when someone doesn’t feel like this when they work in education. I am thankful and reassured that she does feel this way. I for one, feel more comfortable, rather than less, due to her saying this.

    I loved Verena’s post and was so excited that she felt the same way as I did in regards to Chris Hadfield.


  12. admin Post author

    Thanks Carolyn- We are all in agreement about Commander Hadfeild – he definitely made a difference and is encouraging us to discuss things, even now, on Earth!

  13. George Couros

    First off Carolyn, when we talk about “disruption in education”, I like to think that there are many people who are not “larger-than-life” personalities that are doing this. There are teachers that are quiet leaders and do amazing things everyday that are improving education and the lives of students. My point was to not alienate someone because they may be quieter than someone else. I have my own personality, but I do not believe you have to be like me to make a difference. Everyone has individual qualities that can help others; there is no “one-size-fits-all”.

    Secondly, you may have found Commander Hadfield through social media, but do you think everyone did? I saw him on the news at least once a week (that is actually where I originally heard of what he was doing and I would considered myself pretty plugged in), and I think it brought a lot of people to social media to connect with him. I am not saying that was the only way, but I said “largely” in my comment. Are you saying that everyone is like you in how they heard of him?

    Lastly on your point about being a “stranded evangelist”, you said the following:

    “I think I feel more uneasy when someone doesn’t feel like this when they work in education. I am thankful and reassured that she does feel this way. I for one, feel more comfortable, rather than less, due to her saying this.”

    Do you refer to yourself as an evangelist?

    Also, you would prefer if your colleagues all considered themselves as “evangelists”?

    Obviously the notion of “evangelism” is about converting people (mostly used in a religious sense) but what happens when we are on opposite sides of the spectrum? Some people advocate for “20th century teaching” (their own description), yet others want something totally different. Is there something that we can learn from different sides instead of always going to extremes?

    I think one of the points that I am trying to make is that we have to start where people are at, look at their strengths, and build from there. That is an element in both great teaching and leading; it is essential to start where people are at and work from there, as opposed to always telling them where they need to be. Again, just my thoughts.

  14. Carolyn Durley

    Isn’t it OK to have heroes?And write big heart felt blogs about them?

    You said:
    “There are teachers that are quiet leaders and do amazing things everyday that are improving education and the lives of students. ”
    I am with you there! But even quiet teachers appreciate role models, out there, in space. And who cares where we saw him? My husband, my daughter, my dad all had heard about him.

    From your blog “Hopefully this student helped to push a conversation that many educators are already having” this to me sounds like pushing, not meeting where people are? I think pushing is needed, why else do you bother to blog, think, tweet?
    I don’t think Verena was pushing anyways, I think she was infusing with enthusiasm. Lots and lots of enthusiasm 🙂

  15. @dramaticscience

    So the conversation appears to slant suddenly to “the stranded evangelist” as something alienating or limiting. I had to look it up to find out where this term even came from aside from the “person who seems stuck zealously promoting an idea to the abyss” which was the image immediately forming for me.
    This article helped reframe the topic for me so I could move from feeling the conflict inherent in labeling one, or one’s self as a SE.

    What is striking (for me) about this idolization of Hadfield event is that for lay people, technophiles, geeks, and other labeled souls seeking the connection w/i community there seems to be a ubiquitous experience of finding beautiful authenticity in the character and availability of a man who by all old traditions should be off limits… and borrowed someone else’s guitar (according to a recent unverified account I heard…)

    That in itself is the boundary defier, isn’t it? These great teachers and great schools, are off limits to so many learners who are left hearing but the anecdotes, long after the journey is complete… like it used to be w/ the space program preHadfield. What then could be possible, if, like in the case of cmdr Hadfield we suddenly found ourselves virtually face to face w/ the caring movement of innovative ‘quiet’ leaders.

    I choose to believe that this is closer to V’s intentions with this article rather than extolling a single person or ideal. I also believe she has a gift for seeing the forest for the trees but will ever struggle with communicating the full picture in a single meeting, workshop or blog article.

