Resources for 2013

Welcome to Braincountry and to the 2013 school year.

This year, chances are you’re enrolled in one of my two classes: Science Fiction or Current Events.  You won’t need a book for either.

Science Fiction and Society is a course dedicated to some key issues connecting the weirder aspects of science to reality as we know it. We’ll ask and pose answers for the following questions:

  • Is this okay? There are many issues in science fiction that tie into ethics.
  • Does Science Fiction as a genre drive technological development? Let’s be honest–nerds watch sci fi. Then they go out and invent cool things. Is there a connection?
  • Is the apocalypse coming? An entire genre of sci fi is dedicated to the end of the universe as we know it. Should we be afraid or can we take action?
  • What things might have we seen in Science Fiction that we might see in real life?  Time travel? Cure for all disease? Genetic coding? Eternal life? And…then we’ll circle back to our first question… “Is this okay?

Current Events discusses themes of global concern. We’ll look at the day-to-day news and happenings in the local, national, and world stage. We’ll connect the dots. This means that we’ll be looking for cause and effect, and doing a great deal of digging into the history of certain issues. We’ll pose answers for the following questions:

  • How did things get this messy? In many areas of the world, things are not good.  There’s poverty, crime, war, famine, and disease. How did things turn out this way?
  • How can you tell the good guy from the bad guy? Sometimes this isn’t as easy as it seems. A lot of the images we have of people are shaped by the media. We’ll look at how the media outlets you choose shape your image of the world. You won’t get the same image of things from WorldStar as you do from CNN. Let’s examine the media’s motivation for presenting things in a certain light, and how, in the age of YouTube and Twitter, you can get information instantly.
  • How do we figure out the truth? Everyone has an agenda–our study of the media will show this. How do you evaluate and discern the truth?
  • What solutions can we try? Is there anything we can do to solve the problems of the universe, or should we just pack it up and play Call of Duty? Who are the game changers out there?
  • Can you, one person, make a difference? I submit that the answer is yes. If not, then this course was pretty much pointless. Still, since it’s one of the critical questions of the course, it’s unfair for me to ask and then answer it. You’ll answer this for yourself. In this course, you will meet game changers. You will read their blogs, books, and manifestos. You will probably talk to them. The point–if you can talk to rock stars who are literally changing people’s lives on a national level, you can be one and do the same. You have to learn to identify the problem and innovate the solution.

Things You Will Need: (It’s all free)

  • A proper Gmail account that is some form of your name:  I can be reached at or All of my students will have a respectful, professional email name. Please save for your personal life. Trust me.
  • An account on Learnist:  Set that up using your new gmail and a password. You can use Facebook to log in, but it may not work at school. You may also install Learnist on your iPhone.
  • Twitter, though not required, is helpful. I tweet interesting articles and videos, and blog posts for class under the following hashtags: #scifi222 and #CE222.  I also hold Twitter office hours when we do projects and research.  You may tweet me at any time. I don’t do #teamfollowback. I use Twitter to get you information, not spy on you. If your Twitter handle is NSFS (not safe for school) consider making a professional one and use that for your contact with this class.
  • A journal and a folder. There’s a bin for each class–you can keep them there.
  • Something with Internet access. If you don’t have something with Internet, you can use the computers in class.  You’ll want to be able to get to tweets and posts for class. Some class material isn’t available here, due to internet filters–you’ll have to be able to get to that at home or a library.  If you don’t have much access, tell me privately. We’ll make a plan.

Skills You’ll Learn:

  • Evaluate: Problems and issues presented in this class. And in your life.
  • Discern: What’s important from what’s not, point of view, perspective, how things affect other things
  • Write: This is one of the big money skills. Writing isn’t just writing–you have to be able to discern your audience, and pitch to them, whether it’s some fancy professor, a guy about to invest in your idea, or a poem for your friends
  • Argue: You all argue, but do you argue? You will learn how to frame an intelligent argument based on fact, and beat the other person with your genius. It’s a huge skill to have in reserve.
  • Present: Many people won’t speak in public or create presentations. You will. Why? Because I’m a jerk? No. Because I know that makes you stand out from the crowd, and that’s what we’re all about here–if you don’t leave this class better than me, I haven’t done my job.
  • Innovate: Working for a living is hard. But soon, you’ll have to do it. If you can learn to pick out opportunities and innovate solutions, you’ll be the person other people work for. Using the materials in your class, we’ll examine ways you can start learning to do this.
  • Compare: If you can compare and contrast, you’re halfway to evaluating and generating ideas. This is a big money skill.
  • Digital citizenship: Fancy words for learning to be nice online. I’m not picking on your Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr or Twitter. I’m not. But I’m going to tell you that everything you post online is out there forever. It can come back to haunt you. I’ve seen it affect people’s college admissions, businesses, and careers. Everything you create is your “personal brand.” This class will help you recognize who you are in real life and online, and be great.
  • Be successful and make a lot of money in the future (we hope).  All these skills above aren’t just about today–they’re about 10 years from now. They’re based on the times I have succeeded and fallen flat on my face. I’m here to take some of the face-falling out of your story. If you listen carefully, you’ll know that I’m preparing you to think the big thoughts and have a future you’ll love. It’s that simple. So, pay attention.


Because this blog,  our class Twitter, and Learnist are public, all participants–instructor, students, guests and families, must be respectful and courteous at all times. Comments will be framed in a positive way, even when debating and discussing subjects. This is critical. We will consider this space to be an extension of our classroom learning, and all school policies pertaining to politeness, conduct, and basically world peace and human happiness (and the others, too) still apply, with possible consequences ranging from (but not limited to) a conference with the instructor, blocking or banning (and resulting alternate assignments to learn the material) or corrective action.

This is important, because we all operate online most of the time. It’s not only good to be nice, it’s a critical job skill. Your internet presence follows you everywhere. It’s essential to establish a good reputation online right now.


Keep your work. We will be revising from time to time, and some work will build on other work.

Maintain a digital folder for this class.

Come on time and prepared–you’ll need your journal, project materials, and something to write with every day.

Respect others and yourself at all times.

Thanks for being a part of our fun this year. I’m looking forward to learning together.

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