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A Teacher Who Really Bridged the Distance: Cmdr Chris Hadfield

The International Space Station

Ok… so this has to be one of (if not the) coolest moment in the history of space exploration: Cmdr Chris Hadfield’s live recording singing David Bowie’s classic, Space Oddity, in space! The video compilation, which features Hadfield both singing and playing guitar while floating about the International Space Station, was the grand finale of his tour of duty as commander of the ISS.  Hadfield lived on the ISS from December 21, 2012 until May 13, 2013, and served as commander of the station for several weeks before turning over the reins to his successor.  During that time, he was active on Twitter (@Cmdr_Hadfield), tweeting countless pictures from around the globe, and answering questions from curious residents back on his homeworld.  He also connected directly with school children to teach interactive lessons from space.  His grand finale performance of Space Odditywas posted to YouTube as his final communique via social media before boarding a Soyuz space capsule to return to terra firma.  You can view the video here:


So, what is it about Hadfield that has captivated millions of followers around the world, including me?  The fact that he took full advantage of social media to share his fascinating experiences and knowledge with whoever wanted to join in!  Hadfield’s Tweets, YouTube videos, and live sessions with school children show the true power of Internet connectivity and mobile technology to enhance teaching, learning, and the human experience.  


Moore’s (1989, 1991) Transactional Distance Theory (TDT) has been one of the most influential learning theories in the field of open, distance, and mobile learning.  TDT describes the distance that exists between learners, their peers, their teachers, coaches, or mentors, and the learning content.  To maximize the effectiveness of a learning experience, you need to reduce transactional distance wherever possible.  In past decades, new media technologies such as radio, film, and television have all failed to live up to their hyped potential of bringing the finest minds from around the world into everyone’s classroom and learning space.  Mobile learning (mLearning) researchers and practitioners are now exploring how what is perhaps the world’s first truly effective ubiquitous communications technology—mobile devices—can do what previous technologies have failed to accomplish.  Chris Hadfield has perfectly demonstrated how the combination of Internet connectivity and mobile technologies are eliminating transactional distance across many domains simultaneously.  I mean, come on, this man was in space! Yet he managed to connect with millions, answer their questions about space exploration, actively participate in formal classroom experiences—and truly allow all of humanity to share in the age-old dream of exploring the cosmos!  The following video clip on YouTube is an interview with Hadfield from January 29, 2013, in which he explains the impact of social media on why he was so active online during his tour on the ISS. 

I think that all teachers could learn something from Hadfield.  He took full advantage of technologies at his disposal to reach out to as many people as possible, and to make learning fun (which, in turn, further reduces transactional distance because it increases the learner’s motivation and commitment).  Besides all that, let’s face it, Hadfield’s performance was just plain awesome.  For several months he was the coolest Canadian in outer space.  At least for now, he’s probably the coolest Canadian back here on Earth.  





Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield aboard the ISS




Moore, M., (1989). Three types of interaction. The American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2), 1-6.
Moore, M., (1991). Editorial: Distance education theory. The American Journal of Distance Education, 5(3), 1-6.  Retrieved from
Wikipedia (2013, May 14). Chris Hadfield. Retrieved from

By: Robert Power
Posted: May 14, 2013, 11:17 pm


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