What It Means to Hack Learning

The term "hacker" has traditionally been associated with malicious individuals who break into computer systems. However, in recent years, the term has taken on a new meaning. A hacker is someone who takes what already exists and makes it better. Hackers identify problems in existing systems and find or create easy fixes that can be implemented tomorrow. 

In education, hackers are using their skills to improve the learning experience for students. They are developing new educational tools and resources, they are finding innovative ways to use existing technology, and identifying problems in the classroom that can be fixed immediately. The quick fixes developed by hackers clear the path to better practice, open communication, and improved professional development. So how does one hack learning?  

In the Hack Learning Series, there is a clear path to implementing a solution. As an educator who wants to hack learning, you don't need to follow a strict path. All you need is to identify a problem and come up with a way that you as an individual can solve the problem. So what are the problems that hackers solve? Some problems education hackers face are assessment based, colleague based, or classroom management based. For example, it is a problem that teachers start with "no." No going to the bathroom, no chewing gum, no having your hood up, no talking when the teacher is talking.

To be a hacker, you need to be able to explain why your issue is a problem. Why is the "no" list a problem? When handed a list of things they can't do students are immediately put off by how overbearing and controlling a teacher is. When teachers are so desperate for control over their classroom, they lose sight of what students need to really learn. This is a problem that is in need of hacking. Now that you know your why, you can jump into creating solutions. 

This problem in need of hacking comes from Hacking Classroom ManagementLearn more about hacking the "no" list and other classroom management hacks from the classroom management expert Mike Roberts

To hack learning, the hack needs to be applicable and equitable. It is easy to identify what a problem is, but knowing how to fix it and implement that solution is much more challenging. Many problems in the classroom may take a long time to fix, but hackers who hack learning always find something that they can implement tomorrow. Hacking learning is always changing and you should build off of your own ideas. Find something that you can do tomorrow and reassess. What changed because of your solution? What went well and what didn't? What can you do tomorrow to further solve your problem? 

Reevaluate and reassess when you need to. Your problem isn't going to go away immediately. When you have identified what you can do tomorrow, you can move onto creating a full blueprint for implementation. Everyone's blueprint will look different. As a teacher, your blueprint can be very specific for your in the classroom issue. Create a list of specific steps that you can implement in the longterm.

As a principal or other school leader, you may be tackling a schoolwide issue. Your blueprint will be more broad, but should still include step-by-step instructions. These steps should be effective and applicable to the problem you are trying to solve in the longterm. Change your blueprint as needed. As someone who hacks learning, your goal should never be to implement one thing and be done. Your goal is to fix the problems present in your school to better the lives of your students. 

When faced with a problem, hackers come up with solutions. Not everyone is going to agree with your solutions, however. To hack learning, you are going to have to overcome pushback. Be ready to address the issues that others are going to have with your solution. Going back to the "no" list, some teachers may say that students need to know what they are not allowed to do. That is true, but many teachers go overboard on these types of rules. Set a few, but also set expectations of students that enable them. When you have a problem that is truly in need of solving and you are confident in your plan, then overcoming pushback should be no problem for you. 

A great way to overcome pushback and understand if your solution is truly working, is to record the hack in action. The hack in action is a particularly effective section in the Hack Learning Series books because it shows readers that the hack provided is applicable and effective. Documenting your hack in action is a great way to show others that they can use it too. Record the changes in your classroom. What are the immediate changes from when you implemented your hack? What were some of the longterm effects of your solution? What needed to be changed or reworked? Showing the hack in action allows colleagues to see how your solution can solve their problem. 

Educators who want to hack learning want to solve problems that are hurting our students' ability to learn. Anyone who is passionate about education and the future of students can hack learning. Read where it all started in Hacking Education and begin your hack learning journey today. 


Main post image by Kevin Ku via Pexels

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