  16. George Couros

    Enthusiasm is great 🙂

    Take a look at this quote:

    “I like the tips, but I think they fall short. As soon as you see yourself as a “stranded evangelist” pushing against the people who don’t get it, you’ve lost, because you’ve lost sight of the system within which you are operating. It’s not about you versus them. And it’s not about social media in general. It’s about social media in your organization, for your cause, for your stakeholders. Assuming you want to make a difference to your stakeholders, you’ll need the help of all those people in your system that don’t “get it.” It’s not about people who don’t get it, it’s about a system that gets results. ”

    Full article is here:

  17. admin Post author

    Thanks Tom – I think we all agree that I am not the best at trying to get a point across in a blog post. And….to push back at George, he’s the one who encouraged me to write more blog posts. Little did I know….:)

    This whole discussion is based to Alex Samuel’s ” Stranded Evangelist” keynote at the Alberta ATLE conference last November. I too, like George has mentioned, was a little shocked at the use of the word”evangelist” at a Tech conference.

    And you got the right link Tom – is the one Alex Samuel was basing her keynote on.

    The key points from her blog and key note were:
    1. Look ahead of the curve.
    2. Don’t tell people what they want to hear.
    3. Follow your heart.
    4. Get un-stranded.
    5. Hire a buddy.

    I think that Chris Hadfield and Sir Ken Robinson may have felt like stranded evangelists; however, their amazing personalities, ability to communicate and desire to live their passion has helped them connect with others. They are “un-stranded” now…if they ever were stranded, I dont really know….We’ll have to ask them.

    Although the word “evangelist” originally made me feel uncomfortable, religion doesn’t have a part in being a “stranded” evangelist. Probably because – the stranded evangelists want to be a part of the group. They want to be a key part of the system – the system of learning. They are inclusive of all.

    So – Chris Hadfield and Sir Ken are larger than life – and that’s terrific! I still think the fact that they are larger than life has encouraged a discussion about the “white elephant” in the room. If you can have a google hangout, if you can create a video, if you can tweet, if you can connect – from the International Space Station – why aren’t we doing more of these things in our classrooms on Earth? I guess that’s my point. I want more educators to connect – in their own way. I want them to know what connected learning is. ANd – like I mentioned in my original post – not all learners/educators knew about Cmdr Hadfield through social media – my daughter learned about him because her teacher had her learning the song . You know – the day where he sang with hundreds of thousands of kids at the same time?

    While I thought the most important part of that day was the synchronous computer mediated learning opportunity, others – like my daughter who missed the moment because of swimming, thought that learning the song was the most important part. She started to learn about science because of music – that cross-curricular connection, in a “bigger than life” kind of way – is now a model for all educators. That’s what I am gushing about – how he was able to make it look so “Easy”! It’s not easy!

    If you are a quiet and awesome educator (and we know there are many) then I believe that in this “time” of disruption, it is part of your job description to tell others about what you are doing by using the wide range of connected educator tools. Look at the work of Laurie Renton and Chad Sansing – they are extraodinary, and so humble.

    There was never an intention to suggest that “quiet” educators should be Cmdr Hadfield. Instead, they can create their own version of connected learning.

    I really appreciate this discussion – although I think it went all over the place – and I hope that “we” can all appreciate that Verena hopes for more connected/open learning opportunities for all learners as a result of the amazing work of Commander Hadfield and his team.

    As Alex Samuel states, “It takes insight, courage and diplomacy to be a stranded evangelist for any kind of innovation. Just remember: today’s stranded evangelist is tomorrow’s visionary and respected leader. ”

    I think I need to work on diplomacy, but I am striving to be a leader within this wonderful world called education and learning. We need leaders like you George, and Carolyn and Tom and Jeannine and Clint and Joyce in order to make difference in this system of disruption and change. There is room for everyone.


  18. Carrie M

    Having a seven year old son and a annual membership to the Telus World of Science, Commander Hadfield has played a role in family conversations. Being a a committed educator, I have read most of Sir Ken’s books and watched many of his speeches on YouTube and TED. I have complete respect for their work and their message. Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm about these leaders!

