Teaching/Learning Journey Coming To An End…

After several years pondering this problem I have come to the conclusion there is no “right way” and no “convenient time” to tell people you have brain cancer, and as my symptoms worsen and time grows shorter it only gets harder. Rather than opting for dangerous surgery and/or potentially devastating treatments back in the winter of 2014, I chose life (i.e. “getting on with it” rather than “trying to get rid of it”) and have had an incredibly productive/joyous near-4-years since first being told I may only have months to live. The bad news is the past year has become increasingly hard and I am now preparing to enter hospice care.

As a transcendental agnostic I generally do not use this word, but I do not know an apt alternative… I feel truly blessed to have had the wonder-filled journey filled with so many wonderful people. I do not regret holding news of my condition back from friends, family, colleagues and students for so long, especially while my symptoms were intermittent and meds/side effects were manageable. But my condition may help explain why work, travel and social commitments became harder to maintain since last winter and plans were increasingly cancelled, often at the last minute, which I know caused disappointment and disruption, particularly for events abroad.

It is impossible to share the enormity of publishing 3 books which have already been translated into 7 languages… The books led to working with teachers and students in 13 countries, on 4 continents since getting my first passport in the August of 2015. From San Francisco to Vladivostok, from Saint Petersburg, Russia to Cape Town, South Africa, many highlights of these 18 months are available on Youtube (if you ever want to spend a bit of virtual time with me/us). This month I was supposed to be visiting China for the first time; though I cannot make it there physically, I am so grateful the Chinese translation of my first book has just appeared in stores and libraries there. The best thing about writing and teaching (and the web) is how we can share lessons across borders. While none of this made me rich monetarily, I now stand above my relative poverty, buoyed by the myriad of lessons I have learned and deep friendships found abroad.

sharing Scratch tricks in Moscow, October, 2016

I want to give a special shout-out to the Scratch development team since most of my work over the past 4 years has been driven/empowered by this endlessly innovative creative computing platform. Most surprising is how many of my closest friends, from near and afar, connected with me through the Scratch/MIT/Harvard community. So thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!

Amsterdam, August, 2015 [see if you can find me…]

I will never forget the storm of positive emotions when seeing my own book in one particular bookstore. While it has been amazing to find my books in foreign city bookstores, this one just a few miles away from where I was born has had a hold over me for decades. Way back in the late winter/early spring of 1984, it was at the MIT Coop Bookstore where my 13-year-old self…

last computer club nerd on the left

…where my 13-year-old NERD saw his first Macintosh, held a mouse for the first time, dragged a hand across the display shelf and saw pixels appear on the little 9 inch screen…. So to see my book about doing cool things with pixels (and vectors and sounds and code) for children prominently displayed month-after-month, knowing it was the book I was looking for in my youth… Words fail me.

honored to be featured among Kids’ Book of Simple Machines and Rosie Revere, Engineer!

Important for all to know I have rarely had a better life, despite ailments. I am surrounded and well-cared-for by family and friends in sunny Sedona, Arizona. I am practically finished editing the manuscript of my new novel, A Harmoner’s Tale (a utopian novel set in a progressive school for “troubled” teens), and am even involved in producing the audiobook (several chapters are already available to listen/download via Buzzsprout). Not opting for chemo/radiation/surgery means I feel far healthier than the typical cancer patient we generally think of. My condition mostly involves headaches, cognitive, emotional and motor problems, as well as occasional seizures. I could not have hoped to accomplish as much as I have in recent years (feels like more than in the previous 44 years); I have a near limitless stream of memories to bask in and have no fear about the mystery which lies beyond this wayward life journey.

Our death is our wedding with eternity….
The bird of vision is flying towards You with the wings of desire.
Mystic Odes 833, Rumi

I will end by sharing more of my favorite teaching/learning moments from recent years in hopes you may remember me filled with азарт, pronounced /uh-zart/, my favorite Russian word, which can mean excitement, passion, ardor, heat… Such a great word for teachers, for students, for all of us.

Amsterdam, August, 2015, evangelizing for creative collaboration across nations in Rembrandt’s favorite church, Zuiderkerk [built a decade before the Mayflower Pilgrims settled in America!]. I look rather drab as I begin my world tour… need students to brighten me up!
exploring digital creativity with South African teens during the first annual Africa Code Week, in Cape Town, October, 2015 — my very favorite video of my entire teaching career [despite slight audio syncing issue]!
Ireland, December, 2015, scheming with some of the Young Social Innovators of Ireland and sporting my exclusive Digital Youth Council sweatshirt [remember, a3apt /uh-zart/ in Russian means passion+heat+ardour+excitement]; they gave the honor of wearing that read hoodie during the second leg of the world tour because of my obvious a3apt for their organizations, but during my next visit to Ireland a teacher from the Computers In Education Society claimed it, perhaps because I am only half Irish… or perhaps she looked even more dapper in it.
Italy, 2016, I got over the loss of my Irish hoodie by getting my hands on this bright EU Code Week t-shirt [thanks to my Italian brother in the background, Alessandro Bogliolo], which made it through several more countries/lessons than the hoodie had, though I am only 1/4 Italian…
Russia, 2016
Italy, August, 2016
More a3apt! in rural Russian school, November, 2016
Amsterdam, Anne Frank Museum, special Scratch workshop, December, 2016
Spain, December, 2016
From exclusive digital animation lessons in Paris media center, December, 2016…
…to refugee art and language lessons on Paris sidewalks, February, 2017
March, 2017, back in the USA, signing autographs scant hours before I would be escorted (kicked?) out of SXSW by security after my (im?)modest presentation, my last public appearance/performance/lesson, Austin, Texas

Wishing you all азарт as I carefully prepare for my wedding with eternity (though content for now sharing bedding with sweet kitty)…


p.s. If you wish to be on the guest list (or performer list!) for a music-filled, half-Irish, living wake we are trying to organize in the greater Boston area to be held in the next few months, please send a message marked “Living Wake” (which I will attend virtually if not in-person) to breenworks@gmail.com.

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