An Invitation to Hack

On Hack Your Notebook Day I found myself thinking about all the possibilities for hacking curriculum.  Especially as we think about our students and who we are and are not reaching with our teaching,, we often think about the materials we are compelled or choose to use.  I feel strongly about the need for teachers to hack their curriculum on the behalf of their students…and to encourage students to hack the curriculum for themselves too.

hacking hands

By curriculum, I don’t just mean those self-contained programs in binders and workbooks, but also the novel unit, the teacher-developed projects and materials, the cute unit inspired by a pin on pinterest… Even the lessons we have poured heart and soul into–they all deserve careful scrutiny with our students’ needs in mind.

We all have students who need scaffolds and we all know (or are) teachers who need scaffolds…there’s nothing wrong with leaning on some support structures.  The problem, for me, is when the structures get in the way of student learning and teacher development.  My least favorite words out of the mouth of a teacher are, “Just tell me what you want me to do!”  And I’m not really fond of those words from students either.  They imply a lack of investment, a lack of agency, a lack of understanding of purpose and audience.  And all of those might be true.

So what do we (I) do about it?  I propose that we hack.  Let’s carefully examine the materials we are required to use and/or decide to use.  Who do they work for in our classroom?  Who benefits?  Who doesn’t?  Who do we give permission to “break the rules?”  Who is handcuffed by the materials?


2 thoughts on “An Invitation to Hack

  1. KevinHodgson (@dogtrax)

    It’s a great question and one I think about, too, and it comes to setting the stage for self-directed inquiry and a process for finding one’s way through learning. I am not there yet with my students. I know that. Which is why I need these kinds of discussions. I look to the work that Paul Allison does with Youth Voices as a model.

  2. tellio

    Can we really be said to be hacking if we have to give permission? Hacking goes to the heart of the locus of control. Schools as they are now mostly do not put that locus in the students. They are afraid to and rightly so. Once you put the locus of control squarely in the learner then you need an almost entirely new substructure to be consistent with that particular democratized power structure. You probably can’t have brick and mortar learning palaces be more than tribally sized. Hacking is freedom. Most schools are anti-hacking in the same way that many modern appliances are. You can’t open the damned things so you can’t really know them.


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