    I would like to mention a recommendation that resonated with me when I first heard of the stranded evangelist: the importance in establishing a “posse”, a team of like-minded people to support initiatives that will help an organization, or a school, move forward. This organizational goal is more important than the individual, because sustained change cannot be achieved by any one person alone. Change may be inspired by one person, but it takes a team of people to help it move beyond an idea and become lived practice.

    As educators, we all set high standards for ourselves, because we understand the value of our work and the students we serve. How I translate those standards and apply them to my own work will be different than anyone else. My context may be different. My experience may be different. Not better or worse, but different. Therefore, I think it would be unfair for me to apply my own personal and professional expectations for myself onto others. Like you, and, in all likelihood, many other educators, I too consider myself to be a “work in progress”.

    Part of my job is fostering innovation across an organization. To do this job well, I have to respect and relate to people’s experience, to hear where they are and help them achieve what they think will help others. To work with others to help clear a path where we can. Not everyone wants the limelight. They want the work to be done, because they believe it will support learning. In adding an expectation that success and failures be shared in a global arena, it might actually discourage innovation, because the scope can feel too intimidating. An alternative: It may be less intimidating to support broader sharing upon a second or third iteration of a project, to include improvements made through a reflective process. Because of the collaboration of many people, we now have processes and teams of people helping initiatives succeed to take some of the fear (if and when it exists) out of possible failure. It might help focus on the work over the person initiating the work. It might help organizations learn from what happens in the present to inform future improvement and inspire new initiatives.

    It has been awhile since I thought about the “stranded evangelist” keynote presentation. Reading these comments has given me an opportunity to reflect on the past year since that session, and what I have learned. Being a more private person, there are some thoughts I would prefer to share privately. I don’t often comment on blogs, but I thought I might have something to offer. Hopefully, it was helpful.

  19. admin Post author

    Great comments Carrie. The idea that the stranded evangelist is just that – stranded – says a lot about their impact on a system. Like an irritating buzzing bee.

    I really like your alternative options for “quieter” ways to support a system. Everyone is different and part of thinking about change is thinking about strategies to include everyone.

    I also appreciated your suggestions about team building – especially from a sustainability point of view. If the annoying bee gets squashed by a bus, then no one heard their ideas. We need to work together.

    I would like to hear more about your thoughts on this topic – but I can certainly empathize with the aspect of privacy. Some things don’t all need to be brought into the open. I have certainly been intimidted by this discussion and how to handle it.

    Have a great long weekend!

  20. Carolyn Durley

    Hi George and Verena,
    Still thinking about this topic deeply :), I liked this quote:

    “You can follow your heart, your passion, all you want. You can speak truth to power. You can show case studies and documentation until you are blue in the face. You can reach out and connect with other Stranded Evagelists and feel a little better about the situation you are in, but in the end, if the organization that you are involved with still pushes back against what you are doing, or, worse yet, pays lip service to social media (or we could change for ed?) but refuses to commit proper resources to it, then you may be in a situation that is unchangeable.

    I agree with Jamie Notter about needing to be a strong leader in order to affect change within your organization. Strong leaders, however, can only lead those willing to be led. Intractable mules and limp noodles make poor followers.”

    Taken from this article:

    As I looked around this AM, I saw several examples of the term evangelist used in a positive way. Did not look they were alienating anyone.

    Happy Sunday!

  21. admin Post author

    Thank you for finding the evidence I needed as well as the words to give lip service to how I have felt.

    You are awesome Carolyn!


  22. Chris Wejr

    Interesting conversation happening here…
    In the past few years, I have developed a concern when people label others as “disruptors” of education. Sal Kahn, Ken Robinson, Seth Godin, Alfie Kohn, etc have been given this name and I think they have put forward some important ideas (although I don’t always agree) that make some people reflect on education. However, people that have a TED talk or a large following can also make statements that often alienate those with different views. To me, leadership is not about making profound retweetable statements or TED talks, leadership is about taking these messages and converting them into questions or conversations that can happen at a school level. I recently wrote a post on this – – and had a good conversation with Will Richardson about this topic – his point was that we need both the speakers, presenters, and those with larger followers (Like Hadfield) AND educators who can take this message and meet people where they are to provide a gentle, respectful nudge.

