Generally speaking, the word “hacking” or “hacker” has a very negative connotation. While many might hear the work hack and automatically think of a computer virus, I now think of ways to improve my way of learning, thinking, or doing. Thanks to Logan LaPlante and Bud Hunt, I see the significance of hackschooling in education, and life. The thought behind hackschooling is that we change and challenge our views or ways of doing things.
Logan LaPlante is a 13 year old who is homeschooled. His idea of education is revolved around the fact that educators constantly ask students what they want to be when they grow up. Schools are so focused on leading us towards making a living, that they many times forget to focus on our mental and physical state of being. At one point, Logan states “When I grow up, I want to be happy.” It seems so simple, and yet, if you take a step back, it makes so much sense. How can children learn and focus in school, if their basic needs aren’t being met. As LaPlante explains, the only thing some children yearn for is “to be happy, to be healthy, to be safe, not bullied, and be loved for who they are.” It’s a sad fact that these components are missing from many children’s lives.
In order to incorporate the “hacker” mindset into students, LaPlante suggests focusing on health, technology, and experiential learning, among others. By teaching students how to first be healthy, we cultivate minds that are ready for learning. Once children’s brains are prepped for learning, we can focus on HOW to teach them. What is the most effective way to teach a child? The answer is simple: motivation, interests, creativity, and play.
Hunt also believes in the power of hacking in the classroom. He claims that there are three “lenses” that we should use in the classroom: make, hack, play. Bud made the statement that “Hackers are the folks you want on your side when something’s not working…” Hacking is the process of tweaking your learning style and environment to fit your needs. As Bud points out, learning to take control of, or hack, your education can be more important than learning your core subjects.
It’s a well-known fact that people are more likely to be invested in something that they find interesting. As a teacher, many times we are so focused on uniform thinking and teaching the standards, that we forget to incorporate creativity and student’s interests into our curriculum. This is an understandable mistake to be made when you consider the sheer amount of information and standards that we have to cover in a single school year. What many fail to take into account, is that we can teach the standards, while also integrating student interest into the equation. For example, take a high school English class. Below is a Nebraska Language Art Standard for 11-12th grade students:
“LA 12.2.1- Writing Process: Students will apply the writing process to plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish writing using correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other conventions of standard English appropriate for grade-level.” ~Nebraska Department of Education
I have come up with two short scenarios. In the first, the educator who is creating an assignment to meet this standard introduces students by informing them of the steps of the writing process. He/she then stands at the front of the Smartboard with a marker and writes a writing prompt on the board. While a few students are excited, the overall reaction from the class is a groan of despair.
Now, let’s look at the second scenario. In this scenario, the teacher once again presents the writing process to students. Instead of assigning a prompt on the board though, this teacher then informs students to pick a topic (within limits). By doing this, the opportunity for personal investment and motivation is automatically increased. Personally, when I get to write about something that I find interesting, I find that I am much more motivated to write a piece that I am proud of. Not only that, but I am presented with the opportunity to be creative and play (something lacking in schools).
It is entirely possible to have fun and learn in school. It is entirely possible to incorporate creativity in school, even with our abundant curriculum. It is entirely possible to allow movement in school while staying on task. The way to do all of this without interfering with learning time: creativity! As teachers, we must think creatively to integrate all of these neglected areas into our curriculum in order to create well rounded, healthy students who have the ambition to be lifelong learners. Photo CC by Alapan Das