Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hacking Your Education

The challenges of the 21st century require a new vision and new type of thinking that breaks free of the original models - this is especially true in education.  It's no surprise I am opposed to the rigid K-16 model of education based on "seat time" and the Carnegie unit.  With the rise of MOOCs and concurrent enrollment classes, school systems and communities are starting to see the light and craft innovative approaches to education.  Homeschooling has always bent "the rules," but the Un-schooling model has always fascinated me more.  And this year at the TIE (Tech in Education) Conference in Copper Mountain, Colorado, I learned a great deal more through the story of Logan LaPlante.  Logan's 13-minute TED talk is worth viewing:

Logan was part of a presentation on "Hacking Your Education" presented by Canadian teacher and blogger Michelle Cordy, and that idea has resonated with me ever since.  The idea of "hacking" is not simply limited to nerdy guys spreading computer viruses from their parents' basement. No, not at all. Hacking is about breaking free from the conventions that demand an established path or approach to living and problem solving.  It can be "hacking your life" as a way to be more efficient and - dare I say - happy, or it can be hacking your job or institutions or daily decisions or ... really whatever you want it to be.  In fact, a growing number of people are "hacking their religion" these days, as the rigid institutions of the major religions are leading people to mix-and-match beliefs and describe themselves as "spiritual, but not religious."

A couple of great resources on "hacking your education" are Dale Stephens and Anya Kamenetz, who are innovative writers and thinkers committed to presenting alternatives in a world that is increasingly closing off the traditional pathways to success.  Stephens' book Hacking Your Education should be required reading for everyone who will engage with education institutions in the coming years.  In fact, he reminds of the classic quote from Matt Damon in Good Wil Hunting when the savant janitor schools the Harvard boy, telling him, "You paid $150,000 for an education you could have got for $1.50 in late charges at the local library."  Classic.  And true.  Dale Stephens has established himself with the help of entrepreneur Peter Thiel with the organization and development of a great resource website - UnCollege.  Doing similar work with a comparable message, Kamenetz has been ringing the warning bell for her generation for a few years now since writing Generation Debt.  While that is an interesting, albeit depressing read, I highly recommend her second book, DIY-U: Edu-punks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. 

Regardless of who you are, the idea of education hacking is worth checking out.  It's liberating, and it's the kind of innovation that not only made America strong, but will lead it into the future.

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