    The disruptors are not Hadfield, Kohn, Richardson – the only people who can truly disrupt education are those who work with the students. The challenge for us is to meet them where they are and provide a personalized nudge or question to create change. In addition, to cause disruption, we need to seek out and share the work of people that are changing education (like Carolyn above). I truly appreciate all the work that Hadfield has done… but I am more impressed with how teachers are already doing the 7 things (and more) that you mentioned. We often give a ton of credit to the Sir Kens of the world and not enough to the people who are creating the stories that are truly changing and disrupting education.

    I appreciate the fact that your post as well as the comments by Carolyn, George, et al caused reflection in quite a few of us.

  23. admin Post author

    Hi Chris-

    Thanks so much for your reply. The backchannels of comments as a result of this post have well – astounded me. We all know that my backchannels are different from other people’s backchannels…so I don’t really know what people are saying or not saying. I appreciate your input and reply.

    Where the discussion became side tracked, was the “stranded evangelist” piece, in that I felt I had to change my language and communication within my organization in order to be heard. That was a personal opinion and did not reflect upon Hadfield. The feedback from that wording has been to be careful of creating an “us” against “them” mentality. If you want to encourage change, try a systemic approach that encourages as many people as possible, and consider that all people have different ways to emulate educational change. I think that summarizes the “stranded” evangelist post – other than the fact the George doesn’t like the term – now we know.

    What you have added to the discussion, is what George was trying to get at as well about being careful what you say as words have an impact on others and can affect your voice/impact.
    Like you state in your post:
    Tom Schimmer once said to me, “Be careful of the tone of your message as it can alienate those you are trying to reach”. When we use powerful polar statements, they often “sell” and get retweeted… but do they do anything to move the dialogue and create educational change?”

    You also stated in your reply that, “The disruptors are not Hadfield, Kohn, Richardson – the only people who can truly disrupt education are those who work with the students”. I have to “push back” a bit here because that finally gets back to main point of the blog post – it takes a village to raise a child. I still advocate (and based on the response from the blog post, I am now clear that I am “advocating”) that Hadfield, Khan and Robinson are education disruptors because they motivate and encourage others to make a difference in their own way. Teachers are one part of the system, and have a direct influence over the students in their classrooms and often within their schools, but I don’t believe that they are the “only” people who can disrupt education. And…what about the parents?

    If change is to truly happen – it has to be sustainable. For something to be sustainable, it has to be systemic. If its systemic, then there is support and may truly happen.

    This blog discussion has been so difficult for me because I can agree and disagree with many aspects of the conversation…but that’s what makes a community. I really appreciated your blog post on, “The problem with Black and White Statements in Education”. If Hadfield had actually promoted educational pedagogical theory while in space – or said “You should” rather than “Join me”…I may not feel the same way. His passion was exemplified through his actions (just like the teachers you mentioned) and for that I am truly grateful. My point is that educators can follow his example base don the 7 ideas I stated in my original post.

    To me – Hadfeild in particular, demonstrated that nothing is impossible. However – it did take a village for him to make a difference. His personality and passion helped- but he proved that a classroom without walls is possible.

    In conclusion….I just want to get back to the importance of the educator who works with learners as the “key disruptors” to education. Carolyn and chatted about this very topic after one of George’s posts. We both work with kids directly, we are in the moment and we are moms with kids in school. I want change and I want to act on it now. After this lengthy discussion I am more than aware that I may be alienating some teachers because of my beliefs. As I have stated in my numerous replies – I am who I am. I want to see inquiry based learning in every classroom, I want to see technology used ass a tool to promote personalized learning, I want to see competency based assessment and an end to marks, I want all calssrooms to be focused on blended learning, I want teachers to be connected educators – and all I can do is keep saying it. If I push people away, I have to accept that. If I make people uncomfortable, I have to accept that. I am aware of my weaknesses (pushing without listening) and that idea that I could become misinterpreted as a “black or white statement”. I have apologized for my arrogance is “assuming” anything or for the fact that I am clearly pushing an agenda for change.

    Maybe its because my kids and their classrooms are still in the early transition of change and I see the struggles and frustrations that change brings. I want others to support them as well. But I guess what I am hearing is that if I become too “statement” focused I alienate and then people just get hurt and angry.

    Change takes time. Change takes a community to be sustainable. Change takes a village.

    I’m not good at waiting….but I really feel that with a community’s support – change will come! It needs to. I will work on listening and watching my words….and I hope others will work on other things.

    I can only say – again – I can only do my best. I have to admit, my best is even better when I am supported (and challenged) by others in a community. You all make me a better learner/person 🙂

    Verena 🙂

  24. Rhonda Jessen

    Great post Verena, I love how you have included several of Commander Hadfield’s many different feeds (YouTube, Twitter, Reddit.) He is a great role model for (digital) citizenship and connected learning. I wonder how the Canadian Space Agency will change how they share information as a result of how he shared.

    I enjoyed following his experiences on the International Space Station (mostly via Twitter, although I think the format is irrelevant.) As a teacher who believes in teachable moments and authentic learning, I appreciate how much he shared his experiences, answered questions and made Science real and fun. His videos made me miss teaching junior high Science.

    I think he impacted me most, not as a teacher, but as a as a citizen of the world. I concur with Jeannine St. Amand that: “what has remained most vibrant is the change in perspective his pictures from space have provided me. To see the curve of the earth, the lack of borders and boundaries, frozen lakes in barren sand, and the symmetry/asymmetry of thousands of years of wear on the earth’s crust — these have all served to remind me of how small we are while reaffirming what great things we can accomplish.”

    I love the discussion that your post has started. Not only are you an education disruptor, but you can ruffle feathers and cause a strong divide among other disruptors. It is interesting to see how ideas or terms can cause a strong reaction where none was intended.

    Please continue to share your passions, insights and learning. I always learn through your example. And keep pushing back!


  25. Michelle Baldwin (@michellek107)

    Wow. There’s a lot to take in here. 🙂

    I’m enjoying the discourse that I’ve read. Here are my thoughts so far:

    1) I also have a problem with “stranded evangelist.” I know it’s being used as a metaphor, but I believe it’s a very poor one, most especially if you’re trying to be an advocate for change. In this particular usage, “evangelist” is being equated with the “first to bring the gospel into an area.” That just doesn’t settle well with anyone else who’s ALSO been advocating for change.

    2) I have been that person screaming for change. It doesn’t work. Some people just get tired of listening to you. Others ignore you because they think it’s all about self-promotion… even when it’s really not. You have to go find those people who ARE the change and promote what they’re doing. I have to agree with George here. As a teacher, I tune out those people on the stage only sharing THEIR work. When they take the time to seek out the work of OTHERS and share… that’s when buy-in occurs. That’s when people start listening. That’s when people think that maybe they can make some changes, too.

    3) I love people like Cmdr. Hadfield and Sir Ken, but I also think the education needs fewer “rock stars” (this is the subject of an upcoming blog post I’m writing, btw). They’re absolutely saying and doing things we want to admire… and maybe should admire. BUT, how many educators are out there doing incredible things and no one hears about it? It’s easy to say that those educators should get connected, but maybe they already are. Some of the coolest things I’ve heard teachers doing recently are by connected educators with very few followers. So, is their work less amazing because they haven’t built a network of whatever magic number it takes to be well-known? Aren’t these the people we should be sharing with others? When we put the focus on those in our own schools, districts/divisions, etc., instead of on ourselves, THAT changes everything. Parents notice. School leaders notice. Communities notice.

    AND- think about how that translates into the classroom! I would MUCH rather hear what kids are doing in a classroom than what the teacher is doing. If a teacher is sharing incredible things happening in the classroom, the kids should be the voice you hear.

    Interested in seeing how this conversation continues… especially when we have the opportunity to carry that out in person. 🙂

  26. admin Post author

    Hey Michelle-

    Thank you.

    Screaming and having a temper tantrum isn’t really going to get me anywhere – but having people think I’m having a temper tantrum, then passing me by.

    I am a huge believer in student created work in so many ways and I’m so glad that you brought that up. As usual, the student was a little lost in the discussion. Funny how that happens…

    Thanks for the perspective….

    See you at #ConnectedCA!

    Verena 🙂

  27. @8amber8

    What a fascinating conversation. V, i completely understand saying one thing and having it mutate into something far beyond what you were meaning, 🙂 (Please see admin year 1, heh.)

    I think Chris’s response is awesome, especially the “To me, leadership is not about making profound retweetable statements or TED talks, leadership is about taking these messages and converting them into questions or conversations that can happen at a school level. ” part. I definitely think the best part is getting to be the quiet presence that brings it back into the school world, and applying it the best I can.

    Thanks for the convo!

  28. Laurel Beaton

    Thank-you all for this important conversation. It has led to a great deal of reflection for me. I think we can all agree that Commander Hadfield was an excellent ambassador of both teaching and learning while on his mission. Where I agree with George is in that we often place these “edu-celebrites” on pedestals and undervalue the excellent work of the everyday teachers working with students. I am just as inspired when I listen to Deirdre Bailey, Shelley Wright or David Truss speak about the learning that happens in their schools. I think as teacher we all need to do a better job being visible not only about our students’ learning but also about how we as educators shift our practice, learn and grow. This shift happens through connecting with others. It takes time and tones of hard work and many failures to get to what we know now is our current best practice. Being honest about the process we took to get our thinking form a-z would help other teachers feel like they are able to shift as well. I agree we are all a work in progress and the learning never stops. Supporting teachers by accepting and respecting where they are at in their own learning and speaking their language is essential. This respectful coaching is at the heart of every great school.

    “Leading in times of radical/disruptive change is like teaching swimming…first, we must coax them into letting go of the safety of the shore.” David Culberhouse

    V, I sat with you at ATLE when we heard this key note about Stranded Evangelists. I agree that at the time you were very much like one. It was early in the year, you were new the organization, and you brought a diverse perspective on education. And I was grateful for you, as you introduced me to some new (to me) ideas about teaching and learning. I am curious, now that a year has gone by, how have you shifted from being a “stranded evangelist” to a “connected educator”? What have you learned from the people around you? How has your practice shifted as you listen to the teachers with diverse perspectives? How have they shaped your current best practice?

    I once said that staying in one job and securing tenure was not something I personally valued as I felt that there was more to gain by taking risks, and changing roles frequently to bring new perspectives. You challenged me and said that the more difficult work is in staying in the same place and making changes, moving on and starting fresh is easy. You were right. 🙂 At the end of the day, anytime we come to a new organization/position we can feel a little like we are aliens, not knowing the language and culture, unsure of how we can make in impact. The true test is in how we connect, collaborate and work with the people around us to change education for the better.

    For me, I care less about disrupting education and more about making sure every student has teachers and mentors that help them find their voice and their passion through authentic learning whatever and wherever those experiences may be. Commander Hadfield’s mission likely fit that bill for many students and for that I am grateful. And, I am just as grateful to the quiet leaders in education who just get to work, doing what is best for their students. I hope that these educators can find the time to share, whether that be elbow to elbow with a teacher down the hall, respectfully and quietly offering support or in a more open and public space like this blog. Both are valuable and both deserve to be celebrated.

  29. admin Post author

    Thanks Laurel – we all need to grow, we all need to connect and we all need to learn. AND we all do it in different ways.

    Great reply!

  30. admin Post author

    Thanks for the note Amber! I checked out your blog and it has some great examples of student created projects and ideas! Thanks!

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